TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
September 28, 2013
N E E D E D & A P P R E C I A T E D !
Sometimes I am asked what a typical day in Haiti is like for me. I have to answer that there is no typical day. Each day brings surprises of it’s own.
After spending an extended number of weeks in the states, I returned to Haiti expecting a steady stream of people, eagerly awaiting my return, stopping by to ask me for things that they needed. I was well aware that a number of families would be coming to me for money so that their kids could go to school (especially since school is scheduled to begin in just a few days). I knew the urgency of all the needs would play heavy on my heart as it usually does. And I also knew that at some point, I would grow weary of all the asking, all the needs and all the times that I would not be able to help everyone with a request. It did, however, surprise me that on one of my busiest “request” days God turned my weariness into joy.
The day began with a reminder of how God’s timing is perfect. I had been trying to locate a friend of mine. We had promised this father of five a position as a teacher in our school, but school is scheduled to begin in just a few days and we have no idea if he is still interested. I had not seen him in months and since I did not have his current cell phone number, I resigned myself to the fact that I would need to drive to his distant community to try to locate him. With an already busy schedule, spending half a day or more locating him was really going to make for a challenging day. As I was preparing to head out for other tasks of the day, I was informed I had a visitor. Much to my delight, it was the man I was going to go search for. I had to look twice to be sure if it was he. He had lost so much weight since the last time I saw him that I could barely recognize him. He carried with him a little mite of a child. I learned that the child was his last-born daughter who I had never met. He told me that she was a year old. Upon holding her, I have to believe that she could not have weighed more than 12 pounds. She was wearing a once-white dress and bonnet and even though she had a mouth full of teeth, she was the size of a five or six month old. The man held her with pride as he told me all that has been going on in his life. He had been employed as a teacher, but had received no pay for several months because the school ran out of money. His wife had developed a life-threatening heart condition while she was pregnant with this last baby. Currently she was hospitalized at the Missionaries of Charity Home, where people who have no money to pay can go to get the care they need. His other four children would not be able to go to school, because they had no money. And worst of all, it was extremely obvious that everyone in the family was starving, even though he made no mention of his need for food.
If that part of the story was not sad enough, it tugged at my heartstrings even more because of my relationship with this family. Six years ago, the father and mother had come to me with their weak baby son in their arms. He was a scrawny little thing with a big problem. The baby needed heart surgery and since there is no heart surgery available for anyone in Haiti, they came with a plea for help. By the grace of God, I was able to find a surgeon in the USA who would “fix his heart” at no cost to the family. The baby traveled to the USA for the lifesaving surgery, returning to Haiti a few short weeks later. An incredibly more-healthy baby was reunited with his family. From that day on, this family found many ways to thank me for “giving their son back to them.” They would visit often so that I could see his progress. As poor as they were, they never came back asking for anything else. In fact, they usually came bearing gifts, such as bananas and oranges and mangos from their garden or a live chicken. They asked me to be the godmother of their first daughter. And to this day, they call me “Manmi Nora”, as they consider me their son’s “other mother”. I was reminded what a privilege it is to call this family my friends!
I gathered up some things that we had in the house to give to his family – a little dress for his daughter, some hygiene items, some school supplies and a few toys for the older children. I talked about some possible solutions for his children’s education and found something for the baby to eat. Throughout the whole conversation I was amazed at how many times he continued to thank me for saving the life of his son so many years ago. More than any other family I have encountered during my time in Haiti, they have always gone out of their way to thank me constantly. I find that kind of gratitude so touching! It is so uplifting when someone goes to this extent to say thank you!
The following day, I was able to visit his wife outside the gates of the hospital. She was able to come out to see me, even though visitors are not allowed on the grounds of the facility where she is receiving care. With great joy we embraced and she repeated “Oh! Manmi Nora! Manmi Nora! Manmi Nora!” And once again, she thanked me for saving her son. She laughed when she told me that when her son is being disciplined he says he is going to go away and live with Manmi Nora. We have a unique bond and my heart aches for this family who is now living in such desperate times. I am reminded how insignicant my problems really are and am grateful that God used this family to place my troubles in perspective.
For this family I am now praying that the father’s teaching job will help make a difference in their lives. The father will need to leave his family behind to take this teaching job in another locality, therefore, I also pray that good health is restored to the mother so that she can care for their five children in his absence. I pray that God provides food for their table, education for their children and that He meets their many other needs.
Upon his departure, my day would continue with the visit of another friend, this time a teenaged friend. Over the years she has looked to me for guidance and friendship. This day, she was coming to bring me a gift and to welcome me back to Haiti. She knows that I love to collect sea glass, and so in my absence, she had gathered several pieces of a variety of colors and she came to give them to me as a surprise. She arrived mid-day and complained of a splitting headache. It became clear that her headache was because she had not eaten for a long time. She, too, would not complain or come begging for food, but she graciously accepted and eagerly devoured the meal that was placed before her. I would give her a pain reliever, allow her to take a nap on my bed and feed her a second time before bringing her home. Have I ever known such hunger? No! Does it again put my problems in perspective? Yes!
While my visitor was present, a plumber was working on a leak in our bathroom. He had spent several hours on the project, when someone alerted me to the fact that he had cut himself badly. I rushed to see what had happened and found the man with blood spurting from the base of his finger. He had cut himself on a sharp piece of broken ceramic tile. Being thankful that some medical mission teams had left me with supplies, I quickly searched for wound cleanser and antibiotic creme and bandages and gauze. My teenaged visitor assisted in cutting gauze and helping me apply a pressure dressing. The plumber returned to work with his bandaged hand inside a vinyl glove for protection from the dirty environment in which he was working. Before long, however, he sought me out with his blood-saturated bandage. The dressing process was repeated, but the blood did not want to stop flowing. I warned the plumber that if this last dressing did not work, he needed to go to the hospital for treatment. At that point, he knelt on the floor and began to cry. In part, he was crying from pain. In part, I think he was crying because he would have no money to go to the hospital. I gave him some pain reliever and sent him home with the rest of the bottle and strict instructions to go the hospital if the bleeding did not stop. During the night, I could not get him off from my mind. Each time when I would awaken, I would say a prayer for him.
The next morning, I went out to my car. There, much to my surprise was the plumber who had arrived on his bicycle, kneeling by a pile of sand in our yard as he started making mortar for his repairs to the ceramic tiles in our bathroom. When he saw me, he smiled a big smile and raised his hand to show me that the bleeding had stopped and that he did not need to go to the hospital after all. He expressed his gratitude and then turned to me to ask a question. It wasn’t the one that I was expecting. He remarked about the fact that he knew that we had an orphanage. He asked if he could give his children to us. I learned that his wife had died and left him with children he did not have money to care for.
Like I said – not a typical day! I am grateful that on this day I was able to be of some help. I felt needed. I felt appreciated! And oddly enough, I felt joy! Thank you God for reminding me that you have faithfully met all of my daily needs, even when I do not deserve the blessings you give me. Thank you for reminding me that I am placed here in Haiti to be your hands and feet to those whose basic needs have not been met. Thank you for helping me to put my “pity-party” troubles in perspective!
And by the way God … I am a slow learner … so please keep teaching me these lessons!
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time, God willing …………