While in Haiti, our team visited three different orphanages. I, myself, went to two, and they were two very different experiences. I probably won't share both stories in this one post. Anyhow, if you can recall, before I left for this trip, I wrote that one of my reasons for going to Haiti was that I didn't just want to write and share my heart for orphans when I'd never been face to face with one. I wanted to be hands-on. I wanted to be a woman of my words, not just a writer of my words.
So, before we departed, Jerry (a wonderful godly man who helped arrange our trip) asked us what did we want to do while we were in Haiti. And several of us girls, with smiles on our faces while bouncing a little in our seats replied, "We want to go to the orphanages!" Yes, we want to love on those sweet children, give out snacks, do arts and crafts. Hooray for us!
Please, do not take my next statement as a "well, duh" moment. God knows what He is doing when He commands His children to go visit the orphans and widows in their affliction in James 1:27. God always knows what He is doing. God's Word is breathed from His very mouth, and it is so good for His children to allow it to teach and correct and train them. So, when He said, "Go. Visit." You, my sweet brother and sister, need to go and visit the orphans where they live. Look them in the eye. Touch lives created by the Master's hand, and know that for so many home looks like this...
This is a picture of the younger boys' room at the first orphanage we went to. It's out in the countryside. There are 39 children there from age 9 months to 17 years old. The other rooms look mostly the same. There are not enough beds for 39 children. They share one toilet. There is a wall around the place that offers security, and MSI Haiti helps to bring food out to them. Those children old enough to go to school are divided into two groups that go to class in the nearby church.
When we came to visit, we brought along groceries. We brought some balls and other small toys, some clothes and shoes. We played games, painted a mural, sang songs.
We lined all the children up and handed out peanut butter sandwiches only to be faced with the reality that we had only two cups for drinking. Two. So, I would fill a cup with water, take it to a child who would drink it dry and I would go fill it up again and take it to the next child. And, yes, we loved on one sweet precious face after another.
But, let's face it folks, this is not a place where I would ever want to see my own sons or daughters live. When I jumped up and down like a kid going on a field trip that morning, so excited to finally go to a real orphanage, someone should have smacked me upside the head. Because, when God says go visit these children in their affliction, it's heartbreaking. Children were made for family, not this.
Don't get me wrong, I know that these children are being provided a roof over their head. They get to sing songs and sit in a class, and hopefully, they will enjoy one good meal each day, and that might be a better life than it could be. But, really, is that good enough?
I snapped the following picture only because my friend Jason happened to be holding this darling baby and I though his wife would like a picture of it. It went into my phone's photo file and I didn't even go back to look at until the end of the day. But, when I did, it crushed me because I think the look on his face portrays what many of us felt - broken by the reality of what life is like for the fatherless.
And maybe, that is what we all need to experience. Not words in a book. Not commercials on TV asking you to donate. Not even posts on a blog. When God tells us to go, maybe it's because you will never get the same understanding, you will never be moved to reach out to the least of these in quite the same way as when you stand in the middle of where they live and take a good, close look at what their world is like.
It's overwhelming. It's hard to process. It's so much bigger than I thought it was going to be, and I'm still trying to take it all in. I've talked to friends, I've talked to my husband, because I came home with this weight of responsibility. This feeling like I'm not doing enough, and yet the task of what else can I do seems too much to take on. What do I do first? I must dosomething. I can't leave them there like that, can I?
One friend said, "You can't save the world." I know I can't. 154 million orphans is a few million too many for one girl to tackle on her own. But God is with me, and you could join with me too. I know I've asked this before, but I'll pose the question again...
What's God calling you to do?
How does He want you to reach out to these kids?
Pray. Think. Act.