Every time D leaves to go on any trip without me, I make sure he’s armed with a battery-charged camera and I holler “take lots of pictures!” as we say our goodbyes at the concourse. But he's such a reluctant photographer, more of a savor-the-moment kind of guy. While in Haiti, he decided to take a new approach to satisfying my request. He handed off his point-and-shoot to the kids at the orphanage to “capture their lives through their eyes”. Pretty clever, huh? Well, here's a sample of the 55 pictures he returned home with:
The following article was published in the Embrace newsletter. I hope they don’t mind me dropping it into our blog, as it will save me from having to nag D for blog material (D, you lucked out this time--other people provided the trip pictures AND the re-cap!). D, by the way, is the “father of three” referenced in the article.
Haiti: 19 Months Later By Frank Betzer, Development Director, AGCI Photos: Special thanks to Faith Missions International's Gift of God Orphanage in Port au Prince, Haiti.
(August 2011) As our mission team drove through the streets of Port-au-Prince, wet and cold from the drenching rains that poured through the screened sides of our truck, a hush fell over everyone. Just moments before, we shared stories of our experiences during this all-too-brief trip to Haiti. We marveled at the beauty of terraced hillsides, steep valleys, and homes perched atop one another in the mountains outside the capital.
But as we passed by crumpled buildings and row upon row of tents, some emblazoned with "US AID" and others labeled "PRC" (People's Republic of China), we were reminded that our discomfort was only momentary. Soon, we would be back at our guest house and able to take shelter from the rain. We would put on clean, dry clothes, eat a hot meal, and sleep in a comfortable bed. We wouldn't be wondering if our few possessions would be swept away by the next rain.
The Haitian tent cities remain intact, a grim reminder that more than 600,000 Haitians still have no place to call home since the January 2010 earthquake. A tropical rainstorm had us cringing at the site of water-soaked children and adults seeking shelter amidst overflowing gutters and alleys strewn with garbage. Starvation, violence, sex trafficking, disease, and worst of all, utter hopelessness cried out to us from the acres of gray tents crammed into what is quickly becoming a permanent setting.
As one of our team members, a father of three, later expressed so movingly, "I saw myself in that place, with my little girls huddled in a tent corner trying to stay dry and I heard them whisper, 'When will Daddy make it better?'"
When will it be better? Haiti was already the poorest country in the western hemisphere; the 2010 earthquake only made it much, much worse. An estimated 10,000 NGOs (non-government organizations) work in Haiti, bringing food and water, temporary shelter, sanitation, and some degree of public safety. But life is at a level few of us would consider acceptable, except in the most dire circumstances, and then only for a few days. The children and adults of Haiti have lived in tents for 19 months.
Yet amidst the abject poverty of Haiti, we also experienced pockets of hope. At Faith Mission International's Gift of God Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, we were greeted by fifty joyful children who are well loved and cared for. They receive food and shelter, education and vocational training, and an understanding of Christ's love that is alive and evident in each of them.
We approached the orphanage loaded with expectations of teaching the children a few songs. They greeted us at the gates with melodious voices carrying off harmonies and rhythms that were full and enchanting. We brought instruments, games, crafts, and toys to teach them how to play. They showed us how to share, enjoy one another's accomplishments, and celebrate the moment with little, rather than always needing abundance. Team members came prepared to provide basic vocational information and training and were received with great appreciation; we were given a tour of the on-site bakery where the older kids learn much-needed skills and the value of work. We had prepared ourselves by learning a few words of Creole so we could tell them Jesus loves them. They told us in Creole, and some in English, that they know Jesus, and that He loves us too.
Gift of God Orphanage is one of the best orphanages in Haiti. Yet we left knowing there are things we can do to make a difference for the children. Future AGCI teams hope to provide a new outdoor kitchen to replace the two charcoal grates where all the children's meals are prepared. Team members will be asked to build a wall in the girls' dormitory and construct cubbies so that the children will have space to keep their few personal belongings. Other simple projects will emerge as we continue to visit. But mostly we will return to teach and to be taught, to share and receive, and to love and be loved.
We were also present at the beginning stages of a new orphanage in Haiti. AGCI's new board chair, Mike Anderson, a team from Global Orphan Hope, and Embrace Missions team members helped string construction lines to mark the foundation and gathered to pray over the site and its leaders. This new home is scheduled to open in 2012 and provide care for fifty infants, toddlers, and children with special needs. Everyone was moved by the magnitude of the moment—the sheer responsibility of stepping out in faith to make a difference for some of Haiti's 300,000 orphans. At least for some of the children in Haiti who wonder, "When will it be better?" the answer is soon, very soon.