Day 2 of my Haiti vision trip was one of the most difficult for me. Even now, it's hard for me to digest because what we experienced that day was very personal for me... it hit too close to home.
We woke up early and hit the road for a very long ride to the town of Neply for church. There, we were introduced to an incredible organization - myLIFEspeaks. I learned almost immediately that this organization provides orphan care for special needs kiddos (among other things). As their team played limbo with the neighborhood kids, I walked around the room and was drawn to a photo collage of their "kids." I read the stories about special needs and typically developing children, but I was drawn to one story in particular. Jay's.
I read the description next to his picture:
April 21, 2000 - September 30, 2012
Disabilities: Autism & Epilepsy
Jay was brought to myLIFEspeaks in April of 2012. Jay was turned out of his home at a young age and grew up on the streets of a neighboring village. Because he was different, Jay was well known and poorly treated. After he experienced a seizure that he did not recover from, Jay was memorialized and laid to rest with the highest honors of Haitian tradition. After living just six months as part of the myLIFEspeaks FAMILY, Jay's legacy was forever changed. He is dearly missed.
My eyes filled up with tears and my chest felt heavy so I stepped outside to get it together because I didn't want the kids inside to see me cry. The thought of this boy being abandoned and bullied broke my heart. That sweet boy with autism who was about the same age as my own son didn't know what it felt like to be loved until this organization came along. When I tell you that I was deeply affected by this, I called Ryan days later sobbing. Jay had constantly been on my mind. It was hard to even talk about it. But I found some peace in knowing that this organization was there for him in his final months and made him feel loved.
I managed to pull it together for the church service that was held under a huge mango tree in front of the compound. The message was essentially about "to whom much is given, much is required." It was timely and on point for me.
We ate Haitian pate for lunch - it's basically a deliciously fried empanada. Later that afternoon we were given a tour around Neply and were able to see all of the great work myLIFEspeaks is doing there. The organization recently purchased land to build a soccer field - we were able to visit the exact spot. They sponsor a medical clinic. We even got to meet some of their kids who have been placed with families in the neighborhood.
|A house in Neply|
At one point during the tour, we came upon a voodoo temple - voodoo is widely practiced in Haiti. Someone suggested praying in front of the temple. The group stood together and prayed but I stood off to the side and tried to have a conversation with two young girls who were watching us (they speak Creole - I failed miserably). I guess I figured I would never stand in front of a mosque or a temple and pray that those people find Jesus (that's just me) so why would I start now. And I probably watched the movie Angel Heart too many times growing up - I didn't want any of that voodoo juju near me. I did say a private prayer later though.
That afternoon, I swore I was gonna die. I'd volunteered to sit in the back of our truck for the 2 hour ride back to Port-au-Prince with the Haitian sun beating down on us. Big mistake. Huge. At one point we came to a complete stop because the police were apparently arresting someone for not having the proper i.d. ahead. We sat there for a good 20 minutes without moving. It was absolutely miserable. That's when I decided I was really ready to come home... which also meant I was exactly where I needed to be. The whole reason I went on this trip was to step outside of my comfort zone and struggle a bit with the hope of gaining perspective and achieving personal growth. Mission accomplished.
More posts to come!