Tuesday, March 11, 2014

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.

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 prayed for you every day." 

What do you say to that? 

What do you say to the woman who says that Avery - who she has never, ever met - has changed her heart? Has somehow managed to worm her way into this very orphanage in Haiti?
The Edwards go to Haiti!
Matt, me, Brody, Trish & Gabby

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 splinter of my 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.

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.