Last week I learned about this local orphanage that accepts the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick. Hearing that they might have a need for teams to come in, I went to visit with my friends Sarah, Barton, and Patrick.
It was so hard to be there.
There is a room full of cribs with about 40 or so babies inhabiting them—sometimes 2 or even 3 per crib. Most of the babies are sick. Most have scabies or fungal infections. Many are handicapped. A few of them are clearly dying. And they just hang out there. All day. All night. They hang out. They sit. The only physical touch they receive is when it’s time for “diaper” changes or bedding changes. I put diaper in quotes because they don’t use diapers, just rags about the size of a bandana. It’s not designed to keep them dry really, just more of a poop-catcher I guess.
We went there to hold babies. That’s it. Not to bring food, not to bring meds, not to feed or chage babies… they just need people to come in and hold the babies and give them some physical stimulation.
Heartbreaking didn’t even begin to describe it.
There were two little children who very much broke my heart—a (very) little girl named Jemima and a (very) little boy named Ezaye. Both were malnourished to the point where they looked like skeletons. There was no meat on them at all, their skin was saggy and baggy, their eyes sunken in, the hair they had (not much) was orange and brittle, their eyes half closed and unresponsive. Holding them was like holding a bag of bones. We’ve all seen pictures of starving children on TV. But this is the first time I actually saw, touched, and held a truly starving person. It wasn’t that great for me. Barton was the first to cry. Tears poured down his face in silence, dripping onto the blankets they were wrapped in to keep them warm. He whispered to Ezaye, “Go home. Just go home. You won’t feel pain any more if you just go home. It’s okay. God is waiting for you there.”
I bent down close to him and started singing quietly a popular children’s song in Haiti, “Eske ‘w vle ale, lakay papa mwen, lakay papa mwen, lakay papa mwen? Eske ‘w vle ale lakay papa mwen? Genyen jwa, jwa, jwa.” (Translation: Do you want to go to my Father’s house, to my Father’s house, to my Father’s house? Do you want to go, to my father’s house? It has joy, joy, joy.”) It was the same with Jemima. I sang it to her too. I touched her and prayed that God would find a way for there to be redemption in the situation. I even asked if we could foster them in our house—I knew it probably be of much use, but I would at least know that they would be held and fed every two hours around the clock. If it helped, great. If not, they could die in a home, in the arms of someone who cherished their sweet souls. But I wasn’t given permission. (That’s another story for another day.)
Yesterday I went back with our visiting group. Ezaye was still there. I sang to him again. I held him and prayed for him again.
Jemima was not there. I asked a nanny where she was, knowing already the answer.
“Jemima? Oh, li mouri.” (Jemima? Oh, she’s dead.”)
Here’s the funny thing. Though my heart initally sunk when I heard her words, I quickly saw the goodness of God, and I decided not to think of her as dead. Instead I am thinking of her as finally truly alive. No longer a skeleton, but the proud owner of a new body. Running and playing and laughing and hugging the neck of Jesus. I asked God for redemption in this situation. I can’t imagine a more full redemption than she was granted…