Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day Three--Home for Sick & Dying Children

Let the little children come to me…Having been in Haiti once before, I knew what to expect when we entered the gate into the Home for Sick and Dying children, but knowing what to expect does not lessen the impact seeing the children has on one's spirit and soul. Their big brown eyes looking up at you, handing reaching out for a touch, to be held for a moment or forever. Their bellies distended, legs and arms skeletal without the strength to hold their own head up. A one year old looks like a 6 month old due to malnutrition and dehydration. But despite their physical limitations, their spirit is strong and their needs are just like yours and mine, basic. Their bodies need the food, but their soul needs love and affection. For a few hours we hold them, rock them, feed them, sing to them and even play with those that are able, and we hope that they feel the love we give, that their spirit is renewed.
Today, I thoroughly enjoyed watching my teammates impacted by this experience for the first time. Most were brought to tears as their hearts were being broken by God through the children. Each and every one on the team "jumped in" despite their own fears and insecurities. Connections were made without words, through smiles, touch, laughter, kisses and hugs. Mothers curiously watched as we cuddled their children, finding a few brief moments of respite and comfort in knowing their babies were safe. They are a product of their circumstances, unable to provide for their own children because they can't even meet their individual needs. In a few short hours, each of us bonded forever to a child that is a now a face to the many prayers of those less fortunate.
After our morning visit to the Home for Sick and Dying Children, we took a brief rest before our visit to Gertrude's, an orphanage for children with special needs. God directed me right away to a child strapped to a wheelchair. She could walk, but the nuns strapped her in because she LOVED to swing and would always be outside if she wasn't contained. Of course she convinced me to let her out and away we went to the swing set. To have the innocence of a child, the free spirit to live each moment to the fullest has been lost for most of us. I took advantage of the opportunity and held her in my lap and we swung until we could swing no more. That is why I love Haiti so much, because when I'm here nothing matters except God and my relationships. As Matthew 22:36-40 says, the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. That neighbor is next door, down the street or a short distance from Miami in the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
The final stop on our journey today took Mary and I to San Fil with some of the nuns who also work at the home for the sick and dying, to a clinic to do some wound care. The rest of the group stayed back to help with more of the care of the babies as we did in the morning. San Fil was unlike any other part of Haiti either of us had experienced before. The wound clinic was in the middle of a marketplace of sorts packed with merchants selling various wares. The land cruiser barely fit in between the vendors and the people. Once inside, we helped the nuns prepare, gathering gauze, gloves, tape, antibiotic ointment and saline to cleanse the wounds. Already a line of people had formed outside the clinic. Prior to starting, one of the nuns prayed with and sang with the patients asking for God's healing hand to bless them. Without getting too graphic, the wounds were significant, as I can only imagine very painful, smelly and some were deforming. But as we cleaned and disinfected the wounds, they sat there for the most part in silence, helping us find our way, telling us how to clean and dress the wounds. As Mary expressed so aptly that night at dinner, washing their wounds and feet reminded us of what it would have been like when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples.
Day three in Haiti was a transformative day for all of us and we thank God for his constant provision this day and for the rest of our journey.

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