Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Love Your Neighbor...Hug a Voodoo Priest

We came up with this slogan (which I think would make quite a catchy bumper sticker) as I was walking to the cove down the street from our compound with several of my fellow missionaries. It's easy to say the first part without much thought as to what it really means...

Everybody's heard the story of the Good Samaritan. It was Jesus' response to the "holier than thou" Pharisee who wanted to know the precise definition of "neighbor" in order to make getting into heaven a little easier. "Neighbor" is less about geographical proximity and more about relational proximity. Jesus modeled this in many ways: he touched the untouchables (lepers), befriended the friendless and unfriendly (prostitutes and tax collectors), and forgave the unforgivable (the ones who crucified him). Jesus also said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. (John 14:12)

So how does that translate to everyday life in Haiti? Let's be honest, it's not the safest, healthiest, friendliest place in the world to live. The water is contaminated, the pavement along the road (if there is any) is unsafe, and the culture is unfamiliar. There can be a tendency to be less neighborly in favor of maintaining a sense of safety. We can feel good about the work we do with orphans on our self-sufficient compound with our clean drinking water, high security walls, and double-layered metal gates. But what good is any of that if we don't show love to our neighbors? How can we do that if we don't get out in the neighborhood? What if our neighbors happen to be restavek owners, or unmarried women with multiple malnourished children covered in scabies, or a voodoo priest/priestess who hosts gatherings with loud music, chanting and animal sacrifices that keep us awake until all hours of the night? How do we love them? Some things we do, even if it means stepping outside of our comfort zone (or our perceived safety zone): food for the hungry, clean drinking water for the little restavek girls to carry back to their "owners", medicine for the sick, and every once in a while, a hug for the voodoo priest who lives across the street. Why? Because if Jesus lived in Haiti, that's what he would do...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saintana Smiles

restavec (or restavek; from the French reste avec, "one who stays with") is a child in Haiti who is sent by their parents to work for a host household as a domestic servant because the parents lack the resources required to support the child.

Saintana is an 8-yr-old girl with a smile that lights up her whole face.  Every day for the past few months, we would see her carrying a water jug to and from the public water station a few doors down from the Hands and Feet compound, wearing the same dirty, tattered dress...and always that bright, beautiful smile.  Stacie, one of the other missionaries here, took a special interest in her, and began talking to her and getting to know her.  Stacie's girls spent an evening praying for her and trying to come up with a plan to rescue her from her situation. They decided to give Saintana a new dress. A few days later, she was seen, once again carrying the water jug, but this time wearing the new dress she had been given.  

We began to pray for opportunities to speak to Saintana's "hosts" and for the ultimate outcome that somehow she would be freed from this forced servitude.  Stacie asked the woman of the home if Saintana could come and play for the day. One play date turned into several, with even a sleepover or two over the course of several weeks.  Stacie contacted Tina, who runs the school that all of our children attend, to see if we could get scholarships for Saintana and another little girl to attend school this year. What a happy day when both "host homes" gave permission for the girls to attend school!! Saintana was so excited the day she came over to get measured for her school uniform! 

Then came the miracle we had all been praying for...One day last week, early in the morning, Saintana showed up outside Stacie's bedroom door, asking her to come meet her parents. Saintana's family lives in Cap Rouge, up in the mountains about an hour and a half from Jacmel.  They had come to ask Hands and Feet if we would take Saintana and her younger brother, Renaul, the two youngest of seven siblings because they were unable to care for them. They had already sent two other siblings to Port-au-Prince, and the father was preparing to leave for the Dominican Republic to try to find work. 

So, on Friday Saitana and Renaul officially became part of the Hands and Feet family.  Stacie had the privilege of doing the intake for both children.  She asked the dad what his dreams would be be for his children. He answered that he wished for them to grow up and do good, to make a difference.  That is our hope for all the children here at Hands and Feet! And it our honor to be part of making a difference in the life of one little girl with an unforgettable smile...