This is one of those moments I am just thankful the Lord made me a girl and I was on a trip with a bunch of awesome men willing to jump up and make it happen. Bless them.
We began the ride through Port-au-Prince. We weren't allowed to take photos along the way. And well, let's face it, that's weird. A bunch of white people in a van taking your photo as you walk on the street....weird. So I just decided to soak it all in. The funny thing was....I felt as though I had been there before. I wasn't super shocked. I just felt normal. I have seen photos of Haiti and of Ethiopia. In many ways, I felt comfortable. I had a knowing in my spirit. There was trash everywhere. It was HOT. Dirt. The roads were bumpy. There are no street lights. You can have three lanes going one way and one lane on the other side going the other way. And moto's (motorcycles) going wherever they wanted. Chaos. Along the road there are people selling everything you can think of....including ice water in plastic square bags. And the school uniforms. Can we please discuss the uniforms? Education is not free in Haiti. I'll say that again. It is not free. It is a privilege. And each school has a uniform and each student looks absolutely adorable sporting that uniform. Adorable. Even down to the hair ribbons and bows. Adorable. They are walking home from school with their bags. Looking adorable. Among just trash. Poverty. What seems like hopelessness. But all I saw was hope. Hope with arms and legs in a uniform. Walking home from school.
Our very first stop was the orphanage Source de la Grace. The van pulled through the guarded gate and all these adorable brown faces ran up to the van. I had been told before going, "you will be chosen. You will walk off the van and they will choose you." They come right up to the van with the brightest Colgate smiles looking to see who they get to hang out with for the afternoon. Our group had 9 kids and of the 9 there were 8 boys. These kids were excited. Chosen we were. One by one we got off the bus and one by one our hands were taken. We became their person. Although, I wasn't "chosen" right away. I got off and smiled, said hello, sort of watched the whole thing. I walked around a bit. Then---a hand slipped into mine. His smile stole my heart. He took me away. And that was that.
Just looking at this picture as I type brings tears. I fell hard for this one. He was kind spirited. Super quiet. He drew me to the staircase and there we sat. Him laying into me. Holding my hand. We were quiet. He was quiet. We just sat. I whispered to him, "what is your name" (in Creole) and he whispered back, "Woodsley". I told him my name was Suzanne and he smiled. I asked him how old he was and he said 10. That was the end of my Creole so really, the end of our talk. We sat. Content. Quiet. Holding hands.
SIDE: We were told to not bring anything off the bus with us. Nothing. No toys that we had brought or fun games. So to be honest, it did feel a little awkward. Think of the last time you interacted with a child with nothing. Not a toy. Your phone. Nothing. All you have is your language, but that was not something we had. You could tell others felt the same. Walking around with their chosen person. And then. Just like that. Activity began to happen. Emma was teaching English to the girls. A bottlecap (trash) became a soccer ball, airplane rides, thumb wrestles....connection. Connection without things. Connection without words. This was Holy Spirit territory.
But for Woodsley and I, our connection was sitting. He laying into me. Hand in hand. Just observing. And you know what? It was totally normal. You know that best friend you have that when it is all quiet it feels completely comfortable? It was like that. Comfortable.
Dave came over to join us with his buddy Caleb. Caleb Joseph had found David Joseph. Caleb is 14 and handsome as can be. He had some English and liked learning more from Dave.
Caleb had his Bible and was reading verses to Dave in Creole. They would find their favorite verses and read them to each other. Woodsley then got up and walked away, turning to show me that he would be back in one minute. I wondered if he would. He did. He returned with his Bible. So proud to show it to me. We then did the same thing. So Dave and I spent our afternoon on the steps of the church within the walls of an orphanage reading the Word with the people who had chosen us. Chosen.
Probably the biggest human desire.
To be chosen.
Holy Spirit territory.
I asked Woodsley if Jesus lived in his heart. He nodded. He opened his Bible to the book of Job and just began reading. I sat there thinking, "not sure I have ever read this book from beginning to end". But that day I did.
I was bummed to never get a picture of those staircases. They became special to me. And when we got home I was going through a friends photos from our trip. She had a picture of her husband with a little boy on his shoulders. And then I saw it. Off to the side of the picture. Me and Dave. On the staircase. Exactly how we spent that whole day. I was so excited to see it!! There is so much to me in this one photo. My heart bursts looking at it again.
What you can't see is just to the back of the church is a wall. And over the wall is where we stayed. From the door of my room I could see this staircase and that open area. I could see those kids playing. At night around 7pm, you could hear them singing. It took all I had to not jump over that wall just to sit with Woodsley again. At the time I didn't know we would be coming back. I am so glad that we did!
It was finally time to go and we loaded up. As the bus was pulling out sweet Woodsley and Caleb were standing together. Caleb waving and Woodsley just looking. I would smile and he would smile. We drove basically around the corner to see where we were going to be staying.
We entered a guarded gate and found our room assignments. Dropped our bags and headed to our first Haitian meal. Rice, beans, chicken, the best cole slaw you will ever have, plantain chips, and some red sauce I never tried. The cooler had glass bottles of 7UP and Coke. The food tasted good. The pop tasted good. I was ready for a cold shower (which is good because cold is the only water temperature option----oh and please do not get the water in your mouth or eyes), and a change of clothes. Then we headed upstairs to the balcony for a team debrief. Most of us were quiet. I am not sure any one of us knew exactly how to process. And our group leader so wisely knew that. We found out the schedule for the next day and off we went. Dave and I stayed up talking for a bit but I was ready for bed. Who knew what was waiting for us the next day. I walked to my room looking over that wall and wondering what Woodsley was doing. If he was going to sleep. My heart was stolen day one. I was heart broken and heart full.
I knew I better get rest for the days ahead.
I realized in just hours of being in Haiti that what I had entered and what lay before me was
Holy Spirit territory.