M Y J O Y

Communiqué #128

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

February 14, 2019

 

M Y     J O Y

 

While the violence and destruction of the current civil unrest in Haiti is dominating news here in Haiti, I have chosen to focus on my most current joy!

It was not by chance that last night, the movie “LION” appeared on our television screen and that the film was actually broadcasted in English.  What a treat to hear something in English!  I had forgotten that I had seen the movie in the states, but nonetheless, I was riveted to the story-line that was based on the true-life events of Saroo Brierly.

As a young child living in India, Saroo became lost and was unable to find his way home back to his mother and the community in which they lived.  Eventually, Saroo is adopted by a couple in Australia, but never does he forget about his mom and brother in India.  His life became absorbed by the longing to find his birthplace and his birth family.  The reunion was full of tears and joy!

The movie was all too real for me and my tears flowed both for the telling of Saroo’s story, but more importantly for the unfolding of a similar reunion that I was privileged to be a witness to earlier this month.

Many times, I struggle with wondering if my work in Haiti is truly making a difference.  I wonder if the little that I have to offer is of any importance at all.   The movie made me realize that if assisting with a reunion of adopted children with their birth family was the only work that I did, God has given me a reason to know that what I do is of great importance!  What a glorious task He has given to me!  What joy that task brings!

Most recently, after 15 years of being apart, I witnessed the reunion of two young adults and their birth family.

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I have known this family since the time the young men were small boys.  I have known their adoptive family as friends and members of my home church in the states.  What I was able to witness is the full circle that God had planned all along.

The joys were many …

–  the first moments of reunion, filled with hugs and tears and stored up emotions!

–  the love that the adoptive mother showed to the birth mother

–  the love that the birth mother showed to the adoptive mother

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–  the meeting of parents & siblings, of grandparents, of godparents, of uncles &  aunts and nieces and cousins and even a former babysitter!

–  the time of heart-wrenching stories of how the adoption all came to be and how God worked out

all the pieces of that puzzle

–  the re-experiencing of life in Haiti with things like tap-taps (a form of transportation) and difficult roads and beautiful Haitian landscapes

–  the rediscovery of smells, and sounds, and tastes

–  the separation of what were memories imagined and what actually had occurred

–  the joy of the entire birth family, some of whom expressed that. just like Simeon in the Bible when he finally meets Jesus, they too could now die having been given the gift of this long-awaited reunion

–  the observing of memories that came alive of the adopted mens’ birthplace, the Haitian food, the community spirit of extended family and the love that never wavered for them!

–  the pride that the birth family felt in being able to provide the very best “banquet” they could give, with the knowledge that the cost of this meal would strain the family food budget

–  the laughter of times remembered and new memories being made

–  the simple gifts offered, such as coconut milk from the tree in front of the family’s home

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–  informal Kreyol lessons taught by the birth mother (a former school teacher)

–  the joy of parents as they learned that they would have a new grandchild

–  the love it took by the birth family to release their children the first time and now another time, not

knowing if or when they will see each other again

–  the completion of a circle of love!

 

 

It has not only been a joy for me to witness this most recent reunion, but I have been blessed to follow the lives of other adoptees, from their time in the orphanage, then adoption and eventually being reunited with their birth families.  One never knows if the reunion will be a good experience or a difficult experience. I am happy to say, that these reunions were no less filled with love and joy!

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Thank you, God, for letting me be your hands and feet and a small part of your big plan for the children whose lives have crossed my path!

 

 

Nora Léon                           

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic       Until next time, God willing …………

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Happy 15th Anniversary Caribbean Children’s Foundation

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Happy 15th Anniversary CCF!

Little did I know in 2003 what Caribbean Children’s Foundation would look like 15 years later!  I am so grateful for the many ways that God has blessed the ministry.  New programs, awesome volunteers, funds that came in just at the time that we really needed them … these things and more is what the last 15 years have brought!

I thought that a fun way to celebrate would be to list 15 ways that you can help!  Pick one!  Pick more!

