I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the experiences God allows me to have and the people He allows me to meet.
Most recently, I had the privilege of being in Haiti for 8 days. After much preparation and anticipation, our team of 12 flew from Toronto to Miami, to Port-au-Prince. After landing in the muggy airport, gathering our luggage and heading out the doors, I was stunned by the crowd of people who lined the exit from the airport. Several Haitian men in uniforms descended upon us, insisting on helping us with the luggage that we were quite capable of handling on our own. We were relieved to see Jim waiting with the canter to pick us up, but Isabel had to figure out how to pay the 8 or so men that had put their hands on our carts and waited by the side of the canter. She gave them what she could and we all boarded the canter to take the one hour drive to Simonette.
I have to say, I did not enjoy that part of Haiti … feeling bombarded and expected to give something in return. And after very little sleep and the sensory overload of a new country, I did say a little prayer to God on that bumpy canter ride, “Please be with me. I don’t want to be here without your presence.”
When we drove through the gates of Tytoo Gardens, the sight of little children jumping up and down screaming, Is-a-bel! Is-a-bel!`” along with the names of other team members that had visited before was so heartwarming! Three young boys hopped right up on the canter to help with our luggage, while others smiled huge adorable smiles up at me and touched my hands.
And God whispered, “I am with you.”
We settled in for our first of the 8 restless sleeps I would have in Haiti. Maybe it was the heat, maybe the bugs, maybe the anticipation of what each day would hold, or maybe just the overload of thoughts about the people I met, the problems they faced, and the desire to find a solution that made sleep elude me. However, despite the lack of sleep and loss of appetite, God strengthened me day after day in a supernatural way.
Every day we spent with the ladies who had become part of the Little by Little project was such a joy and privilege. I learned so much from these ladies about their language, their families, and their country. I also loved getting to know the people in the village that would come and watch what was going on in this rented home with “Little by Little” painted above the door. Some of them could speak English, which was such a gift. I couldn’t get over the willingness of everyone to help in whatever ways they could. You could find people from the village fetching water for us, translating, unloading the truck, and grabbing a paintbrush to paint. I loved the sense of community and the way we were warmly welcomed.
One little boy, Gigi, would show up every day we were there. I was drawn to him from the moment he smiled up at me, said a few words in Creole, and motioned that he would help me wipe down the kitchen. Gigi would be my little buddy every day we spent at the Little by Little house. When I didn’t have a specific job, we would find a back room and look at the Creole Jesus Storybook Bible. He would point to things and tell me what they were. We also looked through an alphabet book together, which made me realize that although he is 7, he was still working on identifying letters. I asked around and was told that he wasn’t in school because his mother couldn’t afford to send him. My heart breaks at that reality. Education is such a privilege.
Back at Tytoo, I was thankful for the children that warmed up to me so quickly. Of course, I was missing my two daughters terribly, but these precious faces made my time so enjoyable. Some of the older children could speak English, so it was always fun to try to have conversations and learn about them. I loved the way they put words together to form an English sentence. They are so bright!
But behind every face is a story of pain and loss. These kids played and carried on like other children I know, but in the quiet of the night, I prayed that God would comfort them.
I got a small glimpse of one child’s story through a conversation about zombies … yes, it is not just a North American phenomenon! Zombies are actually part of the voodoo religion, and the idea that they are not “real” was confusing to Bonhomme. Bonhomme is a 14-year-old boy who came from another orphanage that had been shut down two years ago because it was so poorly run. Bonhomme insisted that he had seen a zombie walking around at the old orphanage. There was no joking in his tone … he was serious. One of our team members, Taylor, was able to ask him about this in French, but all he could really say is that he was sure he had seen one. He went on to explain that he didn’t like closing his eyes to sleep at the old orphanage because the rats could smell his blood and would get him in the night. Greg (Isabel’s husband) was sitting with us during this conversation, and was able to explain that Jesus is more powerful than all the powers of darkness. Bonhomme need not fear. I hope he believes that.
Another precious young man with a gentle and quiet spirit living at Tytoo is Reggie. I feel like everyone who visits Tytoo develops a special bond with Reggie. He is so kind, and loves to be around people. His story is one almost too terrifying to imagine. You can read the full account here, but in short, Reggie was a child slave. He still bears the scars of abuse on his body. He doesn’t know his family history or even the exact date of his birth. But he knows the love of God, and his spirit reveals the power of God to redeem and restore. It is such a privilege to know Reggie.
I couldn’t have imagined how attached I would become to these kids in only 8 days! Each one has a story, a personality, hopes, and dreams. Each one is created by and loved by his or her Creator.
Like I said in the beginning, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the people God allows me to meet. The people I met in Haiti have been in my thoughts and prayers since I left.
Great is the God who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”