Written by: Rachelle Crowe
I recently took a short trip to Haiti with my home church, Redeemer Fellowship. We are partnering with The Haiti Orphan Project to focus on a children’s Village called Village de Vie. This was not my first trip to Haiti, nor will it be my last. The advice given to me before these trips has always been the same; “You will come back a changed person,”and, “The people will teach you more than you could ever teach them.” Although these statements are true, this time felt different. I came home feeling like I left family. Tears fell from my eyes as I hugged Volcy goodbye. Volcy is a part of our team and our translator and someone who I now call my brother. As I left, I couldn’t stop thinking of each and every child, the mamas and the pastors at the children’s villages. I felt like the lives of these people had given me a new perspective on the way I view my family and friends in America. One child in particular impacted my heart and mind.
I met Popie on our way to Gonaives, the city where Village de Vie care for close to 30 orphans. He needed a ride as he was on his way to a children’s village that Global Orphan Project sponsors. Popie was a timid 7-year-old boy with just a duffle bag in hand who found himself on a bus full of Americans. He had just said good-bye to his mother, who I learned could no longer take care of him. She had been forced to face a difficult decision to ask for help for her family. I can’t imagine the pain she must have felt hugging her son as he headed away from her to a new home.
I quickly made friends with Popie, glancing across the bus at him every couple minutes with my goofy faces, making sure he had paper and crayons to draw with, and playing silly games. I tried to imagine myself in his place, but it was worthless. Language is no barrier for me when it comes to loving a child. Someone once told me that I had the gift of love at first sight. I didn’t really understand this until I met Popie, and I know that I immediately loved him.
As we made a stop at the market, he quickly found my hand to hold as we unloaded the bus. No words were necessary; just the comfort of someone’s hand can bring a healing touch. Back on the bus, I sat and prayed for Popie as we drove to the hotel – I prayed for him to have hope despite all he must be feeling. I prayed he would know when he was lonely, Jesus is there.
We arrived at the hotel where our team was staying, which was also the location where the local pastor would pick Popie up to take him to the village. When Volcy and I met the pastor, Popie was surprised. Apparently, he thought he was staying with our team. The time came for Popie to leave. Popie looked at the pastor, then back at me and started weeping. He wrapped his arms around my waist and started speaking Creole. Volcy gave me a look of despair, as he translated the boy’s pleas. “He says that he doesn’t want to go, but wants to stay with you, Rachelle.” I didn’t know what to do, but asked Volcy to translate the words I would tell Popie. I looked at Popie with my tear-filled eyes and told him I loved him. I told him Jesus loved him and this wouldn’t be the last time I would see him. Volcy told me that I needed to help Popie go with the pastor. Popie went and looked back at me multiple times as they walked away. I felt helpless.
So many things were going on in my heart at this moment. I had worked with orphans before, but this moment struck me in a way I couldn’t process. I thought about how hard it was for Popie’s mother to make the decision to send him to the children’s village, how hard it was for Popie to get on a bus of people he didn’t know, and finally, to leave these now familiar strangers to go to yet one more unfamiliar environment. My heart broke as I pondered this young child going through so much hardship at such a young age. Clearly, things are not how they should be. I pleaded with God to protect Popie that night.
My time with Popie brought the painful realities of being an orphan to my sight in a way they had never been before. Jesus calls us to care for the orphans and the widows. He calls me to do that, and He provides opportunities for me to answer that call. That day on the bus, God put Popie in my life, and my life has been forever changed as a result. The way Popie loved me showed how I can love deeper, even in painful situations. I didn’t know that I was capable of that kind of love. And I’m not, apart from the love of Christ and His love for me.
I will think of Popie when I encounter other children in my daily life and in future travels to Haiti. When I play with neighbor kids or visit my nieces and nephews at their school—Popie will not be far from my mind. He taught me how much people need the love of Christ, and how that love can heal a soul. I pray my life will exhibit this same kind of love. I believe God is changing hearts and directing people to His love through Haiti. I am so thankful to be a small part of this work.