To dream again… life inevitably brings pain, tragedy, and struggle at some point in our journey. We fight or run to get back to normal, back to rest and renewal, back to comfortable. But what if you just can’t seem to get back there? What if you’re held in a constant pattern of trauma, short-fall, sickness, or abuse? When life drags us down this path, even as we fight and resist, it is almost impossible to dream, to look ahead to the future, to think that it could ever be different. Unfortunately, this is the story of so many. In Haiti, it’s the plight of at least 1 in 5 children, facing malnutrition, abandonment, abuse and no opportunity to education. 1 in 10 children actually become ‘restavek’ slave children. That was my husbands’ own story, that many of you know well. I’ve learned it so well, it’s scripted in my heart. When he was in the midst, he did not ever foresee life being different. He thought he would always be too skinny from just one meal a day, have to carry 25 lbs buckets of water on his head 3 times a day for miles, and fulfill his list of required chores before sunrise. He never knew he would ever have the opportunity to go to school, let alone finish and continue on to secondary school. He never knew he would have the chance to travel around the world. He never knew he would become the leader of a large organization, impacting change to tens of thousands. In the midst of his slavery, he could not dream. He could only survive.
Last Friday night we held our annual Christmas in the Village fundraiser to raise money for Arise Children’s Village. This was part of the story we shared. This is the why. Why a children’s village? To give kids a chance to dream again. To redeem their future. To give them hope for a brighter tomorrow and possibly a changed country. Maybe one of them will take Haiti on even further than we can to arise from the depths of turmoil and struggle. And this major change can only come from one true source of hope and life- the powerful change of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus’ love and salvation, of God’s plan to bring His children home and call us His own! It was a beautiful evening, highlighting many of the children’s stories, as well as honoring the Haitian house parents that have sacrificed their lives to become mothers and fathers to children that were not their own, now being bound by the blood of Jesus. Each of them also has a story, and has answered the call to dream and inspire new vision in these rescued slaves and orphaned children that would have otherwise been lost, maybe even dead by now.
We sold a lot of the artwork from the array of things we brought back from Haiti and had a silent auction and raffle from a number of donated items to help us raise funds. The largest seller was this massive, beautiful painting an artist in Haiti did a few years ago for us. The same artist that did wall murals as you come into the Haiti ARISE campus. We still have a number of art pieces left for those who may still like to purchase Christmas gifts with a purpose. I’d love to completely sell out of everything we have in stock, so when we go again in January we can hopefully bring back another loot.
At the event I also shared our story of one baby boy that had come into our lives two years ago, when we received a call from the mayor of Grand-Goave. He had been dropped in an outhouse, left to die. But somehow, by God’s grace with the small voice he had been given, he cried out and was heard. We rushed him to the hospital, and in those hours that we waited with baited breath for his lungs to work properly and his color to return, we could only think of the moment and his survival. At one point he stabilize and our minds began reeling with all the vision we had for this little guy’s future and what he may become. He even carried our name, Marc Junior Honorat. But with a tragic turn of events, just an hour later our hopes were dashed when he passed away. This pushed us with even greater fervency to not only seek to rescue the abandoned for our Children’s Village, but to also press forward to get our Birthing Center built and established. If we had a safe place for women to deliver and find support with their new babies, maybe Marc Junior would have still been alive.
This trip in November was a thrill to witness firsthand the hundreds of new moms with their babies coming to our Birthing Center for a baby nutrition program that we’ve had the privilege of being sponsored to host by USAID. The moms have appointments monthly to come get their pack of 30 Nutributters, a peanut butter-like formula packed with vitamins to supplement the babies’ diet from 6 mo to 3 years old. Every month since we started the program we have had over a thousand women coming and every day new ones join. This is not the true opening of the Birthing Center, since there is still finishing work to be done on the facility before we can host deliveries. But it is still a start in serving our maternal community, which is huge.
One young mother came late on the day I had gone over the clinic to walk through the next plans with our construction foreman for a gazebo and sidewalks. As we were staging where these walkways would be laid out, I kept glancing at her waiting patiently. Everyone else had gone home. It was her second time coming and she was hoping to be able to register into the program. The first time she came, her baby was too young, still only breastfeeding. I knew this young women, just a girl really. I had known her since she was a child herself. I thought about her own dreams and future, if she had any. Knowing where she came from, a very poor family of 12 children, the father had died and all the mother did to support her children was harvest wild mushrooms to sell in the market. I don’t think she finished school because she had to find someone who would take care of her. She had her first baby as a young teen. This new baby was not her second. All she saw knew was survival, yet here was another new life being ushered into her world of struggle. What future did this child have? How could we assist her to raise her child well? Would she be willing to let us walk with her on this path? I already knew some of those answers. Over the years we had offered to help pay for her primary education, invited her into the church, offered her counsel, and an opportunity to take classes at the technical school. Yet she rejected the offers. What do we do when people don’t want to dream for a brighter future? We still offer. We still seek to come alongside where we can and where they allow us to.
There are many that do welcome our help. We have one such family that has come under our care and covering willingly and gratefully. The Fecilien kids lost their father in the earthquake, along with their homes he had built for them. After we had built a new home for them, just a few short years later they lost their mother suddenly. These six siblings were suddenly orphaned and very vulnerable, would be ripe for child slavery or worse. The four young ladies are strikingly beautiful and the two younger boys are too small to be their protection. So our church took them on as family. We moved them from their new home to rent a smaller home just near our front campus gate. This way, our staff and church ‘mothers’ could keep a regular eye on them and offer guidance, counsel and care. They are all in school, and with the support of a few Haiti ARISE sponsors, we pay their rent, provide their food and make sure each year they have clothing that fits them. It’s that time of year again to take them shopping. But when I visited their home, what they really long for is motherly advice, a few words of wisdom and love. They eagerly lapped up every word of inspiration I could muster for them, to stick together, support each other, not fight and work to get along, do their chores, study hard… all the things I would tell my own kids daily. And the beautiful thing is they are each starting to dream of their future. Though they’d passed through tremendous loss in their young, short lives, they have hope. With a close eye on watching them and their hearts full of gratitude, I don’t think any of them will end up like the other young girl with her 3rd or 4th baby in the Birthing Center, barely eeking out an existence. No, they will finish school, learn skills, work hard to build their future and maybe become leaders.
We’ve gotta keep dreaming. For ourselves and for those that may not be able to presently dream for themselves. Find the space to inspire, open a child’s heart to possibilities, give a youth vision for more than what they can see, pass on faith. That’s God’s way. He calls us. “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future,” He prophesied in Jeremiah over each of us that would hear and accept to believe it, who would dare to dream again.