Today she posted one of her testimonies to God's goodness and compassion on the least of these. I believe it speaks some great truths and wanted to share. Thank you Tabitha for your love for our Savior and the things He too is passionate about!
I knew there would be orphans living behind the school. I was prepared to see their copper hair and distended bellies; a picture of the worms they had and the hunger they felt. I knew that their saddened eyes would rip my heart, and that it would hurt every day to leave them right where they were – in the alley.
I will never forget the day I sat at Starbucks looking at a slideshow of the school in Lamenta. Lamenta was a small community near the epicenter of the earthquake in Port Au Prince, Haiti. I watched picture after picture of the devastation that occurred on January 12th 2010. As Don, one of our team leaders and engineer by trade explained the construction work needed to make the school safe again, I was distracted by the faces of the children I saw in the pictures. Who were they? Don told me of 2 small children that lived with their widowed mother in the rubble behind the school. Since the earthquake, their home had become a 2 foot alley filled with trash and broken concrete. He told me of another sweet angel that lost both parents in the earthquake and spent her days strapped to a chair due to mental retardation and cerebral palsy. I tried to stay focused as Don talked about the construction and the painting but honestly all I could think of was how I was going to get in that alley.
Walking into the compound of the school was eye opening. The children were all sitting under tarps in the blazing hot sun. The teachers were dripping with sweat and trying hard to keep the children focused as the “blancs” unloaded their supplies. Their sweet giggles made me smile and it was hard to not just sit and watch them all day. I remember thinking that these were the lucky ones. They either had parents or a sponsor from the states to make sure they received an education and learned about the good news of Jesus Christ. I tried to imagine what my kindergarten classroom was like; full of color and imagination, cool and quiet. As I walked through the halls of the dimly lit, open aired school I tried to picture what it would look like with bright cheerful colors on the walls. And then I saw it – the chalkboard.
This school in Lamenta was also where the community gathered to worship the Lord. There had been church and a bible lesson for the children just hours before the earthquake ripped through Port Au Prince. The chalkboard was cracked and broken, but the lesson was still on the board. It read “Dieu Aime les enfants” and the date read January 12th 2010. The Creole translation is “God loves all Children”. At that moment, 2 things were on my mind. First, I did not want to repair the broken chalkboard. It was beautiful; the message of love still visible through the cracks of the broken wall. I was also reminded of how broken I am as a person and how it is hard to be transparent and show your flaws, but that’s when the Lord’s redeeming love speaks the loudest. It speaks through the cracks. My second thought was: how do I get to that alley?
As I made my way around the back wall of the school, I found the alley. It was 2 foot wide and shaded by leaning trees. I crouched down to make my way over to the kids hoping not to startle them. There were two small children seated quietly on little chairs. They were playing with stones from the alley and occasionally they looked up at me inquisitively. As I studied their faces, I thought of what it would take to get them on the other side of the school wall. A few feet beside the toddlers, a young girl sat in a ruffled dress. She was strapped to a tall wooden chair, most likely for her own safety. She appeared to be partially blind, but as I spoke softly to her, she smiled and rocked back and forth.
The physical therapist in me wanted to evaluate the chair that this sweet girl was confined to, but the rest of me wanted to just sit and play with her. I wanted to tell her she was beautiful and that God loves all his children. I wanted to whisper that things will not always be this way for her; that one day all this will fade away and that she will have a strong body. Sarah Jane and I sat and talked in the alley for quite a while. I dreamed of what it would look like to get her in a wheelchair. If not a chair, at least a cushion seat for pressure relief would be nice. As we loved on these children, two others walked up and sat beside us. Of the 5 children, none had shoes and most did not have underwear so we made mental notes of what we could bring them the next day.
Since I have been home, I have struggled with the images of those children in my head. The little girl with special needs is not alone, even in that dark and dirty alley. The widow that I met that day is caring for her the best that she can. It is my desperate prayer that I can get her in a wheelchair. Please join me in praying for this. I have contacted Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in hopes of getting a wheelchair donated and things are looking hopeful! Sarah Jane is making her third trip to Port Au Prince next month and will be able to visit these children again. I am encouraged that I will be able to update you with a picture of her in her new wheelchair!!!
It is hard to leave a short term mission trip and not feel responsible for the hurts of the world, and I have reminded myself frequently that I am only responsible for the “ONE”. The one that God puts in front of me is the one I can help. This verse has helped comfort my heart when I think of all the children I saw – it helps remind me that “Dieu Aime les enfants”. I hope it encourages you too. “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. “ “God sets the lonely in families” Psalm 68:5-6