I can’t believe I’ve been here for five weeks already! Sometimes I feel like I’ve been here months already, but other times it feels like I just got here.
Adjustments and challenges. There have been many of both. My expectations of living in Haiti for 11 weeks were much different than it really is. I expected life to be a lot more uncomfortable. I thought I’d always be super hot and sweaty. I was worried the kids would have a difficult time adjusting to my presence in place of Katie and Rebecca’s. I was worried about not liking the food or getting really sick and many other things that people who seldom travel would “warn” me about. But the real challenge for me has been building and maintaining healthy relationships with each of these kids. I love caring for the twins, but they practically consume my entire day. I am either holding them, feeding them, changing them, or watching them to make sure they don’t eat a marker or climb down the front steps. It’s been hard to manage my time with kids individually as I am occupied with the babies.
Another challenge for me has been the language barrier. I came to Haiti knowing only how to say “Good Morning!” and “My name is Mallorie, what is your name?” in Creole. Even though most of the kids understand English very well, primarily they tend to speak Creole with each other and the workers. It’s difficult to understand what’s going on because so often I don’t know what’s being said. Maybe it’s better I don’t know everything they’re saying because I’m pretty sure that all of the workers talk about how ridiculous I am when I am doing laundry. They all sit around me in a circle and watch my every move and I just laugh with them…at myself because I am horrible at hand washing my clothes compared to them!
My pride is being tested more than it ever has been before and I am realizing how little patience I have in the midst of overwhelming chaos. God is also teaching me to have discernment in moments when the root of the problem is unclear. I am also learning what real joy feels like. It doesn’t feel like happiness. It’s not a comfy-cozy feeling when life seems simple or easy. Rather it is the peace that comes when you find joy in the midst of sorrows. Joy is what comes when you know that you are free to live in God’s grace. When I have joy, it feels as if my heart is singing and that is exactly how I feel here.
I am exhausted but I feel alive. Every day there are new burdens to bear yet I have a peace that I can’t explain. I am the weakest I have ever felt, yet there is a sense of strength and energy carrying me through the most strenuous and tiring days. My heart is singing and I love everything about this.
My love for these children grows deeper every day. I am starting to feel a deeper connection with each of them individually. I am learning to be understanding and sensitive towards each kid’s needs. I am constantly making mistakes, especially in the midst of conflict, but I am learning, slowly but surely. I am thankful for the grace that everyone shows me in the midst of these mistakes. I was so discouraged when some of the relationships with the kids were challenging. I guess I came with the expectation that I would be trusted and respected by each child, therefore I would have 18 wonderful relationships. Pssh! Now I’m embarrassed by how selfish those feelings are. I’m beginning to understand that I am not entitled to any of these relationships. Rather, each child that chooses to sit on my lap, tell me how they’re feeling, or give me a hug and a kiss is an honor. These kids have been through more than any of us can imagine and so any sort of connection with them is a privilege.
I am thankful to be here to care for them, love them, and play with them during this transition. Although their stories seem tragic they are also beautiful. Their situations are all bittersweet as they pursue adoption to the United States. Some of them have lost their parents prior to coming to Sue’s, but there are some who have at least one parent still living. Some children have both parents still living. I told a few of the older kids that my mom died 10 years ago. They looked at me with surprise and could;t believe that I had gone through something similar to them. It was as if I had become a real person to them, someone who has experienced pain and loss. As hard as it is for me to accept the reality of their stories, or their mixed feelings of pain and hope, I am comforted by God’s love for them and the way He is redeeming their broken stories just like He always has for His children, just like He continues to do for me.
My heart breaks continually for the baggage that is carried around by these precious children. This past week especially, I feel like I’ve been riding on a roller coaster of emotions. I can’t remember ever having such constant joy along with sadness. It’s ridiculous how much I’ve been crying lately! I think I’ve cried almost every day. Some days there have only been a few tears, while other days I feel like there’s a never ending flow.
Last Friday, Rebecca came for a surprise visit to say her final goodbyes. It was a spontaneous idea that she couldn’t resist. It had been two weeks since she had said goodbye and left for an orphanage in Leogane when she was driving through our area and couldn’t resist one last goodbye. My jaw dropped when the gate opened and she was standing there with tears in her eyes. I immediately started to cry and felt so sad for her as she held the twins as tight as she could. The kids were happy to see her again as she hugged and kissed them over and over. I feel so sorry for them as they are constantly having people come in and out of their lives, myself included.
