My husband, daughter, and I landed back home last week after a stay in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. We went to visit our incredible friend, Brittany, who oversees a malnutrition center she started up at Danita’s Children (an orphanage we’ve had connections with for a few years now), and a sweet boy named Ricardo. Brent and Ricardo became buddies when Brent visited Danita’s three years ago. He’s been on our minds and hearts (and plastered all over our fridge) ever since.
On our first full day, we enjoyed spaghetti from a breakfast buffet and later had eggs and toast for dinner. I love this on so many levels. Even though it was a perfectly normal meal lineup for Haitians, it made us feel crazy and spontaneous like when we were in college eating cold pizza in the morning and cereal late at night. It was like we were making a statement by rebelling against our own cultural norm (“Well look who just switched up the two most important meals! Take that…Mom and Dad? America?”).
Brent and our friend, Tim, who was traveling with us stayed in bunkbeds above the medical center and Londyn, our 8 year old daughter, and I got to stay with Brittany, her two daughters, and thirty of the girls living at the orphanage. It was a party. I loved the revolving door of girls coming through 24/7. I loved getting to watch my friend speak life into them and shape them by saying the hard things that moms say to their daughters because they love them. Watching her with those girls, the babies in the malnutrition center, the moms of the babies, the nurses, and everyone in between left me utterly speechless. So much love and life poured out by one single person. She’s such a sweet glimpse at the heart of Jesus.
Londyn took to Haiti like a fish takes to water. No joke. Barefoot, braided hair, mango in one hand a darker hand in the other–that’s a glimpse of Londyn’s entire visit. She was ALL about it. Loving life. She went to school with her new BFF, Marie, and experienced full days of classes taught in Creole. She ate rice and beans, homemade popsicles, fried plantains and chicken from a stand on the side of the road. She learned new recess games and how to dig up tarantulas. She drew pictures for her Ricardo and got to deliver them in person. She clung to babies in the malnutrition center and read them stories and tickled them until they giggled like crazy. Her heart took on the shape of Haiti.
During our visit, Londyn said she wished she were an orphan so she could stay there forever because she loved it so much. I wasn’t even offended.
I did’t know it at the time, but the little meal shakeup at the beginning of our time there, that act of basically turning the day upside-down by what we ate, paints a great picture of the shift that happened to my idea of what this trip would be.
I was expecting to go and be saddened by what I saw. To want to scoop up every child at the orphanage and bring them home with me. To bring them to the land of hope and opportunity. To show them what family is.
You guys, I was SO wrong. I was so upside-down.
Those kids know what family is. They are family. They walk alongside one another through every season of adolescence and they share everything. We had Ricardo and another boy named Lukinson over to for lunch one day and I had miscounted as I was dishing everyone up. I handed out all of the plates and poor Lukinson was left without one. I scurried over to Brent and Londyn before he noticed and scooped some of their lunch onto a new plate for him and as I did, I heard Ricardo whisper, “Can you give him some of mine too”?
NOT “you can”…but “can you.” There’s a vast difference. I learned a little lesson about truly loving family well in that moment.
Every single one of them has lost someone and something…most have them have lost many someones and somethings, and they are there for each other through all that comes with that kind of pain. Speaking a language of loss and love. It was beautiful to see.
And when it comes to the hope and opportunity I was sure I’d be wishing upon them, come to find out, they have too. The leadership at Danita’s just blew us away. They are truly equipping these children to become a generation that changes everything. They are casting a vision of hope for Haiti and providing practical opportunities for those precious kids to do huge and amazing things. The heart behind it all is so pure. They are loving God and loving His children. They are the real deal. We feel honored to have gotten to see it all in motion.
All in all, we loved our time. Haiti, you made fans out of us. Tarantulas and all.