I’m a very responsible traveler, so before our trip, I checked for any potential travel warnings for Haiti. Sum it up? DON’T GO!
Since the earthquake, things have been dicey. No infrastructure. Little police help. “Whatever you do,” the state department warned (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Don’t leave the airport, rent a car or get in a taxi. You could be robbed, kidnapped or murdered. Or,” they added, “if you get in trouble with the police, they can throw you in jail and leave you there forever.’
Now when I contacted the orphanage, the director reminded me that large groups of teens come through on mission trips every week… teens, seniors, families, kids… and they’ve never had any trouble. I sensed a “Buck up girly” behind her gracious response.
But I admit, I was still grateful Brian and I were going together on this first venture.
See, I had a speaking engagement in St. Louis, so I flew there Friday. Brian drove from Colorado to St. Louis and met me there. We were to fly out at 6:00 AM the next morning. We arrived at our hotel and Brian walked over to his computer bag, “Honey, I don’t have my passport,” he said, joking.
“Don’t even mess with me.”
He looked in his bag and suddenly grew serious. “Wait a second. It’s not here.”
I looked at him. “Seriously?”
He rustled through his bag.
Remember how I said I was a great traveler? Well, per state department regulations I had taken his passport and made copies (should all heck break loose, I’m sure that color copy of our passports would have played some important role in saving our tushies). What I didn’t do was remove the passport from the scanner and place it back in his bag.
Brian was gracious and we quickly got to work to fix the problem. We tried to fly the passport from Denver to St. Louis. We wondered about driving. All was fruitless. I’d have to go to Haiti alone while Brian flew to Denver, got the passport and met me in Haiti a day later.
As soon as we were in the mood for joking, Brian wondered out loud if I planned it all so I could meet the boys and bond with them first.
Slightly evil laugh. Me? Never.
We went to the airport first thing in the morning. We smooched goodbye and off I went to Haiti. By myself.
The plane landed in Port au Prince and I exited into chaos. Thankfully I’d only packed a carry on, so I didn’t have to wait for luggage or try to negotiate its release. I walked to the exit and looked for the driver, a pastor at the orphanage. I spotted the sign he was holding and quickly made my way to him. We turned toward the parking lot. I nearly tripped over his heels following him closely, all while avoiding eye contact with any potential bad guys. There were tons of vehicles parked in every direction. People were pressing in on every side.
We got to the car when I spotted the army truck filled with armed UN guards. I did my best to look nice and legal and like I rarely cause trouble. It was difficult.
We waited in a long line of cars before finally getting out of the airport. There are no actual lanes in Haiti. Sometimes it’s three cars on one side of the road, sometimes it’s three on the other. It’s just who gets around who the quickest – and who is biggest – that determines right of way. We played chicken a few times and I tried not to gasp out loud or make it obvious that I was holding on to the door strap. At one point, we turned off the main drag onto a long dirt road. I wondered if maybe this whole thing was a big scam to kidnap me.
Then I remembered how un-kidnap worthy I actually am.
We pulled up to the orphanage gate. Pastor honked and an armed guard opened up and waved us in. It was like an oasis on the inside and I eagerly looked around. All else forgotten. Where are the boys?
I was met by a lovely woman who works on site and she escorted me up to the director. M is the director, beautiful inside and out—an angel who has spent years rescuing little ones from malnutrition and abuse. She brought me to the boys.
Three-year-old Lovence immediately held his arms out to me and I scooped him up. That must have been a little too close because he quickly reconsidered and reached for M. From the safety of her arms, he looked at me with curious brown eyes. I picked up 18-month-old Laurentz and held him in my arms. He was far more used to being held and nestled in.
What a surreal feeling to think I might be holding my sons. I planted a zerbert on Laurentz’s neck and he giggled.
That’s a sound I could get used to…
I spent the rest of the day immersed in moments:
Helping Lovence eat his dinner. He’d been so starved that he eats quickly, afraid it will be taken from him. I held him on my lap and watched his little cheeks fill up like a chipmunk. My heart broke for a baby boy fearful he may never get to eat again. Later I watched him carefully smash open almonds and pick out each little nut. He’s incredibly smart and already seems to understand much of what’s going on around him. He has made such progress since first arriving at the orphanage. When he first arrived, he hadn’t even been able to stand. Now he is standing and even walking as he holds on to the hands of his nanny. When he does stand, he looks at you with sheer delight, laughter bubbling out – so proud of himself.
Over dinner I talked with other adoptive parents who were on site – incredible women whose hearts are kind, generous and faithful through what has been a long, painful process. They say it takes up to two years to bring children home from this battered country – and yet people are fighting for their kids, doing all they can to love them through the wait.
And then in the early evening, I sat with M on a porch swing and heard the incredible stories of these children: stories of heartache, abandonment and ultimate rescue.
Finally, one of my favorite moments was helping Lovence with his bath. Remember, Lovence was found abandoned in a mountain village three months ago. He was near death when they found him and covered in dirt from head to toe.
So he loves the water.
I gently poured the water over his head and he laughed in absolute delight, flapping his little arms in the air. Then he’d wipe the water from his face and look with expectation for me to do it again. At one point, I held the cup over my own head and let a little spill onto my hair. It rolled off my hair onto his head and his eyes went wide as he laughed out loud.
His joy was contagious and bright and beautiful.
