Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reflections on Haiti- Orphans


This is perhaps the hardest section to write about. Most of you know that I’m tender hearted. When discussing orphans my heart just seems fragile. This past week was difficult because of some of the things I realized about orphans and orphan care.

Larry and I entered into our marriage with the idea of adopting. I was told in my early 20’s that children weren’t possible. So our plans have always included adoption. Those plans didn’t change just because we were blessed with Eden and Josiah. There was lots of teasing going on before we left for Haiti about packing two children in our suitcases and bringing them home. But we also sincerely prayed and we were open to anything the Lord had in store for us.

On Wednesday Team Alpha decided to serve some local orphanages. They have a list from the government and we went off in search for children to help. The first orphanage was very nice. It is run by a couple from Holland and has been serving children in Haiti for over 30 years. They serve 120 children; have a great staff and facility complete with their own school and full time nursing staff. It was so clean you could see your reflection in the floor's shine. We were very impressed with the facility. The hostess told us they lost 2 dormitories and their church during the earthquake, but all of their children and staff survived. They have now been inundated with children that have grown up and left who returned after the quake, plus new orphans due to the earthquake.

When I asked about the status of the orphans and if they were available for adoption, I was told they were not adoptable this was a care facility. This lead into a very interesting conversation that has been on my mind since we left. In this ladies opinion, Haitian children shouldn’t be adopted out internationally. She feels that the children are Haiti’s future and taking them outside of the country will take a future leader away from the country. In her defense, Dr. Vlad said he knew of this orphanage that they produced good students. He went to medical school with children who had grown up there.

This lady instead suggest that people from the United States sponsor children, making sure they get a good education and nutrition, but leave them in Haiti.

Quite honestly, I had never thought of a Haitian child being better off in Haiti than in the US. I realized how presumptive I was…... thinking how much better things are here in the US. Amy, one of my team members, was just as emotional as I was as we held the orphan babies. But she reminded me that this is the life they know. They don’t know life with air conditioning, TV, countless toys or with parents. They know the love of the other children and care givers. This was their normal. I left feeling a little defeated, humbled and praying about what that conversation would lead to in my heart.

Then we visited a second orphanage. It was a stark contrast to the first. It was dirty; the children were not a well clothed. It smelled of urine. The overwhelming thing was how much the children wanted to be touched. They rubbed our hands and clung on to us in a way that just took my breath away. Starving for attention, I sat down on the floor with them. Trying to show them as much love as I could in our limited time.

Then came the highlight of my time in Haiti. While Dr. Merline worked with the staff training them on hygiene and caring for the orphans. Dr. Vlad and I taught hygiene and had story time with the children. I read them the story of when Jesus calls the children unto Him. I shared the love of Jesus with them. What a privilege to be able to experience that with them. I told them I came all the ways from the United States to tell them that Jesus loved them. He knew every hair on their head and that He died for them so they could live with them forever. The children laughed and Dr. Vlad told me I was probably the first white person they had ever seen.

Then I heard the most amazing thing. They sang for me in harmony. Not knowing the words, but picking out the tune of Jesus Loves the Little Children, I sang with them trough tears. And if that wasn’t enough! Then they sang, You are my Sunshine in English. I sang that song to Eden every night before she went to bed until she was two. Hearing my special song to my daughter as I looked into the eyes of all those children who didn’t have a mommy to sing to them each night was heart wrenching.

I sat in the van on the trip home, conflicted about how I felt about adoption. I had built a good relationship with Dr. Merline and asked her what she thought about an American adopting a Haitian based on the conversation we had at the first orphanage. Merline thought that the children in the first orphanage would be better off there, but admitted that the second orphanage was not as good and that those children would be better off with parents. Due to some Haitian road rage, we were not able to finish the conversation.

There are so many other questions to ask as some of the reality of the difficulties of cross cultural adoption really sank in. I thought about what it would look like to raise a child from another culture. Larry and I have talked about it and fully admit we have no idea what it would look like to have a Haitian (or any other race) child raised in our home. Scripture teaches there are only two kinds of people, those who are in Christ and those who aren’t. But we don’t live in a scripture bubble. We live in a racially charged culture. What do you do when your children realize that skin comes in different colors and theirs don’t match ours? What do you do when stupid people say stupid things that might hurt your child? How do the people in the country the children are being taken form feel about them leaving? How do you teach a child a culture you are not a part of, but they are? If we adopted internationally would I be taking a future doctor, teacher or pastor out of a culture that so desperately needs leadership? How does that play out in comparison to giving a child a good life with a Momma and Daddy?

As you can see I have far more questions than answers. And there are no perfect answers to some of these questions. For those of you who have walked through this I would love your input. For now, we will continue to pray and seek the Lord. We have also decided to help Oscar ( see day two's post) and sponsor some of his orphans. Maybe one of them will grow up and be a future leader in Haiti.

Clipping fingernails and cleaning ears was part of my job description this day.

Telling the children about Jesus' love for them.

Amy cleaning out the ears of one of the Orphans.
That was some yucky stuff!

We gave out dolls, soccer balls and balloons to the children.

The children were so hungry for affection. They all wanted to hold our hands, sit in our laps, rub our arms, faces and hair. It could be that we were the first white people they had seen. Or it could be they just wanted to be held and loved on.

This is the baby room from the first orphanage.
Amy and I both found babies to love.

Check out his dimples! Such a sweetheart!

Amy with a happy little boy :)


Kelly @ In Everything said...

wow.... what an AMAZING post! You have been sooo transparent with soo many of the issues about cross-cultural adoption and your feelings!!

My heart has been soo touched by adoption since I was in my early teens, between seeing needs and wanting to help to wanting to adopt to learning about a brother I have who was adopted at birth...

but this adds a whole new dimension to ANY family's adoption conversation!

Drea said...

Thanks for sharing this angela, it was very powerful and I love all the pictures. That one little one you are holding whos smiling as he leans into you is just precious!!!
We do hope to adopt one day... its a lot to take in!

YaYa said...

Our sweet, sweet daughter - who's heart is as big as the oceans - your smile to the little one that you are holding - is more reflective than his little dimple.. Your time in Haiti will live in you and the ones you have touched all your lives. You are blessed to have been called there - and they are blessed to have had you there.

grandma said...

I have enjoyed your pictures of Haiti so much! Your reflections on your trip have made me feel like I was there! You can tell by reading it what a wonderful experience it was for you and the team!