Amie and I have had the tremendous pleasure of visiting Haiti many times over the past few years. We wanted to share some of our thoughts, stories, and photos from our last trip with you. But of course, some things are difficult to capture here. We’re far from experts on Haiti, and do not pretend to understand fully how the Lord is making himself known there, but we would LOVE to talk to you about our experiences. Come talk to us!
Amie: I first came to Haiti because I wanted an opportunity to love God and to love others, and Haiti was that perfect opportunity. I love this country, and I find it so beautiful. Not just the beauty you can see in this picture, but the beauty found in the rocky mountains and the crowded cities and the buzzing markets. The sea is truly stunning, but the hard places of Haiti are just as miraculous.
On my first visit, I stood on a rooftop of Haiti and prayed. The Lord gave me a verse, Isaiah 55:13, which says, “Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up. These events will bring great honor to the LORD’s name; they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.” He makes things alive and beautiful; He is bringing the dead things to life!
Dan and I are honored to be the tiniest part of seeing life spring forth in Haiti. The sea is just one example of His beautiful design in Haiti; there is so much more to come.
Amie: Brisnayder (pronounced “Bruce-Nay-Der”) is such a special little boy. He is funny, smart, sweet, spunky…the list goes on and on. He stands out from the others as one who does not fight for attention, but is content just playing by himself.
The first time I came to the village, I actually thought he was a grump because of how often he would wander off and play all alone – he never ran into my arms or asked for my attention. But on the last day of my trip, when my back was turned, he finally called my name to come and play…and I ran to him!! At the end of our last visit (Trip #3), he said goodbye by taking my face in his little hands and kissing my cheeks. Building relationships with these kids is so much fun, especially with our Bruce!
Dan: This photo is pretty energetic, but it doesn’t even come close to capturing how energetic these boys are. When I’m not careful, I often find myself being climbed and jumped on from behind by a boy who cleverly snuck past me, or had one of his cohorts distract me.
One of my favorite parts of getting to know these boys over the two weeks I’ve had with them is realizing that they’re just kids. They laugh, they have fun, they want to play, they have WAY more energy than I do. But they also fight, and get grumpy, and are disobedient, because they’re kids. The human condition effects all of us, and these boys need as much love, and compassion, and discipline, and guidance as any other boy would. We are far more alike than we are different.
LOLLIPOPS AND BLUE SHADES
Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti at the beginning of October 2016. I sat at my desk at work watching the news, silently panicking on the inside for the Village and for the kids I loved so much. Thankfully, although the hurricane was devastating, our Village was safe, and it brought us a little gift. Daniela came to us after the hurricane, just a tiny baby with big eyes. Now, she fits perfectly in the Village. One of the first things you will notice about Daniela is her left arm, which is terribly disfigured and scarred from a burn incident as a baby, and will demand further medical attention as she grows. Please pray that she will get that help smoothly!
The second thing you’ll notice about Daniela is how she is completely and totally the baby of the Village and the star of the show. The styling you see today in this second picture was created by Daniela’s doting playmates – a red frisbee hat and blue shades, totally on trend for this season.
Amie: One of the girls’ favorite activities (and my least favorite) is playing with my hair. I know it looks really cute, but imagine 5 pairs of hands yanking your hair and trying to make really tight twists and braids in 5 different directions…my scalp doesn’t find it cute.
I love the quiet time it brings though (besides my occasional yelps of pain, of course). On the evenings before church or school, they flock to me so I can take out their braids and comb through their hair while they play with mine. I love those moments – when we put aside all of our cultural differences and all of our difficulties, and we are just girls doing our hair together. It makes the scalp pain and potential baldness worth it.
Dan: “Pote m'” means “carry me?” in Creole. It is the war-cry, national anthem, and sacred hymn of our small Haitian friends as far as we can tell.
This little puller of heart-strings goes by the name Kalens (pronounced “Kah-lens”). It feels like every time I look down he is pressed up
against me, with his head arched back 90 degrees so he can look me right in the eye and ask “pote m’?”
Believe it or not, he is a very happy kid. His smile would light up a room, and he loves to play and be held, but boy does he know how to get the sad eyes out when he needs to. I give him props for cleverness, but no more fooling me Kalens, I know you!
