I can’t remember the last time I cried like this. As we entered the gates on the opposite side of the property, all I wanted to do was run as fast as I could to see the completed playground that my son helped build. But I showed patience. I contained myself as we went through the formalities and greetings a team normally gets when they arrive at the Yahve Shamma orphanage.
The waiting wasn’t all bad.
It’s an amazing experience when you get mobbed by a few dozen kids who all just want to hug you and touch you. Even during our initial briefing, the kids waited patiently holding on to any available member of our team that they could.
Chris Marlow (of Help One Now) and Pastor Gaetan (of Yahve Shamma) shared for a moment while we calibrated our minds to the heart of this mission. This time something important stood out to me. It was a story about dedication and commitment.
The story goes something like this…
Shortly after the earthquake Chris Marlow and some other Help One Now leadership met with Gaetan for the first time. He’s a local pastor who cared for 16 orphans prior to the earthquake, but quickly added 14 more in the wake of the disaster.
During that first visit, the children wouldn’t even engage with the members of the team. One of those leaders describes the children as being “distant.” Some even hid behind trees as these strange visitors talked about the possibility of getting involved in this community.
Then Gaetan said something that struck a nerve with the Help One Now team that day.
He said, “Many churches send teams to come spend time with our orphans, and they say they want to work with us. But then they leave and we never hear from them again.”
No wonder the children seem distant when another group of strangers shows up promising to help… probably to never return. Why should the children invest emotionally, only to be left behind and forgotten… again?
As if these children didn’t already have to deal with loss and abandonment issues.
At that moment the Help One Now leadership team decided that they had to be different. They committed to coming back.
This “coming back” thing is a theme that keeps popping up. Even yesterday as we walked around a small community in mountains we were told, “It’s okay to walk around here on your own, because they know us. They always say, ‘you are the people who always come back‘.”
And as I listened to them share this story today, I realized that I’m coming back. This is my third trip to Haiti and my second one with Help One Now. But my story with this sacred place, with this orphanage, goes back well before my earlier trip with Help One Now.
Two years ago, my son wanted to “send Christmas to Haiti.” He wanted to build a playground. So we had a Garage Sale 4 Orphans and raised over $1,300 towards that project. I then got to watch them breaking ground on this project during my last trip to Haiti, just eight months ago. And today I stood weeping at the completed playground project.
Coming back is always worth it.
The children in this orphanage are some of the most beautiful, spectacular children I know. It was good today to see them all again. I sat on the swings in the new playground with them. I played football (soccer) with others. It was good to be back.
And I’ll be back again.
The reason these programs work is because of the commitment we have to be there. Help One Now isn’t going anywhere. Commitment changes things. You can see it in the eyes of Pastor Gaetan. You can see it in the hearts of the many orphan kids who he cares for.