Beauty In Suffering

Laundry Day.

In Haiti there are greater needs than I can explain. There is poverty and sickness and desperation. There are children without parents, there are parents with no resources and there is extreme need from coast to coast. Some days, as these people become my neighbors and my friends, that I just look around me as I walk through the village and know that there is no way that I could ever understand what this life is like. To only know a life of constant struggle.

For 10 months I have not been able to accurately convey the essence of what remains in this land of suffering that I live in.

Until last month while I was in Texas visiting my family. I was rather anxious, knowing that on Sunday I would be able to visit a church that has remained a significant part of my “story” of walking with Christ.

My family was a part of this community at it’s inception – when service was in a home, and then later when it was in a room that is probably now a nursery or storage closet or something. I hadn’t been there in, gosh, ages… 13 years at least. However, for all those years in between, anytime I was among anything resembling ministry, it always had big shoes to fill, from my warm memories of this gym turned church.

Even when I was in my late teens, moved to Florida, and found the community that changed every piece of who I am, and that I now call my home church, I remember describing this place to my parents as – “It reminds me of Grace.”

Okay, so sorry for the nostalgic rabbit trail, but the point is that more than 13 years later, after I found God to be my own, I was returning to this place that I always identified Christ in, even before I truly knew what I was identifying.

As Steve opened the message, he shared this story about a man who called him merely months into his position as pastor, and told him that a little girl just passed away at five years old and they needed his help. He went on to discuss how, as a new pastor, he had no idea how to handle the situation, but that he has since learned that there is a certain sweetness in these moments of tragedy that are only captivated when compassion is the only answer.

Of all the days for me to visit, it was this day that he shared this story about the man and the little girl and the sweetness. All of it actually ironic because this man, the one in the story, is in fact my family, and the little girl, who died of pneumonia at five years old, is my cousin, and the rest of the message – about the sweetness in moments of tragedy was exactly the words that I have been trying to convey for 10 months, about my life in Haiti.

Junette, one of the children at our orphanage, visiting the elderly community.

Truly, there is something to be said of this poverty and suffering, as there is an emmense beauty that we lose at home when using Jesus only as an option. However, it is in suffering that we have the honor of seeing the hand of our God at work. We see His great compassion through those who labor in His name, His promises are kept to His children and His faithfulness is revealed. Everyday.

In the big things.

In the little things.

Faithfully.

So everyday, as I am surrounded by great suffering, I choose to count it as beautiful, because it is in that suffering that there lies a sweetness of God’s provision, that is so easily overlooked when we have other options.

Remember that next time you come upon a situation of suffering, and you have the opportunity to make it a little more beautiful.

And to anyone looking for a church to call home in East Texas, please visit Grace Community Church in Greenville. Even 13 plus years later, I can still clearly identify God there – among the lights and the smiles and the electric guitars. And thanks Steve, for helping me find my words.

Room For One More

 I am looking at this group of 13 boys and my heart is breaking. I am reminded that I recently asked God to show me his heart in Haiti.

As an answer to my prayer He showed me his hurt,

which came in the form of two UN trucks and a van full of orphaned children. Their cheeks were stained with tears and they were all naked. Onto our property filed the Mayor, the Judge, the national social worker and a variety of security detail, UN guards, etc…

They shut down an orphanage in our village and with nowhere else to go they brought the children to our door in hopes of giving them a new home. These children were taken off of the street to be cared for, which clearly never happened, and as I peered into the van windows they were terrified and crying.

I can’t imagine what their day was like. And it was only lunch time.

The boys filed out, each one of them naked, one boy putting the neck of a t-shirt around his waste to create a skirt. Their faces were scared and their bellies large and expanded. They followed along, kind of confused, prolly a little embarrassed, and were slightly skiddish in the room full of missionaries and national officials, just watching. Naked. I wonder if they were ashamed? Sad? Just plain hungry? All I could do was hold them in my lap and tell them it’s okay now. It didn’t matter that they were naked, would prolly pee on me and clearly have infections all over their eyes. I couldn’t hug them enough. I knelt down next to one little boy and asked him, “How are you?” He put his head down with tears in his eyes and quietly whispered, “I don’t know.”

