Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Left My Heart In Haiti

     This may not surprise many of you, given the frequency with which I have been acquiring stamps in my passport at Haitian immigration for the past year. What may surprise you is that the first piece of my heart was actually left there in 1997.  Just a few weeks after I graduated from high school, I traveled as the youngest member of a team from my then-home-church, Greater Works Outreach, to the Greater Works Home for Girls in Port-au-Prince. That was the week I met the sisters I always wanted....all 30-something of them!! The thing I remember most about that trip (besides the 6 girls x 8 hrs it took for them to braid my waist-length hair) is the night we arrived and it was pitch black outside. All the girls stood on the steps and sang to us in Kreyol. They sounded like angels!
     I left another piece of my heart in Haiti the following year, when I went on a Christmas mission trip with Teen Mania Ministries as a missionary advisor.  The last night we spent at an orphanage with about 150 kids of all ages. There was one little girl, about 3 years old, who clung to me like a little monkey and kept wiping off the mime make-up from my face and smearing it on herself.  She did not want to let go of me when it was time for us to leave...I felt the same way, it broke my heart to see little war-painted, tear-streaked face as we loaded up the van and drove away.  Another year, another piece of my heart left with some of the most precious children in the world...

    This is where the story picks up on recent events.  In the fall of 2009, I contacted the director of the Hands and Feet Project, after reading a newsletter in which they put a call out for Early Childhood and/or Special Education teachers who could come help some of the children get caught up in their academics.  Sounds like the perfect job for me, right?  So, we had been talking back and forth and tossing around dates for a possible trip when suddenly, January 12, 2010, the earthquake hit and changed everything....or did it?  Because of the semi-remote location of Jacmel, along the southern coast of Haiti, it was virtually impossible for anyone to get in or out immediately following the earthquake.  I knew in my heart, I NEEDED to be in Haiti, so I researched options on the internet until I found Adventures in Missions, who happened to have a trip scheduled for the week of my spring break, March 2010, just 2 weeks after they re-opened the PAP airport.  After I returned from that trip, I immediately signed up and began planning a return trip for June 2010.  My wonderful Thai-sister, Joanna Samuels, came with me for that trip and it was life-changing! That is where I met Jean Bernard. If you haven't heard that story, for now I will save it for another entry. He is a 10-year-old boy, orphaned by the eathquake, who absolutely stole my heart.   I returned to Carrefour, Haiti, in October 2010 to accompany Jean Bernard to a nearby hospital for some tests and medicine to address an acute illness. Please pray for him!

     After I got back from Haiti last fall, I contacted the Hands and Feet Project again, to see if it were possible for me to come visit, and maybe enlist their assistance in finding a permanent home for Jean Bernard.  That is when I first started corresponding with Diane Pierce, who along with her husband, Dr. Ken and their 18-year-old daughter Emi, has been overseeing the day-to-day operations of the orphanage in Jacmel.  They are AMAZING people! I was so excited at the prospect of going to help with the newest additions to the HAF family, three baby boys, over Christmas break. Those plans were halted when rioting and protests broke out and shut down the airport in Port-au-Prince folliowing the disputed election results in early December.  I still felt the tug to be there, and thought waiting 3 months until spring break rolled around again, would just be too long to wait. So, on the off chance that my boss might approve a mid-January trip, I went and and spoke to her about it and she approved!! The grace and favor of God was totally on that trip! I planned to be there on the day that was originally scheduled for the run-off presidential election, which was expected to bring more unrest to the country.  As it turns out, the elections were postponed, pending a recount, so all was peaceful the entire week I was there.  Thank you, Jesus!

     It seemed like there were more babies everytime I turned around. First the 3 boys, Woodley, Jacob and Kevin, then little Esther came a couple days before me. And Martiline, my ti soley briye, (little sunshine) arrived a few days before I left. I was in Heaven, spending just about every waking minute in the nursery with these precious little ones!! As the week progressed, I felt more and more "at home" and began talking with Ken and Diane about what possibilities there might be for me to come long-term.  With the rapid addition of so many newborns, they are in need of someone to oversee the nursery and provide training for the Haitian nannies.  In addition, with 9 toddlers roaming the compound, they need a "space" for play and typical toddler activities.  Talk about my dream job!  I love babies, and the passion God has put in my heart for the past several years has been to reach the littlest, most vulerable children in developing countries who are at risk for developmental delays on one level or another.  It has truly been an amazing and humbling experience to see how God has begun to put the pieces of the puzzle together for the next incredible adventure of my life! 

     I have made the leap of faith, and officially put in my notice of intent to resign from my current teaching position at the end of the school year.  Tentatively, I will be moving to Jacmel in mid/late June. I will update often as I continue in this journey, so stay tuned!  If you have made it to the end of this post, I hope you will stay and join me on this adventure in some way. I cherish all the love, friendship, support, prayer, and encouragement I have already gotten from so many of you along the way!