I have been incredibly hesitant to share personal pictures of our time in Haiti. They are so intimate, revealing, and in my heart and mind they border on exploitation. I know that isn’t reality, but it is my heart. You see, I know that if I do not show them, you cannot know (unless you go with me one day). But please understand that I love the people in the pictures, the bodies that sleep in that bed. The moms that make home out of what they have available to them have become my friends.
I try to visit both of the neighborhoods that most of the Accolade for Saving Lives boys live in each time I am privileged to be in Les Cayes. Last month was no different. As we rounded the corner that enters the area pictured a little one I would peg to be about 2 years old squatted along the path and had a bowel movement. We walked on, choosing the most dry path possible until there was no more dry ground to be found. The next step was up onto footings that have been long standing in hopes of one day becoming a home. We walked along the tops, getting closer to our friend’s home. Along the way there are smiles, high fives, hand shakes and giggles from the children 🙂
A woman about my age is holding a newborn baby. I LOVE babies, so I stop to see the child and encourage the woman. She tells me that this is her grandchild, a week old; her daughter died last week giving birth to this sweet baby. I wish I could take you to that moment, to feel the sadness and pain that emanated from this woman. She told me it is difficult. It is difficult to feed her own family, and now another mouth. This particular time I am not receiving a baby unexpectedly into my arms with the request,”please take my baby with you, please?!”. At once love and encouragement became tangibly more important than what I had anticipated. Thank you, God, for giving me the opportunity to thank her for being your hands and feet, for loving without question, and for trusting in you for provision. She has lost her daughter but she has not lost her faith. My arms and my heart ached as I walked on to follow our group.
Being a nurse is a blessing and a curse in an area of great need. I scan the crowd of children that are gathering to see what these “blan” (white people) are going to do. I see fungal skin infection, malnutrition, intestinal worms, disfigurement from injury, nakedness, hunger. My thoughts go immediately to wondering what can be done? But this isn’t my first trip to the neighborhood. Working with Accolade for Saving Lives and the parents of the boys that participate in the program is an incredible privilege, not one to be taken lightly. God has a plan. God’s plan is for all to be reached by His gospel, for all to find love and hope. For neighbors to love neighbors. I stand in a place that I find privilege to be present, praying that I/we respond well. Praying earnestly that we do not rush to conclusions, we do not do harm or create psychological harm in the help that we may provide.
It is tuning to dusk and the swamp that we have been navigating is now teeming with mosquitoes. Again, I want to give each child a mosquito net . . .oh, let’s be honest. . . I just want to pick them all up and move them to a “better” spot to live!
I am walking a little behind our group, not an unusual thing as I tend to fall behind as I process what I am experiencing. I feel my hand clasped by another. As I turn toward this maybe 12 year old girl, she asks me if I saw their toilet. In my best broken creole I tell her that yes, I did see what they are using for a toilet. It is the picture here with rocks in the foreground, water behind and houses behind the water. If you look very closely, you can see a hog or two on the very left. During the time that I was with the group of children I had seen three “tweenagers” squat to potty right beside the hogs. Again, the nurse in me has a mind that reels through health promotion, disease prevention. I reel my mind back to love first. Learn next. Empower change. Do not rush. But before I leave the swarm of sweet faces we do review when to wash your hands, how to best keep toileting and clean areas separate, and please drink “clean” water (oh, and please define clean water for me). I turn with a smile to join my group after these kids knew all of the correct answers. Well done by someone that has taught them hygiene.
Patchouko was a little more quiet than usual as we pulled out of the neighborhood. I said, “I would kind of like to see what happens here next, after the sun goes down”. Patchouko replied that he had never been there at night, he was glad to be there now as it was getting dark. Every ounce of me wanted to stay, wanted to return to the woman raising her grandbaby, wanted to feel what life is like for the women and children we are walking through life with. My heart doesn’t want to reach in to help, my heart wants to dig in, put down roots and live through it with those we have been sent to love. For now it won’t be, not this trip anyway. My heart and mind know that there are many facets tot he reasoning why that is not the answer – that is for another blog. The vehicle is pretty quiet as our newcomers process what they have just experienced and the others of us ponder what comes next, pray for guidance and clarity.
I will be returning to Les Cayes next week. Patchouko and I will meet with the neighborhood pastor. We yearn to identify what our friends in this neighborhood would list as their priority needs. It is not for us to decide. As we listen and learn, will you pray with us? Will you pray that God show us the way, that God identify the leaders in the community and the resources that they have already available to them? Will you pray, please, that our hearts and minds remain humble and focused on loving well?
If you wish to join our efforts at CLIMB, to identify strong Haitian leaders and to dig into life’s messiness with other people, we would love to hear from you!