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Seeing Avery All Grown Up

One day I'll tell you about the freezing cold we left and the heavy bags we lugged, full of supplies and medicines. I'll tell you about arriving in Port au Prince and walking across a cracked concrete parking lot to board an old school bus with a flat tire. How the heat was suffocating after months of below zero Wisconsin winter weather, how the people crowded and walked too close to moving traffic as we searched for a tire shop that was barely more than a couple men sitting on overturned 5-gallon buckets on the side of the road next to a pile of old tires, everything covered in dirt.

I'll tell you about waiting on the bus while they removed the tire and I'll recall the loud explosion that rocked the bus and scared the life out of me and how I was relieved to learn it was just the tire blowing after being filled too far. (They didn't have any gauges.) And then I'll tell you about the fear I felt when I realized we didn't have a tire and we were stuck on the side of the road; 30 or so out of place Americans in a rough city while the sun set and darkness crawled in. 

I'll talk about the sound of gravel crunching up and down winding mountain roads, the lack of street lights, the lack of space for two vehicles at the same time and the edge of cliffs that seemed way too close. How we pulled into the orphanage after bouncing down a side road and waited for an armed guard to open the huge, cobalt blue metal gate that protected the orphanage from things I didn't know. How tired and dirty we were as we passed 50-pound rucks from person to person into a storage room while curious children hovered by the door.

We opened bags and sorted items in loud chaos: medicines to the back of the room, diapers and baby items to the right, food to the left. The shoes can go in the middle of the room, auto supplies and tools on the table in the front of the room. Toys along one wall, clothes sorted into piles for men, women, girls and boys. 

People were tired, sweating, moving, talking loudly over each other, bumping into each other, passing things to one another, tossing things into a pile, and then I turned and looked straight into the eyes of Avery.

I expected to see Avery while I was in Haiti; just not here. Not right away. And not so grown up. 

Standing in the middle of an overcrowded, chaotic storage room stood the American woman who sold all her belongings to come to Haiti with her husband and son to serve the people. The woman who trusted God's Call even when it didn't seem like He was moving fast enough (or at all). The woman who took the hands of orphans and gave them her heart. 

She is everything I imagined Avery to be all grown up. The smile, the kindness, the compassion. The determination and matter of fact way of getting things done. The way the leader and the lover comes together to do God's work. The way her faith and hope and love for Jesus Christ oozes out of every pore. As I looked into Amber's eyes all I kept thinking was: Avery. Avery's here. I almost couldn't breathe. As the week wore on I would find myself repeating over and over this woman is exactly who I always imagined Avery would grow up to be.

Amber with the woman who introduced us, Jenny Ray.
Photo Credit: Children's World Impact

But now I was being introduced: "This is Bridget, Avery's mom."

And with that Amber paused to search my face. Then she reached out and gave me the greatest, strongest hug ever. She just held me, held me tight, tears streaming down her face before whispering, "I have your daughter's shoes."


What do you say to the woman who says that she has your dead daughter's shoes? What do you say to the woman who weeps over Avery - who she has never, ever met? What do you say to the woman who holds you in your arms and explains she has prayed for you every day and that Avery has changed her heart? And that somehow, through death, Avery has managed to worm her way into this very orphanage in Haiti? Into the very space in the entire country that I somehow ended up in?

Matt, myself and Brody with Trish and Gabby Edwards.
Trish is holding Avery's shoes, ready to take them to Haiti.

This past summer, a mother and daughter from our area were headed to Haiti on a mission trip. I never asked where they were going in Haiti or with what group. I just knew AVERYday Ministries would be supporting them. I decided to send along some t-shirts. And I decided to send her shoes. 

Her precious black and pink tennis shoes that she really, really wanted when we had gone school shopping. The shoes she was wearing in her 5th Grade Back-to-School photo just weeks before she died. The ones that I almost buried her in but it just didn't feel right. Those shoes didn't belong in a coffin. 

Instead, I took a Sharpie and wrote PSALM 121 on the inside and waited. God would tell me if and when I needed to do anything with her shoes. Then, I waited.

Finally, He told me to send them to Haiti. He told me to give the shoes to the family going to Haiti. And I felt nothing but peace by it. I can't tell you how healing it was to imagine a little girl in Haiti running around in Avery's shoes!

