It has been too long… I know, and I’m sorry. I get so involved in my life here in Haiti, I selfishly forget all of those that have created this journey for us. Sometimes, so much happens, that I get “writer’s block”. It becomes daunting, and all I want to do is go to bed. July, August, and September were packed with visitors. The kids and I loved it! So here we go… A lot to share! So grab a bag of popcorn and a drink!
However, do some of you remember the Staples commercials where it shows parent’s flying through the aisles on the carts buying school supplies and the background song is the Christmas carol “It’s the Most Wonderful Time Of the Year”? It’s true. I hate to say it…BUT IT IS. I actually prayed, on more than one occasion, for school to start so we can get “back to normal”. Kids, after a certain amount of “vacation” time develop other personalities. Seriously. I would look at some of our teens and think “I know I know you. I’ve known you for a while – but WHO IS THIS PERSON?” I am so in love with summer – for the first month. Towards the end, I feel like my kids have turned into aliens!
That being said…summer was a blast. I had teenagers stay with me from Battlefield and Patriot High schools. They decided to take a group of our kids to the beach.
We took a ton of kids to a hotel at the beach. First time for them. I watched about 30+ kids run, at full speed and hit the water like they have never seen an ocean in their lives. The volunteers let our staff “take a break” and we were all able to sit under a tree and take it in.
Now – I have never been a mom. But, I would imagine the following feeling is a small glimpse at what moms feel.
I was so into watching what everyone was involved in, I ALMOST missed the miracle. My staff member, Sony, sitting next to me said “Now…did you ever think you would see the day that street kids would be playing at a hotel beach – and not fighting? Did you honestly think we would ever see this day?”
It feels LIKE YOUR HEART EXPLODES, in a good way. It’s the most intense, joyful, loving moment. It’s a feeling that shoots through your entire body and I believe it’s only a feeling God gives you.
Such sheer happiness.
And, a weird feeling shortly after. Are they growing up? Maybe too fast? Are they going to forget us? To see Ronald Jean Pierre (RJP) helping the little kids…it’s just, shocking. Those of us that work with these kids every day sometimes forget to take a step back and realize all they have accomplished. RJP has been kicked out of many programs. He is one of a group they call themselves “the originals”. Two years ago…RJP was stabbing kids in our little community church.
Sony and I were reflecting together and of course, I shed a tear, and then about 45 minutes later…one by one the little guys start crawling up to our chairs and laying in our laps. Exhausted. And then, shortly after…the older ones come up and sit around us. My family. Just resting and enjoying the shade and the breeze. No craziness. No violence. Just peace and comfort. I think heaven would be like that… but also with a lot of singing praises! 🙂
On the way to the beach, one of our American teen volunteers had a severe allergic reaction. SEVERE. Thank goodness we had an epi-pen. I don’t mean to scare people with this story – but I have to tell it. When the attack happened, the world stopped – and our street kids were frozen, not a word. Our American teen was a champion and after the shot he was fine and off we went. Personally – I had a hard time with it. I didn’t understand why…until I went into the water. Here comes Josee. I always said that if any kid were to ever give me a real problem, it would be him. We didn’t leave on good terms (this was the kid that caused problems when our kids volunteered to build the school with Live Different). He said to me “is that kid okay?” I said “What kid? AND – why are you talking to me? I’m still mad at you!”
Josee: “I know you are. (Looking down). But, is that kid okay? The American from the bus?”
Me: “Yes. Did you pray for him?”
Josee: “I prayed for him the entire bus trip. And, I’m sorry I was mean to you.”
Me: “Is Joey your friend?”
Josee has had a chip on his shoulder with “foreigners” for a long time. He didn’t even like me. He has had a very hard life, and felt that foreigners have no clue what real life is like. Watching Joey was the first time he realized he was no different than anyone else. He NEVER let Joey out of his eyesight the rest of the trip. He is 16 and he bawled crying when the teens left. I was not there, but I have never had my kids cry that hard before or since that trip. I believe Joey changed Josee’s life. He has never given us a problem since, in fact – he makes sure to give me a hug and help as much as he can. He finally felt – normal. Okay. I’m just like everyone else.
Since that trip – many things have happened.
I was so sick with a bacterial infection, I had to be carried out of my house. I had volunteers at that time too – never a dull moment! Luckily, I was fine 48 hours later.
Shortly after, I got a call that one of our kids, Roody, was in a bad accident. When I walked into the hospital, I found my child missing all the skin off his face and arm. And 2 other boys I didn’t know, in bad shape. Even though this is not the first time, it feels the same EVERY TIME. You want to drop to the ground and scream. But, you can’t. YOU must handle it, because beneath all that blood – eyes are watching you and TRUSTING you to take care of the situation.