  1. Pray for Caribbean Children’s Foundation
  2. Pray for the staff of CCF
  3. Pray for the many volunteers who we could not do without!
  4. Sponsor a student at $25 or more per month!
  5. Sponsor an orphan at $50 or more per month!
  6. Donate to our Academic Goat Reward Program!
  7. Come visit us in Haiti and see the ministry firsthand
  8. Organize a fundraiser for CCF
  9. Let us know if you would be interested in serving on the board of CCF
  10. Make a donation to CCF to be used where needed most
  11. Volunteer to share a special talent to make CCF even better
  12. Help us fund the medical clinic that is currently under construction
  13. Offer to teach a skill at GRACE Trade School
  14. Have a CCF staff member speak at your church or place of business
  15. And did I mention? Pray. Pray

A donation can be made by using the DONATE button on our Facebook page.  You can pay by credit card even if you are not a Paypal member.   Here is the link …

https://www.facebook.com/caribbeanchildrensfoundation/

OR

Mail your donation to Caribbean Children’s Foundation, PO Box 33, Jenison MI. 49429.0033

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Communiqué #127

Communiqué #127

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

August 4, 2018

 

 

B I T T E R S W E E T

 

For the first time since opening Grace Orphanage in 2011, we are allowing some of the older boys to spend a few days with their birth families during summer vacation.  It is something the boys have asked about and something we have contemplated doing.  This year seemed to be the right time.

I have tried to imagine what that whole experience would be like.  Would they miss the orphanage or would they never want to return?  Would they remember extended family members?  Would they have enough to eat during their visit?  Would the house that they remember still be their family home?  Would the family find it hard to return their children back into our care?  Is it a good choice to allow this experience or does it stir up too many conflicting emotions?

For Stanley and Kerly it was 7 years since they had seen their home town.  The two boys traveled to the mainland with us and were met by their father on the wharf.  The boys’ faces reflected both delight and apprehension.  The father was “over the top” happy!  He was amazed to see that Stanley was taller than he was. He was excited about traveling one hour with them to return them to their home town.

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Stanley with his father!

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Father and Son (Kerly)

I could not help but think about them the whole time they were gone.  Were they afraid?  Were they hungry?  Did they have trouble sleeping?  OR  Was it the best experience ever?

After their stay, we greeted Stanley and Kerly at the wharf when it was time for them to return to Île-à-Vache.  Once again, their faces were a mixture of delight and apprehension.  The father was so excited to talk about the reunion.  He was so very happy that Stanley had learned to play the keyboard while at the orphanage and was able to share that talent with the church in his home town.  It was a source of great pride for the father.  He could not thank us enough for the many opportunities his sons have had because of the life the orphanage has been able to offer.

Upon returning to Île-à-Vache, Stanley asked Poppy Léon to have a private conversation with him.  So many thoughts popped into my mind as to what that conversation would be about.  Stanley (being the older of the two brothers) had some insightful comments.  He had discussed these things with his younger brother Kerly and now he wanted to share these thoughts with Léon.  Stanley started off by saying that the conditions at his home were very bad.  Seven family members slept in the home during their visit, when normally it was only five.  The family only owns one bed.  The home was in such poor repair, the boys were told not to lean on the structure in some of the places, as the wall would collapse.  Stanley realized that he was taller and healthier than his older brother, knowing that, in part, it was due to the lack of food available to his birth family.  Upon realizing all of this, he reflected on how he had previously complained about his life at the orphanage.  But now, he realized that he had it so much better than the rest of his family.  He knew his attitude needed to change to appreciation.  He vowed to do good in school and to work hard to learn something that later he could use to help his birth family.  I was deeply touched at his maturity level and his insight.  As bittersweet as the visit was, I felt that it was a valuable experience both for the boys living at the orphanage and for the birth family.

The birth family’s circumstances determine the length of stay, based on available food and housing situations.  This week Wenshel and Jeffté have the opportunity to visit their birth families.   I pray that they too will be ok with this bittersweet experience.  I will think about and pray for them the whole time they are gone.

