Right now I’m sitting at the gorgeous Moulin Sur Mer – a beachside hotel in Haiti. I’m attending a 2.5 day conference between UMCOR, UMVIM, and the Methodist Church of Haiti. The purpose is to determine community needs within categories like agriculture, health, micro-enterprise/micro-credit, and literacy/education. We’ve been exploring what programs have worked well in the past and what didn’t work well in the past. From there we’re determining what current community needs are and how to address those needs. The day started kind of slowly, but once we split into our different groups – it was awesome.
You know, since I’ve been here I’ve been in a constant state of discernment. Before coming to Haiti I was fairly certain that God was calling me to work on the more administrative/leadership side of things. I think my gifts really make me a good person for logistics, execution, and innovation. I’m constantly thinking of how we might be able to make things better. However, after coming to Haiti and playing with the kids, I started to really doubt that. I recognized how much I enjoyed being “in the thick of it.” It’s also very easy to label playing with the kids as ministry. It’s more difficult to label sitting through meetings planning things as ministry. I thought, maybe God is calling me more to one particular on-the-ground ministry that I might be able to really invest in. That could be cool.
But after tonight, I was reminded of just how much I love to use my gifts to address big issues on the higher level leadership side of things. I felt like I was really able to contribute something and that I could help provide some guidance and thoughts for my education/literacy group to consider. I left the meeting feeling energized and excited about what things could happen in Haiti. It really re-affirmed what I had thought all along – I need to be working with a group to help alleviate some real problems in the world on a wide scale.
Now, this is not to say that the ministry I’m doing with “my boys” is not important. It’s vital. And actually, it’s because of experiences like the ones I have with them that this “big picture” stuff is so energizing to me. To know that “my boys” might benefit from programs like these in the future brings me great joy and, honestly, some relief. If programs like the one’s we’ve been talking about exist and work like they’re supposed to – then I know there will be resources available for them to be successful in life. It was helpful, when thinking of literacy and education, to have specific people in the back of my head – the boys, Oge, Claire, Daniel, Marie-Claude, Eric, the three girls that call me “poupe,” Peterson, and Johnny. How would folks, like these friends of mine, benefit from programs like the ones we’re designing? Although I’m not certain about the answer, the idea is very exciting.
Speaking of “my boys,” though, I have a story to share.
Yesterday, I had one of THE HARDEST conversations that I have ever had. Granted, there was a communication barrier that made it even more difficult, but it would have been difficult if we were all speaking Kreyol or English, too.
Yesterday morning I was packing for Moulin Sur Mer in my room and listening to music. The boys came by and started dancing to the music. While they were there, I got a phone call about the COR group that would be landing in the airport. As soon as I got off the phone, the boys asked “Are you leaving on an airplane?” (I used Google translator to figure that out.)
I used Google translator again to explain that I was not leaving now and that I would be leaving on July 24th. They nodded but then got really sad and asked why I would be leaving. I told them that I needed to go home then… back to the United States. (You can’t say America because they’re from “America” too.) They then got really excited and said, “Okay, well then we’ll come with you.”
Thump. It was like a cement block plummeted through my body from my throat to my feet. How on earth can I explain to them that they can’t come with me?
I thought, explaining that it’s too expensive and that I don’t have enough money would do the trick. I told them that and they asked “Why?” After all, to them, I’m a wealthy American and a friend they trust. Why wouldn’t I spent the money to get them out of Haiti?
So I explained that I am still a student and that I don’t have a job and it’s very expensive. They asked how expensive. I told them it was over $1000 US for a plane ticket alone. That SHOCKED them. It was obvious that most of them had never even seen that much money in their life, much less spent it.
At that time, one of the boys, Stanley, spoke up and said, “My mom will give you $5000 goudes (approximately 128 American dollars) to help pay for it.” Oh yikes. Oh yikes.
What do you say to that? How do you acknowledge that generous offer, make the child feel wanted and loved, but also tell them that you can’t help them?
I tried everything. I explained that their parents would miss them. I explained that I didn’t have a bed for them to sleep on in America. I explained that Americans were put in jail in Haiti for taking kids out of the country without proper paperwork. I explained that the paperwork takes upwards of 2 years sometimes – and it’s a much more difficult process if they have parents or a parent still living.
However, nothing seemed to get through. I was their friend. I love them. They love me. They trust me. They know I’m a good person who wants to help them. All of that added up to them believing it was much easier for me to take them to America than I was explaining.
That conversation has been weighing quite heavily on my heart ever since then. I keep on trying to think of families who might be willing to visit Haiti while I’m here, meet my boys, and start working towards legal adoption in collaboration with their parents. However, I know that the reality of that is highly unlikely. So I’ve also been thinking about what I might be able to provide for these boys so that their future can be bright and so they don’t continue along the cycle of poverty. Or if I can’t provide it – who can? And what would that look like? And how would I keep in contact with them to make sure they’re still okay?
I don’t know. A lot of thoughts. A LOT of thoughts. Prayers needed/appreciated.