Roody saved his money and bought a small motor bike. He was riding with some friends and was hit by an American leaving a bar, who didn’t see the motorbike. He assured me that he would pay the money to care for the boys. I have yet to see that money, and the phone number that was given didn’t work. Regardless, I sat all night with these boys – 17, 17 and 18. The one thing two of them could say was “please don’t leave.” So – I sat through the stitches, holding these big boys like they were 10. At one point, I had to literally sit on one of them and physically hold him down for the stiches and shots. As ANGRY as he was with me (and this is not one of ours) he still comes by the safe house to say hi and still calls me “mom”. I try to explain it’s not me – it’s God.
We have had a lot of awesome things since then. OUR KIDS ARE GOING TO SCHOOL!!!! WHAT?! SERIOUS!!! Street kids in school people! That is something. Honestly, I tried to talk them out of it! I just wasn’t sure it was time – but they assured me it was. They have had a lot of tutoring to read and write Creole outside of school. Another heart explosion – sitting in my office and getting bombarded by kids running in to show me their school shoes. Now, mind you – they all look the same. BUT – that doesn’t matter! You have to look at every single pair and be just thrilled and impressed with every single pair. I got to see heaven AGAIN – in their face. With every shriek after Sony and the staff said “those are awesome!” “So handsome!” “Look at you!” First pair of brand new shoes. Ever. That little stomach virus doesn’t seem like such a big deal now, huh?!
In addition – thank you to our amazing fundraisers, we can feed the kids twice a day. THESE KIDS AREN’T STREET KIDS ANYMORE. They just aren’t. They are THRIVING. It is a common misconception that when people visit Cap-Haitien, they see street kids and assume they are in the Streethearts program. Yes, we do work with those kids – but they aren’t ready. They don’t want to change…yet. The kids in our house – you won’t see. At least…not begging. Our kids are busy! They don’t have time for that! They have futbol practice, and Jido practice, and school, and Creole lessons, and basketball, and bible study, and…life. A healthy, happy life. And you better not call them street kids! “We aren’t street kids!”
Okay, I like it.
They also have responsibilities. They have to help cook. And clean. And do laundry. And that’s why we have such an amazing staff and a great big brother program. These kids have a lot going on (on purpose!). We all have to pitch in and help them with their schedules. We’ve got older kids moving into work force programs, we have little guys in special school programs to help with learning disabilities – every child has something different going on. To merely sit inside the common room… NOT HAPPENING! You better check the bulletin board – because they are going to ask “okay…now I need to go here. Want to come?” Or “Get outta my way! I’ve got things to do!” They even write their own “thank you” notes. And don’t forget their Labrador mix puppy Princess Spaghetti, she is on the move too!
Excuse me – I just said my kids “have things to do!” 🙂 Heart explosion. You go boys.
Personally, I have also allowed some other kids I know to live at my house. These are not street kids, but just good kids that fell into some hard circumstances. They also help out at the safe house.
Additionally…I happened to find a church I like off 14th. The kids in the neighborhood and some friends of mine go. I stopped by the safe house one Sunday after church. You can imagine my surprise when (after a volunteer brought church clothes) my kids ended up at the church on 14th street! ON THEIR OWN. We are hoping to transition all the kids to that church in November, so that our pastoral staff can go back out to the community (with the help of some of older boys) and feed some of the older, elderly street people.
I’d like to take this time to bring some recognition to my staff. Haiti is hard. It’s expensive and there are no jobs. The NUMBER ONE need is to create jobs. It’s not to take care of other people’s kids. We have to create an economy so that these people can thrive on their own. That being said…it’s hard. Do you know what’s easy in this circumstance? Corruption. Violence. Drugs. My staff members could make ten times more pursuing one of those venues. And, they have families. And they have to survive. They make next to nothing and STILL CHOOSE the right path. We get SO excited about the kids changing their lives – but it’s that much harder for an adult with a lot of responsibilities on their backs. AND, they get tempted every day. I had two staff members approached about taking advantage of me. They were told “she is white. What do you care? You are Haitian! You are a sell-out. She has money, she is white. Steal. You are screwing over your people!” They told me about it. And they lost friends over it. Many prayers and many thank you’s need to go to this group. They make hardly anything, this including multiple staff that worked without getting paid for months! A God-focused staff is a gift and a blessing. Not one of my staff works their hours. They work above and beyond. They have taken it upon themselves to do tutorials to learn excel. You can imagine my surprise when I walked into my office one day to see 3 different spreadsheets regarding work hours, big brother hours, kids updates, etc. I said “Who did this?” They said “We got together and learned off the internet!” Every week there is something new happening that my staff comes up with, including incentives for the kids! Heart explosion AGAIN. I didn’t get lucky – God gave me these people 🙂 AMEN!
