It was a medical mission trip of which I have no medical skills. The best I can do is apply a band aid to a superficial wound. My truthful answer to what will you be doing in Haiti? was I have no idea.
I ended up being recruited to the Eye Team. Maybe not my first choice, if I were being honest, but exactly where God intended me to be.
Our first day of work we planned to set up a medical clinic about 10 minutes outside the orphanage. We loaded everything up in truck and took off only to discover the site didn't have the required electrical generator we needed to run the eye department. Our small team of 6 were sent back to the orphanage.
I felt disappointed. Left out. Here I thought God would be using me for something big, showing me something beautiful, and our team was sent back. I'm gonna miss all the good stuff, I thought.
And at what point, exactly, am I ever going to finally get it through my thick skull that what I see as doors closing is actually God opening windows wide to His glorious plan?
Because if we hadn't gone back to the orphanage and set up shop where we did, we wouldn't have had all those beautiful children watching and asking questions and running in and out, laughing and joking.
And I wouldn't have looked over and noticed the quiet boy in the corner. The one who would look away every time I tried to smile at him.
I wouldn't have heard his whisper from behind me when I couldn't understand what a little girl was saying. I wouldn't have seen the way he turned his head and stared into space when I said thank you for translating, as if he were suddenly invisible.
And all week this boy watched me from the shadows. All week he stood his distance while I played and laughed and talked with everyone else. All week I would look over and there he was, pretending not to look at me.
But one day. One day he cautiously approached me while I was sitting on some steps. There were three other kids laughing, playing, hamming it up during a photo op. And he inched closer. And then more boys came, a deaf boy who wanted to play with my bracelet and he told him in ASL to stop and that he shouldn't be begging to see. And then he inched even closer.
So, I asked him his name. And his age. He told me his name was Riquelme and he was 14. I asked how long he had lived at this orphanage and he told me he came some time in 2012. All his answers were as short as possible. A word, maybe two. Mostly he sat next to me while I played and joked around with the other kids.
I went back to my room that night and prayed:
Lord, I don't know why you have me here, but if it's just to love on one child and this is the child you want me to love, I can do that. I can love. You know I can't do much of anything else: I don't have fancy degrees or important skills, and I pretty much have done most things wrong in my life, but I know how to love. So, you just let me know if this is the kid you want me to love and I'll do that. I'll love that kid hard, Lord, if he's the one. But you know me, Lord, I need something loud and clear that says this is the one. I need Gideon's proof - something bold and without question.
How are you today?
Did you get enough sleep?
But still he looked straight ahead. As if talking to the air in front of him. I suppressed a giggle. This boy of few words. And so we sat. Side by side, we sat. Looking at nothing. Saying not a word. Just being.
Suddenly, he stood up and walked quickly back inside the building. He seemed like a man on a mission, so I waited. A few seconds later he returned with one of his school composition books. He handed it to me and I started looking through the pages.
Is this your writing?
You have very good penmanship.
Is this your math?!
That looks very hard!
Do you like math?
Do you like school?
Do you do well in school?
I flipped through some more pages before handing the book back to him and telling him how smart he must be.
Then he handed me a letter.
Why, thank you! Can I open it?
And with that he looked away.
I turned the envelope over in my hands. Why on earth would he write me a letter?
Inside I found two pieces of paper: one listed the English and French numbers, 1 through 20; the other listed English and French vocabulary words. All familial terms: mother, father, son, daughter, grandmother, grandfather.
He pointed to each word and said them in French. I copied him. He laughed when I couldn't pronounce parrain (godfather) even after three tries.
Then he told me there was one more.
One more piece of paper in the envelope.
In broken English, he had written: "Are you good are you family good. My love you for my mother ok. I love. I love. I love you. My pray for you ok. I love you Mother."
My heart broke.
What goes on in a child's mind when he resorts to passing letters to a woman he barely knows in the hopes of finding a mother? No child should have to pray to find a mother. No child should have to lay awake wondering if they'll ever be worthy of a mom who loves them unconditionally.
No child should have to prove his worth through a series of English and French vocabulary words. Look how smart I am. I am a smart kid. A good choice. Pick me. Please, pick me.
What goes on in a child's mind when he's old enough to know he has been abandoned? When he's old enough to know time is running out. That based simply on time passing he will no longer be eligible for the family he longs for?
This child deserves to know that no matter what has happened in the fourteen years that have led him to this orphanage, that God has something big and special and important ready for him. A reward bigger than even he can dare to dream.
He deserves to know that God will use him to make the world a better place. That people will be changed for the better because they knew him.
I don't know what this sweet child has gone through but I know he deserves a chance to hear the truth about how special and worthy and beautiful and perfect he is. He deserves a chance to know what love is; what it's like to have a mother say I love you and You are perfect and You are the best part of who I am.
All I know is that the first time I looked over and saw this shy boy along the wall it felt like the first time I had seen each one of my newborn babies after being placed in my hands: indescribable love. I know that I didn't get to choose those children either; each one is just on loan from God. He just happened to entrust them with me. Just like God is entrusting this young man to me in whatever capacity He decides. And I trust God. Whatever He calls me to, I will gladly do it.
I have officially begun sponsoring him through the GVCM website. Because if I can't scoop him up in my arms and take him home, I will bring my home to him. I will write my love in letters. I will tell him his greatness in written words. The cost is $35 a month. GVCM aims to have 4-5 sponsors per child - but they're not there yet. There are so many sponsors needed. The money each month goes to help cover the cost of each child's education, their food, their general medical/health needs, and the buildings they sleep in, eat in, go to school in and worship in.
I found out that Amber, the beautiful, God loving woman who works at the orphanage, actually uses her own money (from the meager amount her own family is expected to live off of) to create little care packages and cards to give to orphans from their "sponsor parents" - even though they don't have any.
Readers, she makes sure each child feels loved by a sponsor parent even though they don't have any.
There is a huge part of me that aches awful for this boy in Haiti. That grieves over the distance between us. I have thought often about the irony of God sending a child to me who I cannot touch, I cannot hug, I cannot kiss, I cannot reach over and wrap my arms around - but who I love with everything that I am.
But I trust wholeheartedly God knows what He's doing.
Check this out: All my faraway children are born in October.
Avery's birthday is October 5th.
Alphonsine's birthday is October 4th.
Riquelme's birthday is on October 26th.
Avery died on October 24th. As the years pass, this date will fade away from the public's eyes and remain hard for me. But to know that God has given me a special birthday to celebrate just two days later is absolutely incredible! To know that I would not have gone to Haiti if it were not for Avery. I would not have met this boy had it not been for Avery. Yes, God knows what He's doing. I just have to be open to go along for the ride.
I have no doubt Avery has been with Riquelme for a long time now. She and Jesus working out the details to get me in the right place at the right time. Nudging this boy and whispering in his ear: that lady, right there. She's the one. She's the best mom you could ever ask for. Because she knows how to love hard.