In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

In The Image Of God

Earlier this week, the wounded howls of an 8 year old boy tore through the nursery. 'I won't stay here! I'm going! I'm going with my Mum and Dad! I'm leaving now!'

There were too many foreigners here, he told me and he didn't want them staring at him and he didn't want anything we had to offer. Our children would be mean to him, our food would give him cholera, and our teachers would surely beat him, so no, he didn't want anything from us! He just wanted his Mum!

Although Sebastien's mother loves him she cannot cope with the demands of caring for her son. Sebastien was born with severe club feet and only began receiving corrective treatment last year. He has external fixators - pins driven through the bones of his feet and lower legs that are attached to metal rods and frames.

It was hard, caring for Sebastien under normal circumstances. Then, the house she was living in become unlivable after last year's earthquake. She has been living in a tent with her three children ever since. Sebastien is wheel-chair bound, his care and therapy needs will extend over months and years, and the family's living circumstances are unlikely to change any time soon. While his legs are in frames, and until he is able to walk, Sebastien will not be able to go to school, since Haitian schools are not accessible for children with disabilities. This is not the life his mother wants for him. She wants him to get the care and therapy he needs and she wants him to have a future beyond that.

Although we understand why his mother has given him up, Sebastien does not. In the days following his arrival here, Sebastien grieved hard. He was distrustful and suspicious, he was sad and angry, and he wouldn't eat or play. He had suffered a lifetime of teasing and shunning and rejection, and now, he would face that reality without his Mum. It couldn't get any worse than this, by his estimation.

Even in his sorrow though, Sebastien could see that there was something different about this place. Although it was not a hospital, there were lots of sick kids here. He counted one with cerebral palsy, and several on daily medications. There was a foreign nurse who was missing a leg, and a nanny who was a dwarf. She had had external fixators when she was a little girl, she told him. We must have seemed like a motley bunch of foreigners and Haitians, caring for children who weren't our own, even chronically ill and disabled ones.

More than once, we saw Sebastien watching us with a bemused and perplexed frown. One day, late in the afternoon at bath time, there was a smile dancing in his eyes, and he decided to share some of his observations with me. 'You bathe the children in warm water here! All through bath time, he laughed from deep in his belly and shook his head. His mood had lightened, just for a little while, but as I changed Sebastien into pyjamas, he grew quieter and more serious again. I was pleased that he had softened his heart and allowed a little bit of joy in but the grieving was far from over, and I knew that his moods would be changeable.

'Take me downstairs, Susan, to watch some television'
'I can do that, but you need to eat first, I told him.
'I'm going to eat again?, he asked incredulously? How many times do you feed the children, here?' I replied that we give them three meals and two snacks every day. His all ready serious expression deepened. 'These kids eat a lot,' he told me. 'They are the only ones.'

As Sebastien accepts a new routine, helping me to hand out supplies, doing rounds of the nurseries with me, and some learning activities, I am preparing him for a transfer to the toddler house. He is adjusting better than I would have expected at this point. Most of the time, he is happy and very engaging.

I pray that in the enclosed orphanage environment, he will find love and acceptance. He needs physical healing but more than that, he needs to know deep in his heart that he is beautiful just as he is, a child made in the image of God. Broken and beautiful.

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him......' (Genesis 1:26)

1 comment:

Marie said...

I keep coming back to this post...there is something incredibly heartwarming about this young boy. He is a trooper! I will pray that his forever family will find him soon!