                 

When asked if they wanted to bathe they all eagerly agreed, even more than they wanted to eat. Who knows how long it’s been since they have had a bath, a toothbrush, a bed. As my heart is breaking, but I’m grateful that they’re here. I’m grateful that I will get to rock them to sleep tonight. I’m grateful that they are safe, clean, with full bellies and each will sleep soundly in a bed. I hope that they fall asleep feeling like this is a new beginning. A good beginning. And wake up feeling like they’re loved.

                                  

Learning how to pray.

Our sisters can scrub a kid down with the best of them, so first up with baths. Next was dinner. I don’t think they understand yet that this will happen THREE times EVERY day. Our kids trust that we will provide for them, but you can always tell the new guys from the bunch – they eat like they truly don’t know where their next meal will come from.

What made my heart overwhelmed most was how our boys took them in. They introduced themselves, took them by the hand and led them toward the playground. They prayed for them during devotions (And when I say prayed during devotions, our kids don’t play. They pa-ray). In Haiti, prayer is not a sweet notion. It is a real conversation with a real God. And even as young children, they get that.

One boy, sweet Moise, asked me, “Can they stay here for a long time so that they can go to school like we get to?” During Friday movie time I saw two let the new boys sit in their laps so the new boys could see better, and then when their legs got tired they gave up their prime viewing position so the new boys would remain comfortable and stood in the back. When it was time to get into bed they led the confused ones to an empty bed and got them a blanket before claiming a bed for themselves.

It is those moments that my heart of a mother beats – to watch the children that we brought in the exact same way and raise each day to be grateful and considerate and God conscious –  to then identify insecure, identify pain, and walk out everything we hope that they take away from life – when no one is watching – to ensure another child’s wellbeing.

Sigh… things that make you cry.

I ended my night rocking 13 little boys to sleep. Best part of the day for sure. Everytime I took one into my lap he immediately cuddled in and crashed. I know their day had to be so crazy. They all said they were tired and I know that it has been a long while since they have been rocked, cuddled, anything but laid on the ground for bedtime. As they fell asleep I sang to them and prayed over their little broken spirits. I’m choosing to see a hopeful future in them. What they are going to be. What their future now holds. Their countenance has already changed so much in only a few hours.

 

As I write this I am sitting in our office winding down. The kids are asleep, counted, double counted and prayed for. I love that time of the day. Our boys are so sweet when they’re getting sleepy. It’s late, but I’m not ready for bed. I’ll regret that tomorrow. I keep wondering about these boys and what they must be thinking about right about now.

In the midsts of all the growing and construction and work that goes into making each day a success at Danita’s Children, we were reminded today – that there is always room for one more.

  

I’m grateful for the reminder and grateful that I am able to be a part of their story. Also so grateful that Danita followed God’s call to her. It gives me such reassurance in the fulfillment of God’s promises – even when they seem crazy.

And on a day like today, you see the fruit of it. When 13 little boys file out of a beat up van and never look back.

I am going to sleep feeling ready for bed, but so content.

Here’s to purpose – Cheers & Goodnight!

P.S. Sidenote – we now have 13 little boys who desperately need sponsors so they can begin school, etc… please share with your friends and family and help us change these boys future!

Watching Love Change Lives.

I’m sitting with a 6 year old girl in my lap. Mideline. Every time she sees me she latches on to my hand and doesn’t let go until I leave. Whenever I look down at her, she looks at me with the best smile. A few months ago she was found raising herself and her little brother in the forest, literally, after running away from a step mother who would burn them with hot irons, and I wonder if she has every been cuddled in her life. I constantly wonder what kinds of things she encountered, people who she ran into/survived and situations that God saved her from. She doesn’t talk much, but when she down her words are a high pitched Creole-ish language of it’s own. Her brother is the same way. Like they have their own made up communication between the two. We call it chipmunk, but they get it.

We give our children such little credit. They are so much stronger then we allow them to be, but at the end of the day they are children and we don’t realize how much they need, want and desire our attention and affirmation.

I guarantee, like so many Haitian children, that Mideline has never been able to be a child a day in her life. She loves calling the girls “Mami” and it is so obvious that she feels so secure within the walls of Danita’s Children. It’s just another one of those things that amazes me here.

I love seeing her love the love that she receives.

It doesn’t take much. Just love. Encouragement. It truly changes peoples lives.

Try it sometime.

That’s all, just a short thought while I’m working.

Internet has been crazy here so I haven’t been able to post much, but I am writing a lot and will have it all up as soon as I can.

Life Is Good.