Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Question for Mothers

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.

My answer? Incredibly inadequate.

"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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Four Boys and a Cupcake

At this point in my life I realize that the things that stick (words, images, experiences, conversations) stick because God wants them to stick. That is, He'll be using those same words, images, experiences and conversations to grow me, teach me, and, more than likely, humble me, exactly when I need it.

Usually, I begin writing with a vague understanding of what the lesson is about and figure it out in more detail as the words get typed on the page. But this? This I don't know why this stuck. I just know it did. And I know I need to tell you about it.

I was in Haiti last week, at the same orphanage we were at in March. There was a point in the middle of the week when I found myself sitting at a small table with one of the older boys from the orphanage, a translator, and the American Missionary, Amber. We had talked for a half hour or so and at the end of the conversation, Amber stood up and retrieved a beautifully decorated cupcake to give to the boy. (Cupcakes were on hand since we had celebrated a 40th birthday on our team.)

I watched the boy hold the cupcake in his hand. Just hold it. Once in a while he'd look down at it so I finally said, "that's for you. You eat it." He sort of smiled then took a finger to try the smallest bit of icing. The icing was thick and piled high and I thought there was no way I could hold on to that delicious looking dessert as long as he had.

Soon I saw some other boys headed our way. I was getting kind of antsy. I wanted him to just eat the cupcake before the other boys came. I didn't want to be sitting there when they realized there weren't any for them. I didn't want to be the one who had to listen to the complaints. I thought of the many times I would go through the drive-thru with one of my own children and tell them they had to finish their chocolate shake before we got home and the other kids saw. I thought of the many that's not fair! and where's mine? I tried desperately to avoid by giving treats in private. And here was this boy, sitting in an orphanage where they only have two meals per day, holding a cupcake while three other boys come walking straight up to him.

I tried to prepare myself for the onslaught of whining and complaint.

But none of the boys mentioned the cupcake with its bright white frosting sitting against the mocha skin of one of their peers. Instead, they talked about soccer. And while they did, the first boy carefully drew down a section of the cupcake paper and took a small bite. He then handed the cupcake to the next boy, who took another careful bite. They continued to talk about soccer (Tiga is the best player; everyone agrees) and share bite after bite of cupcake.

Four growing boys.

One small cupcake.

No complaints.

No one accused any one else about taking bites of too large a size. No one complained that it wasn't fair they didn't get a cupcake of their own. No one demanded to know why one kid got the dessert and the others didn't.

Life isn't fair. These kids know that all too well. It's what makes me want to pick them all up and bring them home with me.

But they know something that too many of us don't know: the art of sharing. When you own nothing, nothing is yours. Instead, it is everyone's. And everyone deserves something.

I believe that young boy would have never eaten that whole cupcake all on his own. I believe that he knew it was a special treat that was worth sharing with others. I don't think he gave much thought as to who he would share it with; it just so happened these three particular boys trudged on up to where we were sitting. He would have shared with any three (or more) that appeared.

His heart. The way he sat still and didn't horf down that dessert in two bites. The way he quietly shared, like it wasn't a big deal, just the way it is around here.

I saw it later on in the week. When a boy received a birthday card, even though the bright blue number on the front reflected an age he passed two years ago. Throughout the day different boys held the card. Opened it. Flipped it over. Inside was a photo of a family and they each held it. At least three different boys showed me the card and the photo, even though it wasn't theirs.

When you own nothing, nothing is yours.

Isn't that what God teaches us? What life shows us? We don't really own it. The houses, the cars, the television sets. We won't be buried with it. We won't have it after we die. We live here for a time amassing objects and items for what, exactly?

The way he held on to that cupcake to share. It's that reason I would never want to take all these children home with me. I would be embarrassed to teach them to keep, to shove, to hoard. I would be ashamed to show them our way of life. It's never enough; you need to have more.

Oh, I wish I had video of the calm, quiet way these 12-14 year old boys passed around a single cupcake. That right there? Restored my hope in humanity. The kindness. The giving. The love.

It was so good.

And I can't wait until that time in my future when God uses these four boys and a cupcake to show me what I need to see.