Orphans. When we hear the word, we think of a child who has no one. No parents. No family. Abandoned and alone. No hope. This can be the case but it is one-dimensional. Orphans are people. People with feelings. Needs. Talents. Dreams. Potential.
In Haiti, a land with indisputable poverty, young children can have someone who loves them but cannot physically support or educate them. Babies and young children can be given to orphanages. Or given to other families. Or sold. Siblings separated. Families torn apart because of death, hunger or other tough choices made. Sometimes a child of 6, 7 or 8 years old becomes an orphan when they leave their homes in hopes of finding a better life on the streets. Most find their way to the capital city, Port au Prince. Sometimes they are trying to escape abuse. Sometimes there truly is no one to care for them.
Many of these children eventually grow older. Some do not. Fortunately the boys that God has me working with have grown to the age of young adulthood. Many of them have only completed the education level of junior high. However, their lack of formal education does not equate to lack of intelligence. Or feelings. Needs. Talents. Dreams. Potential.
They remember where they came from. They remember what it is like not to know when they would have their next meal. They remember what it is like to be abused. Neglected. Abandoned. And if they had siblings, they remember their siblings. And some remember a time of innocence, where things seemed right in the world.
They also know that God put people into their paths, along the way, to help them. To feed them. To guide them. To encourage them for a brighter tomorrow. To believe in them. To inspire them. We (I and everyone who has supported this call in one way or another) have been blessed to be a part of this collage of people God has put into their paths. They desire to use their experiences to better the lives of others. We have seen some remarkable things in the short time we have been here, two or which I will mention today: Reconnecting and Replication.
Reconnecting with family after trauma or abuse is not easy. There are so many unknowns. There is the possibility of rejection. Unforgiveness. Hurt and grief resurfacing. But there is also the possibility of a brighter tomorrow. A possibility of understanding. Forgiveness. It takes courage and strength to brave this unknown.
At this time last year Emma was unemployed. Most of his days were filled with boredom. Jobs are very difficult to find in Haiti and there is little to do for entertainment; less if you have no money. God provided the means for him to go to driving school and he studied to get his driver’s license. Earlier this year he secured a contract to work as a motorcycle taxi driver. This past spring he decided to go back to his birthplace. He was able to visit his biological mother. He had not seen her for seven years! She was very happy to see him. He hopes to be able to make the long trip to see her again. He proudly showed me a picture he had taken of her and explained that she is very poor. His father is deceased and he has 3 sisters and 2 brothers. He was nine years old when he went to live on the streets.
Last month on our cultural trip to the Citadel in northern Haiti we passed through the birthplace of another one of the guys, Josue. We were able to visit with some of his extended family. We met a younger biological sister of his who is being raised by a friend of his deceased mother. People were happy to see him and happy that God had taken care of him through the years. He has 4 sisters and 3 brothers and no one remembers for sure if he was 8 or 9 years old when he went to live on the streets. Here is a current picture of him with one of his sisters:
Some of the other boys have been able to find a sister or a brother, an aunt or an uncle. So far these connections have been positive. I believe God gives families a bond that can never be completely severed, no matter what life brings our way. Reconnecting is a good thing but it is better for a child to be able to grow up and experience life with extended family. It is better for them to be able to grow up in the same community, even if it is with a friend of the family or other foster family.
Many people have been used by God through the years to help these young men get to where they are today. They have a strong desire to help those who cannot help themselves, children who are orphans today. The image I get when I pray about this is that of a small group of candles lighting a few more candles that in turn light more candles until the entire dark arena is filled with light.
God has put a certain group of orphans on the hearts of a few of these young men and they have banded together to form a committee. They have been using their talents and personal resources to help these groups of children on a regular basis. They want to replicate what has helped them to succeed. They realize it will take the support of many people. They won’t be able to do it on their own They want to empower these children and communities to make their lives a better place. They have a vision of giving these children a brighter tomorrow by helping them to grow up with people they know, in communities they know.
Right now they are doing it with the basics: Jesus, food and water. Everyone needs food and water to survive. Currently they are doing what they can to bring food. It is humbling to watch these guys with so little material goods themselves, joyfully purchasing sacks of rice, bags of spaghetti, jugs of oil, etc and transporting this food on motorcycles to the remote areas the children live in. This past weekend they brought food to a group in Canaan and were greeted with tears of gratitude. The children said they were very hungry. The adults said that they had been praying for God to send them people to help them.
Their vision is bigger than just providing the basics. They want the children to be able to go to school and get a formal education. They want them to develop their individual talents and passions. They want to help the adults in these communities by creating businesses and jobs. If the adults have an income, they will be able to support the children. They see what they have been able to do with the small businesses they have started. They see and understand that micro-financing helps to give people their dignity back. Someday they would like to see a school where there is none. And a hospital where there is none.
This is a very big vision and they are starting small, doing what they can today. They are praying and actively responding. I am excited about this because these youth are following God’s leading in their lives. They are doing it. They are making the plans. They are building the relationships. They are looking out for the best interests of the children. The communities know and trust them, one of their own. A Haitian. An orphan who is no longer a little child.
Please pray for them and for the children they are serving. Pray for their safety in transporting food. Pray for the funds to be available to them to do what they are called to do. Pray that the hearts of those who have the funds won’t be hardened by the reports of corruption and greed that is so prevalent coming from Haiti. Pray that God blesses their obedience and faith.
I am so very proud of these young men who are investing their time, energy, talents and resources into making the lives of others better which will, in turn, make their country better. They are making their own decisions, based on their own knowledge and experiences. They know their country and their people better than I, or any other foreigner, can ever know. It’s Haitians helping Haitians. It’s unity making strength. It’s the start of a brighter tomorrow.