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Communiqué #098

Hunger is Not Just a Word

I marvel at the many ways God works in my life!  He knows just what I need, just when I need it.  After living in Haiti for a number of years it is easy to stop seeing what continues to be right there in front of me.  The stark realities can become commonplace and can be easily overlooked or gone unnoticed.  I needed a reminder of why I came to live and work in Haiti in the first place.  A recent Sunday was the day that God chose for my reminder.  Amazingly, He chose to remind me not once, but twice!  It must be that He really wanted me to remember that hunger is not just a word!  The facts I would face would not be pleasant ones, but were ones that I needed to be reminded of nonetheless.

After church, I had a meeting with a young man that I had met 6 years ago when he was dealing with an acute medical problem.  Some of you have met and know Ricardo.  When I first met him, he was 16 years old and had a tumor that had been growing on this leg for over 9 years.  It was enormous!  His mother was (and still is) a very poor widow who had no way to pay for the medical care her son needed.  The tumor had grown so large that Ricardo could not attend school, could not wear pants and could barely walk.  God blessed him with several people who made it possible for him to travel to the USA to have his tumor removed.  Following the surgery, he was informed that the disease that he had was not curable and that his tumor would grow back.  Nonetheless, Ricardo returned to Haiti and was able to enroll in school, where as a teenager he would begin 1st grade.

Five years have passed and indeed his tumor has grown during those years.  Ricardo finds himself in a lot of pain and wishing his tumor did not exist.  Many times he does not come to school.  Many days he does not eat because his mother does not have money to purchase food or her trips to the ocean do not result in finding enough fish to adequately feed her family.  Ricardo is told that he needs to take his medication with food, but with no food available he struggles with taking his pills.  He says he is lonely and depressed.  He has few friends and has no activities to fill his day.  He does not know how much longer he can continue to live with his mother.  He is a hardship to his mother as she tries to feed herself, her daughter, a grandchild and Ricardo.  But, alas, he has nowhere to go that gives him any better options.  He hopes for a miracle and a chance to return to the USA to receive better medical care.

I had asked him to meet with me, as the difficult conversation that I needed to have with him was better spoken face-to-face.  Ricardo calls me fairly often to ask for money for doctor’s visits and medications.  I needed to tell him that because Caribbean Children’s Foundation is for children, he no longer qualifies for financial assistance through our medical program.  I had to further explain to him that I do not have personal funds for every time that he contacts me with a financial need.  I was dreading having to bring him this news, but was amazed by his response.  He said that first of all he wanted to thank me!  He said that without my intervention most likely he would not be alive today.  He said he understood.   What a humbling response to what I had just said to him.  It saddened me to know that there was no easy or long term solution to Ricardo’s situation or the situation of his family.  It reminded me that his family is just one of many families in Haiti that face this hunger crisis every day.

I departed for home with a heavy heart and my mind racing as how I could possibly help Ricardo in the future.

It seems that God wanted to etch this hunger dilemma even deeper in my mind, as I visited yet another family in crisis.

Later in the day, I would visit the home of an 8 year old boy that I would be interviewing prior to him be admitted to Grace Orphanage.  Léon and I would be talking to the family members to be sure that they fully understand what it meant to turn their brother over to us.  I wanted to obtain a family history that could be passed on to a prospective adoptive family, in the event an adoption was ever an option for this boy.

We drove to the poor community where the family lives.  To reach the family home, we needed to walk through a narrow, wet alley to reach the home wedged upon many other homes in this maze of buildings.  The mother of the family had died when Wenshel (the 8 year old boy) was five years old.  The father had died two months prior to our visit, leaving an 18 year old half-sister and three sisters, ranging in ages from thirteen to sixteen.    We spoke to them about what we could offer their little brother when he came to the orphanage.  He would have food to eat every day.  He would provide him with clothes.  He would be able to go to school.  We needed to inform them that turning their brother over to us essentially meant that he was now “ours.”  We needed to be sure they were all in agreement with this decision.  We answered any questions they posed and the decision was made that they did want Wenshel to enter the orphanage.

Wenshel with his sisters!

Feeling like we had done something essential for this family, I felt a sense of satisfaction that we had helped this family in a significant way.  Those feelings came to a screeching halt, when they asked one last question.  After explaining that they had not had any food to eat since their father’s death, except for plates of food that caring neighbors sometimes brought to them, they asked, “…but what can you do for us?”   There it was again … the stark reality that right here in front of me was yet another family that woke up every morning not knowing if they would have any food to eat on each new day.

What is the answer to this difficult, difficult reality???   Certainly a gift of one bag of rice is not a long term solution.  Even one bag of rice every week is not enough.  And what about all the other families who are facing this same situation every day of their lives???  What is God expecting of me???  What is God expecting of you????

I do not have the answers.  My heart is heavy, as I am praying for God’s guidance.  I am praying for these hungry families.  I glean some comfort in knowing that heaven is a place where there will be no more hunger.  Until then … I will continue to try to make a difference one child at a time.  I will continue to ask others to help!

What a glorious day it will be when Christians gather at the throne of Jesus where this world’s sufferings will no longer exist and hunger will be no more!

Nora Léon                        

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic             Until next time, God willing …………

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