Thank you to our medical partner MedPlus, for doing full health screening, testing, and vaccines for the kids. We do not have any kids that are HIV positive. Sadly, all but 5 had stage 3 syphillis. We also had multiple kids with skin infections and malaria (but nothing like we used to see). I am so happy that we are able to get them the right treatment. Of course, this confirms the prostitution. Now – keep in mind, that we opened the house in February and this is their first physical. The real “telling” results will happen when we do this again in 8 months. I’m sure this is a bit heart-breaking to hear, I was sad as well – but we are getting them the care they badly needed. I was DEVASTATED when I got the call…to hear all of my 7-9 year olds were positive…you want to throw up. Because…well, you know why.
When I arrived back in July, I found out that the little boy (Erikson) that I thought was going to leave, was still there! I almost cried out of excitement, and then I cried a bit for him. I realized that his grandmother who left for the USA (who said she’d come back for him) will probably never come back. I was just as naïve as he was. For almost 2 years we have heard this. Sadly, she will not be coming back. BUT, he holds onto this and just says “something must have happened, but she’ll be here next month.” And every month, he packs up. I love him and I used to think it was true, just like him. I would give him my contact info, and I would say goodbye and cry my eyes out, and I would come back and there he was. It’s just as heart wrenching to let a child go, in a good circumstance (you were mine for a little while!) as it is to see a child heart-broken EVERY month. All the staff loves him very hard…
Personally, I had a HUGE GOD moment. I was meeting some girlfriends for dinner, and as I passed the boulevard I saw 4 motorcycles – laying on the ground and 4 bodies. I immediately stopped the moto I was on and ran over. So many people standing and doing nothing. I had no idea what I was doing but I was praying hard and I was holding a guy gushing blood out of his mouth. My moto staff flagged down some cars, we held the people in our arms, and rushed them to the hospital.
I was sitting in the back of a truck, talking to the guy I was holding, and staring so hard in his eyes. Telling him, you will survive. You look right at me. You don’t look away and we will do this.
I couldn’t go in the hospital, because it would cause problems for the people in the accident (You know a foreigner! You have money). I sent friends to hospital the next day – everyone survived. I have the biggest smile typing this. Because – so many people got to see God work. I was covered head to toe in blood. I thought he would die. I don’t know how to explain it, but he wasn’t looking at me. He was looking at Jesus – I just got to help be the catalyst. For such a time as this, right?! He had passed out and lost all of his teeth. He was choking on his teeth when I found him. God used me to get them out J.
I have seen dead people in Haiti, and I have seen people die in Haiti. BUT – I have never locked eyes with someone in between life and death, fix their gaze, embraced God and such such faith that you don’t react. You can’t. You don’t look at the blood, you don’t hear the screaming… you just hold the stare, you don’t blink and you know something unbelievable is happening, whether they live or die, it is just…something bigger than yourself. Another guy’s leg was broken in 6 places, and we were able to help him and never lose eye contact with my guy. And, I’ve never seen him since. I don’t need to. Wasn’t me. Just, unbelievable. And, in that moment, the LOVE... Wow. God was IN me. Nothing compares to His presence.
I’d be lying if I said that didn’t shake me up. But, I have kids to take care of. Things started to get, I don’t know, A LOT. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but that’s the best way I can describe it. We were also dealing with a lot of backlash from the government – wanting money, etc. I got into a VERY heated discussion (yes, sometimes I lose my temper) with the government telling me how to deal with the kids. At one point, I was standing (almost in my chair) hahahaha. So, I decided – enough – I need kid time. Mom and kid time.
I vowed never to take the kids to the beach on my own, after the last time. I did it again. Good reminder why I love groups. They are A LOT to handle, on my own. Now, I have to give them props. I brought water games. They shared. They were good. BUT – they won’t go in the water. I sit down, expecting to see a fun “show”… ummm no. They just sit next to me. Now, I love my kids. But – wow! They can literally talk without ever breathing. I must have heard “Linsey look” at least 100 times every 20 minutes. I started to literally pick up kids and throw them in the water (of course they loved that) and I was begging “please give me 20 minutes! Okay just 5 minutes! JUST 5!” Great – brought out the water toys. Perfect. A little peace of mind. Just kidding – within 2 minutes, my older boys scoped out some girls and took off. Umm – no! So, next thing you know, I’m paying off a 16 year old to watch the little ones so I can go off after the older ones! They were just talking, but so embarrassed when I came around the corner saying “ohh no! I DO NOT THINK SO!” hahahaha.
