Day three of our mission to Haiti almost at an end, and it has been an exhausting day. After a great breakfast (I had spaghetti, which could become a mainstay at the Sayler house), we went to visit the Consolation Center, an orphanage for over 40 girls outside of Les Cayes, Haiti. If you want the details about the orphanage, visit http://www.consolationcenterhaiti.com/.
It is hard to describe the range of feelings we experienced as we arrived at the Consolation Center. I think we were nervous about what we’d find, wondering if we’d have the capacity to love like we’d need to, wondering just how much our lives would be shattered by this experience, hoping that we could do something that would help in some way. We were turned upside down.
After getting a brief tour of the facilities, Les De Roos introduced us to the girls, and the adventure began. They said their names, we said ours, they sang us songs, then we went and played games. There were dominoes, a caffeinated version of patty-cake, finger nails getting painted, songs to sing, swings to swing, just an entire day of hanging out with these beautiful, smiling, loving girls.
We did some work, don’t get me wrong. In addition to the crafts and games that kept the girls busy, several team members were welding the support beams for the roof on a new building at the Center. Seeing as, outside of ministry, I have no marketable skills, I took it upon myself to help gather some of the trash and take it out to the incinerator, reliving the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego story for myself. It was hot, the work was hard, but everyone will agree, meeting the girls made it all worth it.
I wanted to take a moment to share the story about one of the girls I met. Cherline is 14, the oldest of 5 siblings, and her story broke my heart. When I met her, she took my hand, taught me to play their patty-cake game (which I still can’t do well), and let me take her picture. Talking with Les afterward I learned that there are a lot of ways to be an orphan here in Haiti.
Cherline’s mother died just four months ago at the age of only 39. Her father, Charlie, did not know how he would take care of 5 children, on his own, and after his wife died, he lost the house and farm – so they had no place to go.
By the grace of God, Charlie worked for the Consolation Center, and when the missionary agents heard of his situation, they moved quickly. The two boys were taken in by a Pastor and his wife, while Cherline and her two sisters came to live at the Center, and the funds were given to provide a salary for Charlie to work there. Now he can be with his daughters, have a place to live and work, and all of his children can be raised in a safe and healthy home.
This is their life. A life broken by sickness, poverty, sadness and grief. Yet it is also a life touched by the grace of God, the blessing of a community of faith, and an unspeakable joy in knowing the love of Christ Jesus. Cherline’s smile, the smiles and and exuberance of all the girls, cannot be explained by anything in this world – it is truly otherworldly. It is a gift of grace, something only a divine presence can explain.
I cannot explain this adequately. I will try, but I will fail. When we get home and talk about this, it will be frustrating, because we will not be able to convey the spirit that we have encountered here. You can only experience this.
I hope, I pray, that you will. The opportunities abound, here in Haiti, and there at home, to encounter the hand of God guiding, leading, providing all along the way. Maybe the joy you see in the faces of these girls will be the joy you will know when you walk and trust in the Lord.