|Photo found on Avery's iPod after her death.|
The thing is, she died so sudden.
I didn't have the chance to plead with God, to make all the irrational promises. If he would just let her be okay.... I would start taking better care of my health. I would be nicer to the neighbor that drove me crazy. I would always let someone else go in front of me at Walmart no matter how long the line was. I wouldn't complain. Ever. I would volunteer at the Homeless Shelter. I would clean up after pigs. I would clip the toenails of the elderly. I would do anything and everything He would ask me to do....
There is a box on her death certificate that captures the amount of time between the initial injury and the time of death. It reads "seconds." I wish it read "instantaneous" because she deserves a clever word like that.
Fast forward five years.... definitely taking MUCH longer than "in an instant".... but....
The Avery House has officially opened!
|The Avery House, Port de Paix, Haiti|
|Inside the front hall. I sobbed. Those are Avery's Shoes.|
I cannot thank everyone enough. You fell in love with a girl most of you had never met and you believed in her mission to take care of the children of Haiti. You paid attention to God tugging on your heart strings. You showered Avery's memory with prayer, with encouragement and with support. You wouldn't let me give up and crawl back into bed. You opened your hearts and your pocketbooks and I will never be able to find the words to adequately tell you how my heart appreciates and truly loves every single one of you.
We decided to open a home for at-risk girls. The first three girls who currently reside in the home have lived the majority of their lives in large orphanages. They have families - as do the majority of children living in these types of facilities throughout Haiti. Statistical reports refer to them as "poverty orphans."
As young children they couldn't understand why they were being abandoned by the only family they had ever known. They spent their formative years in an institution that focused on survival - food, clothing, education. Relationships and emotional health never even hit the radar. That's what happens when you have 100 kids and very few staff members. They survived until they were asked to leave.
By all accounts, these first three children are now considered adults. We have an 18-year old in the 8th grade, another 18-year old in the 10th grade and a 20 year old in the 9th grade.
Go ahead and think for a second what the lives of 18 - 20 year old girls look like when they're asked to leave the facility they've been safely housed in for the majority of their lives. When they have little to no relationship with the families they came from. When they're education is far from over. When they have no business skills and no way to support themselves. When the gates of the orphanage opens and a man offers to help....
So we opened Avery's home to them.
There are some ground rules to living here.
You must continue with school. Education is important.
You must engage in an extracurricular activity. God gave you interests and talents. Let's explore them.
You must participate in cooking and cleaning. You'll need to care for your family some day.
You must give back to your community. (This is the one I'm probably most excited about.) You are now in a position where you have the ability to improve the community you live in. Volunteer to cook a meal and give it to someone less fortunate than you. Organize a club for the neighborhood kids. Tutor a street kid in reading or writing. I am so excited to see what the girls come up with. I am so excited for them to see first hand the power their love and compassion wields.
Some things happen in an instant. Others take a lifetime. May this house serve the lifetimes of countless girls in need of love, encouragement and family.