I ended my first day so full and yet a little overwhelmed. Do we have what it takes to love these boys through this life? Do we have what they will need to know hope and wholeness? Can we give them the security and love they so achingly deserve?
I went to sleep with a prayer on my heart. “God, show us. Fill our hearts with love for these boys if this is your path. Give us unwavering conviction and a deep passion for their future.”
And so ended day one.
Soon I will post day two of our visit: Brian’s arrival and the love connection he made with these babies. It was so incredibly Hallmark card kind of cute – I can’t wait to fill you in.
But first, a few pictures from the first day. More to come…
Ohhhh, Elsa what precious babies. Love nice has the most beautiful smile. Im standing in the grocery line bawling. Luckily I’m on base so it is half way normal so they are just trying not to make eye contact.
Love ya and praying God’s many blessing for you and Brian.
I totally pictured you crying in line. I love your heart! Big hugs, my friend.
Love the journey you are on. We’ve been foster parents many times but are too old to adopt though we’ve thought about it. Instead, I’ll just vicariously follow your journey and pray for you!
I didn’t know that, Teresa – how beautiful!
There is such beautiful joy in those smiles – all three of them. 🙂
amazing just keep the faith it will all work out
Oh, what it must have felt like to hold those little guys in your arms. I can’t think of better parents than you and Brian to bless these hurt children. May you always smile like you are in these pictures.
Thank you, Robyn! What sweet words! Love you.
This is going to be a great story. Like a good book and the opening few sentences, you’re immediately hooked and can’t wait to turn the pages. It becomes your story as well.
You caught my attention with your rhetoric “Do we have what they will need to know hope and wholeness?” Absolutely yes! When I was at the Methare Valley slum this summer I felt the Lord was showing me that the deep anguish and hopelessness of that place was due to the lie the enemy had impugned upon the people regarding their identity. There’s no overlooking the poverty and desperation but worse than that, the enemy has tricked them into believing they don’t deserve a life any better than the one they see before them, which by all measure appears completely hopeless. Consider though the story of the prodigal son, whom at his lowest point, living with the pigs and desiring their feed to fill his own stomach, did finally realize that he had a father who would care for him. Even if only as a servant, he knew and believed his father would accept him, and therein lay his hope. I witnessed a people who had no idea such a Father existed, blinded by the reality of their dismal circumstances. The enemy has tricked them so they cannot see a world beyond their slum, nor can they see the truth of someone ready and willing to receive and care for them. Their only hope is for someone to show them, to give them eyes to see and ears to hear the call of a gracious Father.
You and Brian will embody the love of our Father to those boys. They will know His love for them because you will make it real for them by every look, touch and word you share. The Father’s love, hope and wholeness is in you both, and He has filled you to overflow into the lives of those precious little boys. So yes, you have what they need, in fact, with Jesus you have all that they need, amen and amen.
Thanks for sharing your story.
Hi Greg, Thanks for your note. You know what I found beautiful about these Haitian children? It was their joy. Their laughter. Their kind spirits. In the face of all odds and extreme poverty, their hearts were so beautiful. God was right there in the midst of them – so even if the enemy would like to rob them, God’s goodness spilled out of them. Amazing!
Thanks again – we’re so grateful for your encouragement!
I can’t wait to read your writings from day two….I love all of your smiles; you are all precious in HIS sight! Thank you for sharing!
Thank you Vicki!
Love, love this story…cant wait to hear more…hurry and send it….love u guys
Love you, too, Andrea!!!
Good morning, Elsa.
I met you at a Womens Conference held by Mt. Zion Church in Dallas and have been reading your blogs since. All are interesting and dear, but I have to admit, this endeavor has me in tears. You are not only a writer, but a teacher. Thru your blogs, we learn too. I just recently started sponsoring a child in Guatemala. I attended a Women of Joy Conference in Oklahoma City and decided this is something I wanted to do. I was even able to request for a little girl around the same age as my granddaughter. I thought as I watch my Jayla grow it will be as I am watching Ingrid (my sponsor child) grow.
You have brought to light the way things may be for Ingrid in her home country and I am faithful that what little I can send her God does much with.
I am so excited and happy for you. The pictures show God’s love, the smiles show it all!! Please continue to keep us with you because Elsa, from your writing it’s like we’re right there with you. May God continue to provide peace over you as the journey continues.
Thanks for sharing,
Oh, Josie! What a beautiful note. Thank you so much for your kind words. Warm hugs to you…
So excited for you guys, Elsa. Piet shared a bit of your story during a message and I felt so happy for the both of you. God is in this.
Thanks, Shannon. We are so excited – and what a joy to share the journey with people we love! 🙂
I hope it doesn’t take 2 years for your wishes — and theirs — to come true.
Thank you, Thom! That’s our hope as well…
You both are awesome. God is so good. The boys are beautiful. I look forward to reading your journey. Thank you for sharing this with us. Saying prayers and love to you…
Love you back, Molly! Thanks for the note!
Oh so beautiful!! Tears were streaming!! Can’t wait to get them in my arms too!! Bring ’em home, girl!! If anyone can…Jesus can through you and Brian. I’m so excited for our whole family!! What a reunion it will be when they are with us!! Amen!!
Cant wait for them to meet the whole crew! 🙂
Elsa, have I missed day 2? I’m so happy for you! I am putting you on my prayer list. Love you friend!