“My soul thirsts for You; my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1
Lent - while my American friends chose to give up wine or chocolate for the Lenten season, my little friends in Haiti are surviving on the little they have. Don't get me wrong, this practice of self denial is a good thing. For many, Lenten is a time of spiritual discipline, an act of drawing near to God, recognizing my humanity, and dependence on community.
Some meditated on scripture, while others gave up behaviors like social media addiction or food habits. It was my first time following the liturgical calendar. My practice for Lent was moderation. Learning to recognize that one piece of pizza is enough - I don't really need 3 more pieces. And that one full-bodied glass of red wine is enough. Not only did I learn to slow down and appreciate the nuisances I miss from eating too quickly, but I was a reminded of where my sustenance comes.
I am not self-sufficient.
The abundance of food choices that surround us daily disillusions us causing us to believe we aren't in need. I don't thirst - I have water at my tap. I don't go hungry. I can use my iPhone to order pizza delivery, right to my door. I have more than enough. And yet, I am no less dependent on God for my food than these children. For my little friends in Haiti, limiting food intake for 40 days isn't a luxury. It's a way of life.
The children at the orphanage are lining up for the early morning meal - chicken broth bowl with rice - prepared by several of the hardworking "mamma's" who help care for the children on the compound. A second meal will be served at 2pm - the last meal of the day - and it will carry them through to bedtime when they wake again for breakfast. It is enough for them and more than many.
Like any school cafeteria at lunch time, the children chatter joyfully over their meal. They eat slowly, and no one has to tell them to finish their bowl.
The verse printed on the back of the cafeteria translates: "Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow." Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"
Wow, I had to sit with that one for a while....
Free range chickens strut by while the children eat their broth made with nutritious fresh herbs found on the grounds, all taken directly from the earth. No meat goes unused. All of it is valuable. Nothing is wasted.
There are a few elderly who have been taken in on the orphan compound as well. This is Carole, the leader of our team, greeting one of them.
In the background is the home of a young family with a newborn and 2 year old boy who were also living on the streets and taken in. (You can see the boy standing naked in the image above by their "patio deck chair" under the palm tree.) His dad does manual labor off the compound and told us he works for his kids, that some day they can go to college.
Located in a lush region of Haiti on a beautiful property, these children are privy to the fresh papaya, bananas and mangoes that grow within their compound. Not all orphanages have this fortune. The men on the ladder are taking down ripe papaya. The men on the right are the gate keepers.
It's recess time and these school kids are picking the cherries. They are not even ripe yet but what a treat!
In addition, the future of Haiti's physical and economic landscape depends on its vegetation.
This is Dieuna eating a frozen treat some team members bought for the kids school recess snack. I call her "my girl" because our family has chosen to sponsor her. It means more than just sending money - we get to be a part of her life.
In 2013, her parents left her and her sister were dropped off at the orphanage. In fact, I received the original paperwork for her arrival in the mail, mixed in with my bills, a couple of months ago. It read: "Mother and Father still alive. Family cannot provide for her." They were in rough shape but are doing well now that they have had better care and nutrition.
The boys (above) were ecstatic when they saw their chickens had laid eggs! Kevinz, 17 years old, ran to find me (and my camera) so I could take a picture.
What a goof. She was the lucky one who acquired the burned rice from the bottom of the huge cast iron pots. She was kind enough to share - something I've noticed these children who eat, play and sleep together daily do better than my four at home!
Sweet Nadisca doing her chores in the morning sunlight. And the boys helping with laundry. All without complaining. This is how their community works - together, and for each other.
Sugar cane! All the kids gathered round, like children getting free ice cream, waiting for their piece sliced off by machete and then rinsed in clean water.
Did you see it? Even with what we consider little, they have more than many I know.
As I flew home watching the beauty of the ocean and lands below, I felt like I was headed toward an invisible, protective dome, where familiar feels safe. Where do we get this idea that we are immune to the kind of poverty that Haiti endures, that we are somehow untouchable? That we don't need anyone, especially God to provide for us? It makes sense when Jesus said he came not for the wealthy but for those who are oppressed and realize their need. He didn't come to throw money at problems. He gave himself. Unless we step outside of our comfortable lives to share, love and build relationships with those in our own backyards, right here and now, how far are we, really, from being third world?
Easter blessings, my friends. xo
“You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” - Kahlil Gibran
From Do the Poor Have More Meaningful Lives?: Perhaps (when) poverty strips people of happiness in the short term, it forces them to take the long view—to focus on the relationships they have with their children, their gods, and their friends, which become more meaningful over time."