Never, in a million years, did I ever think I would one day actually hold the child who now wears them.


Amber told me through tears about how she had received Avery's shoes. How she hadn't been at the orphanage when the shoes arrived, but the story of a little girl who loved God and Haiti with all her heart was explained to her. She knew right away who the shoes should go to. As I listened to Amber tell me the story, I knew she had made the right choice.

Photo Credit: Children's World Impact

Denise is an 11-year old girl who came to the orphanage broken in every way imaginable: physically, emotionally, spiritually. She needs an army of prayer warriors and I ask you to join the ranks. 

Denise is beautiful. Beautiful in her brokenness. Beautiful in the way God will bring her to perfection, whether in this lifetime or the next. In the meantime, she's got Avery's shoes on her feet. 

Amber told me that she asks Denise to 'put on your Avery shoes' when it's time for church or trips to town. The Avery shoes are special. Almost like one's Sunday bests. 

Denise. Avery would have loved her.
Photo Credit: Children's World Impact

 My shattered, splintered Mama Heart gets slowly pieced back together every single time someone mentions the Avery shoes, whether I hear it or not. I imagine an angel picking up a sliver of my shattered heart from the floor and gently putting it back into place every time those shoes are worn. 

Avery is in Haiti.

 Avery once told me she was going to have 100 children. I told her it wasn't possible. 

I was wrong.

Amber has 117. 

Avery would have made an excellent Amber.  

Amber is Avery, all grown up.

Amber with one of the many beautiful children atAll God’s Children Orphanage and
Global Vision Citadelle Ministries in Haiti.

Photo Credit: Children's World Impact

Avery with her baby brother, Brody.

Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.


Kim Mohan said…
I read that and my breath was knocked right out of me. Well done, Avery's Mom. Well done.
Sean Walker said…
Hi, Bridget. Your Spirit-filled blogs have been moving to read and contemplate. Your words about that precious gift, Denise, reminded me of a radio interview I heard a couple years ago with Kevin Kling, a humorist and storyteller with multiple disabilities. He tells a story which I think is a refashioning of a Chinese parable. As worldly as you are, you probably know it already, but just in case you don't, here it is.

Back in the days when pots and pans could talk, which indeed they still do, there lived a man. And in order to have water, every day he had to walk down the hill and fill two pots and walk them home. One day, it was discovered one of the pots had a crack, and as time went on, the crack widened. Finally, the pot turned to the man and said, "You know, every day you take me to the river, and by the time you get home, half of the water's leaked out. Please replace me with a better pot." And the man said, "You don't understand. As you spill, you water the wild flowers by the side of the path." And sure enough, on the side of the path where the cracked pot was carried, beautiful flowers grew, while the other side was barren. "I think I'll keep you," said the man.

In each of our myriad shortcomings and brokenness, our sweet and gracious God blesses us still. Praise God! God bless your ministries, in Christ's name. Peace and love, Sean Walker.
Oh, Sean! I absolutely LOVE that parable! Thank you so much for sharing.
Antigone Esarco said…
It is great that you were able to meet the little girl who has Avery's shoes.
Antigone Esarco said…
It is great that you were able to meet the little girl who has Avery's shoes.
Oh Sweetie, this is amazing. I have goosebumps and a grateful heart reading it!
Someday I will tell you how this story made me feel. How it made me yearn to do something meaningful. How I long to meet Amber, hold Denise and send Mia's shoes to Haiti. ;)

But for now, let me tell you that your writing has turned a corner. Through all your growth you have gone from an awesome writer and communicator to one that should and MUST be published. Those first several paragraphs of this post are as good as any book I am reading right now.

What a journey you are on. I'm so thankful to you for sharing it.
Sharla Lind said…
As a young girl, Amber use to talk about wanting so many babies. She always loved the little ones. Little did we know her destiny. God had a plan and calling for her from early on. I certainly never expected her to have 117 children in a foreign land. However, they are hers and she is theirs and Haiti seems to be home. I am so happy your lives have been touched by one another and your hearts have been shared and bonded by your sweet Avery. As Amber's mother I have always been amazed by her capacity to make things happen and now through her trust and faith she is truly being blessed through her blessings. I am grateful for her and to be her mom.

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