On Saturday Baby Son-Son’s parents came for a visit and my heart broke as I watched them talk to Sue and watch their son play. I cried as I sat on the porch holding Noah tight in my arms. I cried as I thought about what his parents were going through and as I realized more of what goes into the process of adoption.
While all of the children go to church on Sunday mornings, the adults stay home with the 5 younger boys; Jean, Son-Son, Joshua, Noah, and Jackson. We were hoping to have time for a devotion and prayer when the twins took their morning nap, but as soon as were asleep and we laid them down, more visitors came. This time it was the twin’s grandparents and half-brother (or something like that) were here to see them. After a few minutes of sitting with them, Hannah and I decided to get the boys from their nap and just hold them as they slept. We offered each grandparent a baby to hold, and they eagerly took them in their arms. When the twins woke up they didn’t recognize their grandparents and naturally wanted to be held by someone familiar…me. I felt a strange sense of guilt as I knew that I was not supposed to be the one they reach for when they’re afraid. I am not their mother. But I’ve become a mother to them. It’s probably the strangest privilege I’ve ever had. Both of Noah and Jackson’s parents are still living, but they didn’t come to visit. Sue said the grandparents had come asking if the boy that was with them could stay at the orphanage. Unfortunately, we are completely full and Sue had to say no. After they left, I rocked Noah backed to sleep and cried the hardest I’ve cried in a long time as my heart broke for their situation.
On Tuesday Mike, Gregor, Cody, and Kaylah left. We all enjoyed having Sue’s family here. Of course, I started to cry as I said goodbye to Mike. His presence in this home was prominent. He is gentle and loving, yet firm with the kids. He could be energetic and loud as he ran around with the kids, and then relaxed and quiet as he would read them a story or put them to bed. I really enjoyed having deep late-night conversations with him in the kitchen as he filtered water for all of us to drink the next day. During one of our conversations, I was telling everyone how hungry I always am here and that I eat so much at lunch and dinner. And that’s when Mike said “Mallorie, the only thing I’ve noticed you do more than eat is smile”. He couldn’t have said anything more encouraging to me as I thought about how content and happy I am here.
Having Hannah and Josh around has made such a difference. I have had so much more time to spend with the other kids since I no longer have two babies to hold. I have really loved having friends to talk with throughout the day. They are both so good with the kids and such an encouragement to me. Hannah brought a bible study curriculum for us to use that includes a game, a story, discussion, and a memory verse. So far, the kids seem to really like the curriculum and have been doing a great job memorizing the bible verses. I love it when they teach them to the younger kids after they’ve returned from school. Keep praying for Hannah and Josh as they continue to adjust to life here. Pray that we would all build healthy relationships as we love these kids. Pray that we would be able to show them how much God loves them and cares for them.
Beach. Last week Monday we piled 28 people into two tap-taps and drove about an hour and a half to the beach. Tap-taps are Haiti’s form of public transportation. Our driver promised us a beach where there wouldn’t be any loud parties or drinking but we were given much more than that. It was a private beach surrounded by mountains and palm trees. The water was bright blue and the beach was free of sea urchins. It seemed like a place that could be rented for parties or big events. We all had an amazing time swimming and playing on the beach and I was so thankful that there weren’t any injuries or major sunburns. I had so much fun holding Jean in the water as he overcame his fear of swimming. Jennifer and I spent a lot of time together collecting shells for her mom and I loved having Samantha sing to me as she sat on my lap in the tap-tap on the way home.
Joyful peace. Being here makes me more certain that this is what I want to be doing with my life. Maybe I won’t be serving at an orphanage in Haiti, but I know I will be doing something similar to this. This is definitely where God wanted me for this summer and I can’t describe the incredible feeling of being exactly where God wants you. I love that He has given me the desire to travel and I hope to live in a foreign country someday. I know that there are going to be challenges, there have already been many. I know that I am incapable of doing anything perfect and that I will make a multitude of mistakes, I already have. But I am comforted by the strength that God has given me to get through the challenges and the grace He showers my imperfections with. I am thankful for the “calling” he has given me and I am reminded of what John Piper says in Desiring God. It’s something like “glorify God by enjoying Him forever”. We were created to worship Him and bring glory to Him. He love us so much and truly wants what’s best for us. Of course, there’s going to be pain, suffering, and sin. That naturally comes with living in a world corrupted by sin. But God has a plan to redeem us from our separation from Him and He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sin.