Every evening, our group gathers together, each team member selecting a word to reflect our day. Today, 3 words repeated: Beautiful. Restored. Overcome.
The morning began back on the water truck, delivering free, safe water to Cite Soleil and to a tent city just beyond its borders. The tent city is a newer stop, its conditions atrocious. The nearest water station, where chlorinated water can be had for a fee, is a mile away. Broken glass, crumbled rock and garbage cover the roads, where children walk barefoot. A seemingly endless number of tents are crammed together, in shambles of tarps and tin. The need is great. Poverty beyond the mind’s ability to comprehend. Yet here, also a sense of community, pride in their children, love.
The next two stops were different. We were overcome with children and their need, not for water, but for human touch, for notice. Here, several of us were knocked to the ground by children; children climbing up our backs, clawing at our sides, clamoring for position. Once there, safely in the crook of an arm, they clung tightly and snuggled heads into our necks, refusing to let go.
At these stops, my eyes and heart were constantly fixed on the hollow ones. Bellies distended by malnutrition, dressed in remnants of clothing at some point worn by children like my own. These children, desperately pleading with their eyes as they were pushed over and displaced by their bolder counterparts. Today, I was overcome by the needs of these children and my need to show them love in a place where they were all so very unloved.
The evening brought the other side to this story. There are over 300,000 children living in Restavek, or child slavery, in Haiti. Tonight, we visited the Restavek Freedom House, the home of 15 girls who suffered the worst end of this spectrum of abuse. They now live in a beautiful home, with house mamas teaching them the most basic of things: How to sleep in a bed, rather than all alone on an uneven dirt floor. How to eat a meal from a table, rather than foraging any scraps of their owner’s own meager food. Most importantly, they are learning they are loved. They are loved by a God who created them, by a Christ who died and rose for them, by people on this earth who are advocating for them. They are learning that they are equal and valued and they are being restored by Christ’s promise and hope.
We have been blessed this trip by a talented music team and the girls squealed with excitement as Chris, Zack and Mike began to play. The band’s rendition of “Man in the Mirror” had one of the house mamas singing along with every word and Zack’s original “Playground” was an instant hit. The girls, one by one and in groups, sang for us from the very core of their souls. Shy to approach the stage, suddenly powerful voices sang out: “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High,” “Who Am I,” “Break Every Chain.” Many of us were overcome with emotion as we watched these girls, at varying stages of restoration and healing, belt out their strength, their victory.
Following the fellowship, Amanda donated her beloved, but unused guitar, to the Freedom House, where it will be used to create music to tell the stories of these beautiful girls. In doing so, she reminded us to hold loosely to our possessions, for they are not our own to hold.
The evening ended with some play, dancing, hand games, hopscotch, deep hugs and requests by both sides to visit again. Some of the goodbyes were painful, not knowing when treasured girls would be seen next, yet trusting God has them exactly where they need to be, in this very special place.
Beautiful. Restored. Overcome.
- Sandi Cariveau