This is a story of a little boy. I am not sure that anyone knows his real name if he ever really had one. It is not certain whether he even knows his name.
The story goes that he was placed in a box and abandoned when he was an infant. Supposedly, there was a paper attached to the box saying that his name was Ja Jwenn which means “They will find you,” in Creole. And then his name might be Reginald at least that is what some were calling him. The other thing is that he does not know how old he is. He could be eight or nine or he could be 12 or 13 and simply stunted as is the case with many children in developing countries.
Somehow, this little boy came to be known by folks at Global Outreach, a retreat center where Samaritan’s Purse-Haiti is headquartered. We will call him Reggie for now. Reggie started coming to the gate at Global Outreach where there are guards helping to keep the compound secure. He was wearing only a shirt and was naked below the waist. These guards were saddened by the fact that he was hungry and thirsty so they started to give him food and water.
After a day or two, several people working on a volunteer medical team saw the little boy and felt so bad that they found clothing and a pair of shoes that fit him. They also gave him food.
All of this came to the attention of others and pretty soon a man named Rick Ashley who was working for the DART (Disaster Assistance Response Team) with Samaritan’s Purse got involved. Rick was in Haiti for three months and had many roles while there. One day, he brought Reggie inside the compound and several of us, including Pierre, one of the guards, talked with him. Reggie looked pretty apprehensive with everyone staring at him. Of course, only Pierre could speak with him since Rick and the rest of us knew no Creole.
It was important to find out if Reggie really was homeless or was just from a poor family. Some of the guards investigated and found out that a woman was taking care of him in away. She was using him to watch her animals. Another man was also using him as a restavek or child slave. Once the woman became aware of interest in the boy, she was willing to sell him for $200.00.
Rick, Pierre, Fen Fen (a driver) and I went to see the local police to inquire if it would be possible to get custody of Reggie and place him in an orphanage. He had never been to school, could not read or write and had obvious trauma-related scars on his scalp and on the back of his neck. These most certainly could have been from abuse. Consequently, the consensus was that there was a case to find a better place for him to live. The police sent us to a local judge. This judge heard the story and asked that we bring Reggie and the woman to his office the next day. We told the judge that the woman wanted money for the little boy but we refused to pay for the boy. He was empathetic to the situation and seemed to be a wise and fair judge. He said, “Bring them in and I will handle that.”
There was a problem because the guards stated that the woman had taken the boy and hid him. However, two days later, these guards were able to find Reggie and take him and this woman to the judge. A lot of shouting ensued between the judge and the woman. It seemed that the woman was asking for money. She took off for the market leaving Reggie behind and never saying “good bye” to him, hugging him or in any way acknowledging him.
The judge asked that Reggie be brought back to him the next day so that papers could be drawn up to acknowledge Rick as the guardian allowing him to take Reggie to an orphanage. After two hours, the papers were written and became official that Reggie would now be in Rick’s custody.
After our first visit to the judge, Rick, Pierre, Fen Fen and I went to one orphanage with a school. There was no room for even one more child but one of the men at the orphanage directed us to another orphanage. This second orphanage is called Tytoo Gardens. It is near the Ocean and is in need of improvements, but otherwise appears to be a safe and secure place. We talked to Frank, one of the leaders working at the orphanage. Frank is a nurse from Canada and got involved in missions because of Operation Christmas Child. Coincidentally, he arrived in Haiti the day the earthquake happened to help reopen the orphanage. The orphanage had been closed due to the unexpected death of the owner. Frank said there was no more room for another child but he would ask the director anyway. The director agreed to take Reggie but there were no more beds available. We agreed to bring some cots to the orphanage.
Once the papers were drawn up, Reggie came back to the Samaritan’s Purse Compound to spend the night. Some other missionaries and their son gave Reggie clothes and a few toys. People on the medical team took his picture. Soon Reggie learned how to do high 5s and thumbs up. He kept smiling and it didn’t take long before he became a little celebrity. He ate with us and finished off a plate with steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, vegetables, a big dessert, two glasses of Kool Aid and a Sprite. Then he finished my food. We decided to stop feeding him by then so he would not get sick. Also the medical team
gave him Vitamin A and Abendazole which is standard treatment for children in developing countries who may have contracted parasites and who can develop night
blindness and even total blindness from lack of Vitamin A.
Reggie played soccer with a few guys and even with the Country Director’s little boy. Earlier, Rick had given Reggie a shower and he was now ready for bed. He slept in his very own bunk bed next to Rick. He had his own pillow and clean sheets for the first time in his life. He just kept smiling at Rick.
The next day, several on the medical team and others went with Reggie and Rick to the Tytoo Gardens Orphanage. They took about 10 cots, blankets and bottled water. Reggie had a new home. Some of the boys started to teach him how to ride a bicycle. He also was able to watch a movie and acted as if he had never seen a movie before. Perhaps he had not.
This is a story of one little boy, a loving little boy who loves to give hugs. But there are estimated to be over 300,000 more children in Haiti like Reggie. He has now been officially named Reginald Moise Ashley. Did we do right by Reggie? I think so. It seems that God placed each person involved in the right place at the right time to give Reggie a safe home where he will be sent to school and won’t be used as a slave any more. As his given name Ja Jwenn denotes, “He Has Been Found.” There are other parts to this story, such as the fact that the woman who kept him was wielding a machete around when the guards and Rick went to her place to rescue Reggie. The woman was shouting and screaming saying she wanted her money and did not wish to go to the judge’s office. The guards begged her to go with them. Rick dropped to the ground and began to pray. Suddenly, she agreed to go see the judge, but she was still concerned as to whether she would get her money. It cost more money to obtain the official papers but this was nothing when you consider the life of a child.
Tytoo Gardens is a Christian orphanage. Other missionaries have expressed that it is a good place for children. The man who started it had run strip joints at one time. He was building a night club when children kept coming to him to be fed. After a while, he was feeding 100 children or more. Two of the children had no parents so the man took them in and an orphanage was born. It has room for additional children if the rooms started before the earthquake are finished. The man who started the orphanage accepted the Lord into his life and gave up the strip joints and the idea of building a night club. He has just recently died.
In this story, there is a lesson for all of us who have so much. Each one of us can decide on what that lesson is for our lives. If we are truly Good Samaritan’s, we must take action and show that we care. A little boy was just waiting to be found. He has now been found. He now has a new name, new friends and a new father. He, like Moses, has been found! We have a wonderful merciful Savior, precious Redeemer and Friend. Who would have thought that a Lamb could rescue the souls of man? In this case that soul is a little boy named Reggie Moise Ashley.
“Let the little children come to Me and forbid them not, for such is the Kingdom of God.”