Finding his smile in HaitiRich Stigall
I often say that Haiti is a window through which one can see another world. It is window that often gives new vision to one’s life and beyond. GO Project is blessed to host vision trips—Adventures of the heart, with hundreds each year. We are so very grateful for those who have opened their hearts to journey with us! One of our great blessings is to hear from those of you who are “keeping the window open” by sharing your heart adventure with us. It is with great joy, I share one such personal story from a grateful mother. (Respectively, names have been changed.)
It has indeed been a month since we were in Haiti, and it has taken at least that long for me to process all of the blessings that were poured out on our trip.
One particular memory does not directly involve me, but my son. Jamie has been to Haiti with me before. Last year we went on a construction trip. It was his first international experience, and he fell in love with missions, and with Haiti.
Having a “job” on that trip was important to him. He needs to be focused, it’s just who he is. He is an analyzer, a thinker, and he is afraid to be a feeler. Emotions have not always been good to him. He has struggled with depression to the point of being suicidal. When I told him that we did not have a “job” with GO, he was nervous. I tried to explain that our job was to love the kids. He feared that they would not love him back.
I could tell that he was not at all sure about the idea of “just hanging out and playing”, but I knew that God had a plan for us. I pushed him to go, and I do not regret that decision. I do not regret it, because in one hour’s time, he gleaned more insight than he had in a year’s worth of counseling. His new therapist’s name was Maria. She was a study in resilience.
While in her village, we did not know WHAT her story was, but it was evident that she had one. She came to me first. I held her hand, took in the braids, the dress, the shoes on the wrong feet, and the head tilt. I took in the vacancy in her eyes, and then she allowed me to take in her smile. There was still a spark inside of her. We walked over to the wall, and she sat on my lap for a bit. I pulled her legs up onto my lap, and I felt a roadmap of scars. When I looked down, I realized that she was covered with them. These were not small scars; these were “I have been through a war” scars.
I didn’t get a lot of time with her. The more energetic children soon took her place on my lap. I tried to look for her periodically during our visit. Each time I found her, she was sitting next to Jamie. My gentle giant had found a buddy. I continued to play with a group of girls, but would glance up and watch as he showed her how to twist the top off of his water bottle. It was an hour long game of pick it up, open it, put it down. He did not get bored. He sat by her the entire time, once even wrapping her in a hug and closing his eyes before resting his head on hers. I believe that he prayed in that moment, but that is his story to tell, not mine. I know that he was deeply affected by her.
Part of a GO trip is the bead ceremony. It became a highlight for our team, and I do not know that we always took it as serious as need be. I do know that the bead ceremony that night was sacred. I gave my son a RED bead for taking a risk. I know how hard it is for him to let his guard down. He not only let his guard down, but he had invited Maria into his space. To some, that may be inconsequential, to me, it was a mountain moved. Before I was finished speaking, others were telling him that they, too, had watched this interaction, and had been touched. I loved hearing their stories, but I was aching to ask him what HIS experience had been.
Amidst tears, also not fun for him, he told the group that he had been humbled by Maria. “I have been suicidal more than once in the last two years,” he began, “and I am so ashamed of that right now. I was holding that little girl, and I was looking at her legs, thinking, she is stronger than I will ever have to be, and she is still going. We don’t know what she has lost, or how she feels about it. We don’t know what she was like before she got hurt, but she still has a smile on her face, and still wants to learn. I gave up on my life, but she is still going.”
The conversation turned to our team leader and she filled in some of the gaps. Maria had been found in the rubble of the earthquake. No parents or family were found. She had been crushed, and was not expected to live. Maria was taken to GO, and they were asked to find her a place to die. “Take care of her until she passes.” She was placed in a children’s home in Croix des Bouquets, and she did not pass away. She is alive today, counseling troubled teens.
Jamie has been a different child since we got back.
I like to say that he found his smile in Haiti. I say it as a joke, but it is true. All I have to do is ask about his little buddies, and he shows it to me.
Thank you Global Orphan Project! You are not just helping the kids of Haiti, Africa, and India, you are changing the perspectives of the kids in America, and it is a much needed change!
Waiting to travel again,
A grateful Mother