It's a conversation no parent really looks forward to having. It can be awkward and uncomfortable and, as parents, we worry if we're giving too much information, or not enough, or if it's not being understood quite right. But as parents we're charged with the duty of seeing our young children through puberty and into adulthood. And so, we are required to talk about the things that might make us feel uncomfortable.
This week while I was in Haiti, I was given the task of teaching Human Health and Development to girls aged 12 and up. I prayed in earnest that what we would be discussing would be understood in such a way that these young women would come to understand how unbelievably beautiful and perfect and wonderful they have been made. I prayed that I was honoring their mothers while I acted as a stand-in. I prayed I would get it right.
We talked about pregnancies and HIV and AIDS. I answered questions that made me want to laugh out loud the information being so incredibly faulted. But I remained straight faced and explained that this is exactly why we were having these discussions: to learn truth.
I wanted them to be okay with what was naturally happening to their bodies as they grew, but I also wanted them to whole heartedly understand that while their bodies might be old enough, emotionally they were not. Orphans having orphans is not a good thing.
And so we talked about purity. We talked about waiting. We talked about how God has ensured someone special in their lives and He's probably not going to send them to you when you're 14. And they had questions. Lots and lots of questions.
But it was one question that brought me to my knees. One question that had me wanting to wrap every single one of these amazing young ladies into my arms and hold them tight in my heart.
"Why do some mothers give their children away?"
The room grew quiet and the tittering-giggling girls looked down. The question everyone but no one wanted to ask finally spoken out loud. Broken hearts laid open in a room with a white woman who doesn't speak their language but who can feel the crying of their souls.
You see, not all of these orphans are orphaned through death. Many - most, perhaps, have been abandoned. Left to sleep and eat and learn inside the stone walls of this God home, while just through the gate a used-to-be mother and father and brothers and sisters talk and laugh and play without the one they left behind.
They do this because there is hope here. Here there is safe water to drink and two meals of rice and beans to eat daily. Here there is a safe place to sleep and sit and walk and a school that will teach everything they need to know. Here there is hope of a future, not just an immediate one, but of an eternal one as each child learns about God.
But none of that matters to the girl who just wants Mama arms wrapped tight around her. None of that matters to the girl who craves for Mama hands to braid her hair. None of that matters to the girl who dreams of words like "I am so proud of you" and "you are my everything" to be whispered in her ear by the Mama voice she strains to remember.
"I don't know," I answered quietly, looking straight into her eyes, slowly drawing in a deep breath. "I know that every mom has her own reasons and it's difficult to understand what those are sometimes. It might be that they don't have enough food to feed all their children, or maybe they're sick, or maybe they just don't have the support they need to help raise a baby. But I do know it's a very, very hard decision for a mother to make."
I think about this question a lot while I am at the orphanage. I think about it throughout my trip home and I think about it while I wrap my arms around my little boy who has missed me for an entire week.
I think about all the fine families I know. The ones with the moms who volunteer at school and play board games after dinner. The ones with the moms who lay comforting their crying teenaged daughters after their first real heartbreak. And their second and third. And I think how strange it is that two beautiful children can be handed two incredibly opposite fates. One with a Mama and one who'd give anything to have a Mama.
It isn't until much later I remember Psalm 27:10 - "For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in." I want to rush back and tell them what I know to be true: that humans fail us over and over. That, yes, even our mothers will do things to hurt us - but God never will. That the arms of Christ are wrapped tight around them right now, even as they crave and plead and beg for the Mama arms they remember and dream of to come back and take them home.
Why do some mothers give their children away? This I do not know. But I do know that there are women just like the ones on our team who will travel all day long after leaving their own families just to come love on these girls. And they do that because these girls are worthy and beautiful and perfect. And these girls need to be told that in person.
** For more information about Global Vision Citadelle Ministries (the orphanage we stayed at), please visit their website and "like" them on Facebook.
** For more information about Children's World Impact (the group we travelled with), please visit their website and "like" them on Facebook.