Wadley is probably the smartest kid in the whole village. Of course, this is hard to say for sure, because I don’t speak Creole, but he is always talking, showing you something, or building something…
With that being said, this dude has such a temper! If he wants you to pick him up, and you’re playing with someone else, boiii you better watch out cause he’s gonna be throwing his small and harmless fists around like you stole something.
My guess is that Wadley thinks we’re the weirdest people he’s ever met in his life, but that’s okay, because we think Wadley’s pretty weird too. But we give him two big thumbs up for not only being so fun to be around, but for being the enigma of the village that we just can’t get a handle on.
Amie: Jehi is our cutie with the folded-down ears and the cute little chipmunk smile. I mean, come on – just look at that face! He is CUTE, and he is very precious to us because just last year, we almost lost him.
Jehi was born with an enlarged heart, and because of this, he has difficulty breathing and can get extremely sick. I was actually there when they discovered his heart problem. I remember taking off his little shirt and standing him up on a chair so they could do a chest x-ray. His face was so serious, but he didn’t make a sound. I am so thankful that there are generous doctors in Haiti who were willing to see what the problem was, and give direction on how to help Jehi. Now he runs and plays and is a little crazy man with all the other kids!
Dan: One of the boys in this picture is brand new to the village. In fact, this was taken on his second day there. But I’m not going to tell you which one, cause I don’t think you’d ever be able to tell.
Haiti is a complicated place. Since Amie and I have been home, the orphanage that we stay at has added roughly 20 more kids (almost doubling its size). While we were in Haiti, 6 of these kids moved into the village on short and urgent notice because they were at risk of being kidnapped.
Can you imagine what that’s like for them? But in spite of the circumstances, here they are, mixing themselves in with a group of strangers, playing, and learning, and having fun. Thanks to their resilience, and the Lord’s faithfulness in providing safety, their situation is far from hopeless.
JET LI TAKES A NAP, BEVERLY QUIZZES AMIE
Amie: Christela is the cutie taking a nap on my lap. For the few times we have visited before, we have known Christela to be silent and solemn, with very little words said and almost no smiles seen. This time, she was like a different girl! Now she stomps around the village with a sparkle in her eye, always laughing and playing. They’ve started call her Jet Li or Jackie Chan, because of her little fighter ‘tude. The power of care and love is so transformative, and Christela is the spunkiest truth of that!
Beverly is my little buddy, seen in this picture going over my little Creole dictionary with me. Beverly has a very special spot in my heart. We cling to each other like we’re best friends when I am there to visit; she is constantly at my side. The only time this trip that she wasn’t at my side, was when her Mama was at the Village to see her. Yes, that’s right: mamas come to visit their children at the orphanage they live in. Many of our children have parents that are still alive and nearby, they just can’t afford to care for their children! My hope for these kids – like my special friend, Beverly – is that we get to the root of the problem and give these families the help they need to stay together. Until then, I will happily stay by Beverly’s side as long as she needs me.
Dan: Because so many of these kids are young, sometimes it’s hard to pick out really distinct personality traits. This is not the case for Ronalson, however, as he is not only very bright, but he also loves to help.
One of the other people on our trip, Bob, had to replace a handful of door knobs in the village. Ronalson sat quietly with him and paid close attention while Bob showed him how to do it, and after helping with the first few, Ronalson was basically replacing door knobs on his own. Keep in mind – they don’t speak the same language! He simply watched, paid close attention, and figured it out. With bright kids like Ronalson, the language barrier between us doesn’t seem like much of a barrier at all.
TO BE KNOWN
Dan: This guy is my best friend in Haiti. (Besides Amie, is she reading this?) His name is Givensley, and since my first week with him, he has been my desperately-needed assistant in wrangling the wild boys of the Fontana Village. Givensley can tell when I’m frustrated and need his help better than anyone else in the village, all while not understanding a single word I’m saying, and that has made me incredibly grateful for him.
Eyes are a pretty remarkable thing, because when you look into them deeply often, and often enough, for long enough, you’ll get to know them. He and I don’t speak the same language, but I know him, and he knows me.
Amie and I don’t always know the “difference” that we’re making in Haiti. We’ve asked ourselves hard and difficult questions about what it really means to love and serve these kids with the kind of “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” kind of love that the Bible so clearly asks of us. We’re hoping and expecting that the Lord would continue to give us those answers, but in the meantime, we are incredibly grateful to know these kids and be known by them.
Because pouring out what the Lord has graciously given us has to start somewhere.
Please consider sponsoring one of these kids