Monday, May 21, 2012

On: Living in an orphanage


A few nights ago I sat down to write a blog about living in an orphanage.  I wanted to highlight the challenges, the chaos, the rewards of living with 40+ kids who are not your own.  But the power went out and I lost my writing.  Tonight, with the generator running, I tried to recreate my thoughts.  But all I could think was "It's not about you."

There is a sweet faced little boy.  His sister is a lovable, beautiful girl.  They have lived in orphanages since they were infants.  They know their mom, because she lives around the corner, and stops by several times a week to visit them.

The first time I learned this, it was because the little boy's pitiful, desperate wails were filling the courtyard.  When I asked why, I learned that on that particular visit his mom had been unable to give him a little candy before she left.  If she gives him a little candy, he doesn't cry when she leaves.

A few months after we moved here, this lovely little girl started calling me 'mom.'   The first time it  was shy, a quiet question, "Will you love me?"  I want to protect this girl, and myself, from what I know is coming: eventually, I will leave.  But, what could I say?  "I think its better for both of our mental health if you stick to Madame Jennifer?"  "No, I can't love you that way?"  So she calls me mom. 

How is it it that a girl thinks of someone she has known for a few months as more of a mother than the woman who birthed her?   It would be easy to judge this mom, to place her choice in a box.  Is she selfish?  Uncaring?  Lazy?  Is it poverty?  Under-education?  Sin?

I see this woman each week.  I see her pray and worship.  I see the little things she does to claim her children as her own.  I see the two shirts and two skirts she alternates wearing.  I see the tender way she strokes the boy's head as he sleeps on her lap.

This woman, who is not much older than me, has delivered 11 children into the world.  She has buried six of them.  This little guy and his big sister are her last two.  The two she gave up because she was too broken to care for.  The two she hoped to save. 

So for this season I will love her children.  I will share with her, in what little ways I can, the burdens and joys of motherhood.  I will trust God to care for each of us when its time to say goodbye.  I will seek her friendship and I will not judge her.  I will praise the God who brought us together, and pray that one day I will rejoice with her and these children in heaven. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

On: Generosity


You might see a few penny candies, but this is actually picture of extreme generosity.

A boy, an orphan, on a rare adventure to Port au Prince to celebrate Haiti's Flag Day, collected a few pieces of candy during the parade.  He counted out four and put them in his pocket.  Hours later, he brought them to me.  Shyly passing them into my hand, he told me that there was one for me, one for Chris and one each for Xander and Ella.

This child has nothing.  Even his clothes and shoes are shared among 10 or 12 other boys his size.  But today he was given something- it was his fare and square.  He could have eaten it or saved it to savor over the next few days.  But instead, he set these little candies aside- more excited about his opportunity to be generous than about sweeties.

A few days ago, two little ones came up to my room to tell me they were hungry.  This happens every so often, but we typically do not hand out food (unless we have 42 more).  But, that day, I could see that these kids really were hungry.  Moreover, they saw the two granola bars I had just pulled out for my own snack.  The left happily munching my chewy peanut butter bars.  I went back to reading.

A short while later, I can hear "Come into my heart.  Come into my heart. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus!" being sung by exuberant little Haitian voices.  I peek out to see two peanut butter covered faces glowing as they bellow the words "Come into stay,   Come into stay, Lord Jesus!".  They continue their serenade, I hope oblivious to the tears in my eyes, and shout "Tank you madame Jennifur!" 

This song was their gift.  Their return.   They gave all they had to give in that song. 

Generosity is about giving.  But that is only half the relationship.  Until recently, it was the only half I was really familiar with.  I knew how to give; I enjoyed (and still do) giving.  But not until I found myself on the receiving end of generosity did I begin to understand its beauty.  

Generosity funds my life right now.  We couldn't live and work in Haiti if not for the generous support that we receive.  Friends sacrifice their own pleasures so that we may do this work.  The faith of those who give to us is humbling and inspiring. 

We have been blessed to receive donations in many sizes.  Each one is special, cherished.  But, I don't know if any can quite match 4 pieces of candy and a song.