There She is.
Me and She. I didn’t know until I left Haiti the first time, She was the reason I went. And She, is one reason I am going back.
Haiti is no joke. It was hard. And bringing an extremely large group of high schoolers there for a mission trip was a challenge. It was hard to lead students while I was experiencing and processing everything they were for the first time. The blind leading the blind, so to speak. Although I think I was learning more from them, then they learned from me.
It was hot, and I couldn’t figure out if my inner thighs were sticking together from the sweat or the sunscreen and DEET concoction dripping off my body. I remember showering that morning-well, I remember turning on cold water, turning it off to lather, and turning it on to rinse. But it didn’t matter. I still felt Haiti coating my body. Did I mention it was hot? And the bus that took us back and forth to vacation Bible school in the sauna they called a church, some seats without actual seats, would squish us so close we had to peel ourselves off one another to unload, like peeling apart a bag full of marshmallows sitting in the sun.
And the food. Praise God for bread and Via packets.
I am not a diva by any Amercian standard. I go days without showering or brushing my teeth and don’t even mind camping. But Haiti is an extremely different kind of roughing it. I found my comfort zone behind my Canon and camped there.
We stood out- 35 white folk walking down the dirt road in Haiti to the park that is typically locked.
I felt her before I saw her. Her clogs rhythmically clicking uncomfortably close. I grabbed my camera tight. Would she try to steal something? Did she want money? I still couldn’t see her, still following in my blindspot, until her hand slowly slid into mine.
Our interlocked black and white hands swayed back and forth as we walked, me and She. She just wanted a friend. She wanted to be felt, seen and heard. American youth paired off with Haitian youth. Boys playing basketball, girls learning handclaps. She sat near me, uninvited, watching. Perhaps unnoticed but most likely, intentionally overlooked. A few of our youth group girls saw her and tried to teach her the hand clap. Her hands fumbled, her face laughed. It was only then I realized. I could barely contain my tears.
She was beautiful and tattered, like her over worn gray dress, so thin and delicate one could almost see though. I pulled a bobby pin out of my hair and fixed her sleeve hanging by a thread. As I gently covered her, I hurt. What was her story? Where did she live and who took care of her? Was she neglected or abused? Was she mistreated or ignored?
I showed her my camera. I would take a picture of her, then show her the screen, perhaps the first time she had seen a picture of herself. She giggled. “Again, again!” She motioned. And we would repeat. Then, I showed her how to push the button to see more pictures stored on my Canon. She sat close to me, the sides of our body touching as we held the camera together.
After a few photos of the orphanage we visited the day before, we got to a video from vacation Bible school where the youth group kids shared about Jesus in Creole. Her language. She pushed play. Then again. Over and over she listened, giggled and smiled. After awhile, she tried to sing along to some of the songs on the video.
It was time to go. She walked near me the entire way and followed me into the compound, where only certain kids from the village were welcome. She was not one. We went into eat and I saw her watching from the screen door. Many of the kids knew us American’s were eating our third meal of the day, but they knew better than to watch. She didn’t. I finished and walked out just in time to see the Haitian men shooing her away. I didn’t even get to say good bye. The men laughed. “She is crazy, you know. Sick in the brain.”
That night, I went to bed angry and sad. The next day, I tried to look for her to give her one of my dresses but she was no where to be found, but one of the Haitian men was there. I asked, “Remember that girl last night? The one you said was sick in the brain? Do you understand she is also made in the image of God? The same God you serve?” He sat silent while I shared my story and explained that both of my kids have profound special needs. I told him they look just like Jesus, especially evident by the way they love people. I explained, “disability is a result of a fallen world, but their souls are just like you and me. They are children of God and should be treated as such.”
He didn’t say much. Nothing in fact. Until the last day I was there when he thanked me for opening his eyes. He said in Haiti, they believe that people with disabilities, especially cognitive ones, are broken. Outcasts. That disability is a result of sin or witchcraft, something to stay away from. He was just reacting the only way he knew.
Ignorance breeds ignorance.
I don’t know if he changed. And I don’t know where She went. But I know God profoundly moved in my heart in Haiti because of her.
I hope one day when we get to heaven I will be able to thank her. But until then, I am going back to Haiti to see if there’s anyway I can help change the perspective and treatment of individuals who happen to have disabilities. I am going back to be a part of the solution. I am going back to meet more She’s and He’s, and the people that are loving and serving and learning from this community. I am going to stand and kneel and serve. I am going to hold some more hands.
I am going back for Her.
I will be traveling with Steve Brandon and Andrea Inman, April 7-13 and we would love if you would be praying with us for our time there. If you would like to financially contribute to our trip, you can do so in one of two ways.
Support an individual on our trip by donating any amount, and adding the person’s name you would like to support in the memo line at: Support a Short-Term Missionary. This is tax exempt. Of course you can also donate a gift of any amount to Northwest Haiti Christian Mission, Miriam Center.
Or, if you would like to help the team fill suitcases with supplies to bring down to the special needs orphanage, (13 gallon garbage bags, chewy toys, spoons, diapers, multivitamins, or protein powder) you can donate any amount on our Go Fund Me page.