Speaking of my older boys…there was a festival on the boulevard. So, the staff and I agreed that the 3 oldest boys could go, with supervision, for an hour. Myself and Francis. We showed up to pick up the boys and they were decked to the 9’s! So, we walked the boulevard and the boys had the NERVE to ask as to walk “a little bit behind please!” WHAT?! I’m cool! (I guess not). We passed by a restaurant playing music so Francis and I were dancing silly – the boys were humiliated! (I guess that’s a universal thing). I was so sad, walking with Francis and watching our guys. Our boys are getting too old. Of course, Francis was giving me the “dad speech” I need to let them grow up! Phooey! I hate to say it, but I made RJP come walk with me. I asked him to please stop growing up. I was totally THAT MOM. But you know what, he said “yes, this is embarrassing but I’ll do it for you.” HA! If was really a cool mom I’d have let him walk with his friends…but I didn’t! I loved it! Hahaha! He has plenty of time for that.
A few weeks ago, there was a fair in Cap-Haitien. I had a volunteer with me so I thought it would be fun to take the boys. I felt like I was at Kings Dominion (ok, ok – Haitian version). I wish I had photos. There were 3 rides and games. At one point, every single swing seat was taken by one of mine. And I stood there and cheered every single one of them on. I was proud of Dieuceul, because he chose to volunteer that night, so I gave him the money and he had to deal with it. (It was HILARIOUS to watch him deal with all the kids). I decided to take a few older boys for ice-cream. One, in specific, Johnky. Johnky is a HUGE handful. Very smart, very cunning, and could easily go down the wrong path. We have worked VERY HARD with him. He and I had a wonderful time. He talked to me about girls, fear about school, etc.
It was one of the best nights I’ve had with my kids. I just really, felt like a mom.
During these past few months – we have lost some kids. One, specifically, Martiney. He is the kid with the “s” on his face from the gay guys. We spent weeks trying to hunt him down. We do this often. We just recently got one out of jail in the DR, and have another we hope to get back from Port-Au-Prince.
Anyway, sadly – we also lost Stephenson and Ti-Bol (Jimmy). Please understand that when we “lose” a kid – we do everything we can to get them back.
I will never forget a few weeks ago, I don’t know why, but I got this weird feeling that Jimmy was under this bridge. It’s a hard area to get to – and I have no idea why I had this feeling. I was with Sony. It is full of trash. I crawled over a wall on the boulevard, and jumped in the water. I looked under, and it was just trash, almost to the ceiling of the bridge. So, I started to crawl up and I thought I could see a body moving. Literally, I have to type this in increments, because of the heartbreak.
I start digging. Closer to the roof of the bridge and I see something move. At this time, I yell for Sony –I’m scared. I’m not sure what or who I will find. We dig a tunnel through the trash, and take a (pause) cardboard box off… I’m so scared. I am, at this point, squished between trash and the roof of the bridge, and I see legs. I’m scared it might be an addict that freaks out, so Sony gets closer, pulls the trash off. There is our son. Our son. Both Sony and I start crying, and we just sit there in the trash. Sony can’t talk. I finally say “Why Jimmy? I love you. I will always love you and I will keep doing this! But you are breaking my heart!” Then I get emotional and yell “BREAKING IT!!! YOU ARE BREAKING IT! I MADE THIS HOUSE FOR YOU AND YOU… (I calm down) you were the one that sat with me in your box when my mom had breast cancer. And now… you’re done?”
It is like the pain of the worst break-up ever. Finally, Sony wiped his eyes, so shocked, and asked if he’d like to come home and take a shower.
He did. And we haven’t seen him since. I still go back to the bridge. I find his stuff and I try to clean it and leave it folded up for him. He hates us since that day.
I have called my mom crying so many times over him.
Two weeks ago, I showed up at the safe house – and I had to go to the doctor with one of the kids. Sony told me to go up the community room, he had a surprise. I went upstairs, nothing. As I turned to leave I heard “Linsey, cheri (honey) I’m home.” I have never hugged Martiney so tight in my life. We had been looking for him for so long, and heard that due to his addiction to huffing, he was going to die soon.
Despite the fact that we couldn’t find him (and we went hours away – we would here he was in the country, etc. and take off) he came home.
I still don’t have Jimmy or Stephenson. But, I do have hope.
We have another little guy in prison in the DR and in PAP and we are fighting hard to get them both back. Jails here are no joke and no place for a child.
Keep the faith. It’s only a matter of time for another heart explosion… all because Jesus gives us yet another miracle!