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Jeffté will travel with his godfather (and pastor of his family’s church) to his home town!

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Jeffté and Wenshel enjoy rice & bean sauce at our home while waiting to reunite with their birth families

This series of events reminds me how quickly I can get caught up in complaining about my circumstances, when in reality I am truly, truly blessed.  Forgive me Lord!

Your prayers for the boys at GRACE Orphanage and for children all over the world who are separated from their families is so appreciated!   Please pray for the adults who care for and nurture these children when their own parents are unable to do so.

 

Nora Léon                           

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic       Until next time, God willing …………

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Communiqué #126

Communiqué #126

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

 

February 11, 2018

 

 

L I V I N G   w i t h    Z E S T

How is that a little boy who lived on this earth for less than 6 years could so impact my life in the few short months that I had the privilege to know him???   Ched (pronounced “Shed”) arrived at the orphanage in October 2016 and left to live with extended family members shortly before his October 2017 tuberculosis diagnosis.  From the very first day that I met him I knew he was special.  His under-his-breath little chuckle, his gigantic smile, his wit, his natural talent for working with his hands, and his quick-love and acceptance towards others all made him who he was.  He made me want to be a better person!

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(See Communiqué #123 for another piece of Ched’s story)

On the afternoon of February 1, 2018, we received an unexpected text message from Ched’s father.  It simply said “Ched is dead.”  I wanted to say “Tell me it is not true!”

Through a phone conversation we learned more of the details.  This is the father’s version of what happened. Ched was admitted the day before to the General Hospital in LesCayes because he was having difficulty breathing.  Because the father had records from the doctor who had treated Ched for TB, this record authorized a new doctor to treat him.  The doctor said that Ched needed oxygen and told the father he needed to go out into the city to buy a battery-operated oxygen system.  The father went out to perform the difficult task of finding this equipment in a place where such products are hard to find.  Upon returning to the hospital with his purchase, he found Ched connected to an oxygen machine run on electricity that had been sitting at the hospital.   Apparently, the doctor seeing how much Ched was struggling to breathe had authorized the connection of the device even though it was against hospital policy to start any treatment before the treatment was paid for in full.  During the evening, Ched’s father stayed at his side.  Feeling very fatigued, the father fell asleep sitting next to Cheds’ hospital bed.  He awoke when he realized that the power had gone off sometime during his nap.  He turned to look at Ched and found him lifeless.  No nurse or doctor had come to check on him when the power went out.  The electrical oxygen machine had failed Ched, when the battery-operated machine that the father had purchased sat unused and now useless beside the bed.  His precious little Ched was gone!

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In Haiti, you have 24 hours to bury someone who will not be embalmed.  As embalming was much too costly for Ched’s father, he quickly made the necessary decisions to bury his son.  He had to borrow a friend’s motorcycle to bring his son to the family burial plot.  At 1AM, the father set off on this journey cradling his child while driving over 2 hours to his son’s final resting place.  As a woodworker, Ched’s father has made many, many caskets.  Little did he know that on this day, we would be buying the materials to make a casket for his own little son.

Having only the equivalent of only $10 US left to his name, the father needed to ask several friends if they could loan him money to pay for everything related to Ched’s medical care and his burial.  Growing up in an orphanage himself, the father has no living parents and no immediate family who can help him.   The events of Ched’s illness and his eventual death in itself was quite a burden to bear.  The financial needs only magnified the father’s distress.

Sadly, this type of story is not unique for people living here.  Life here is plain and simply … VERY difficult!

Please join me in praying for Ched’s father and all people everywhere who suffer so greatly!

 

If you are moved to help financially, please do so via the DONATE tab @ CaribbeanChildrensFoundation.org

or mail a check to Caribbean Children’s Foundation, PO Box 33, Jenison MI. 49429.0033 USA

Please place the words “CHED MEMORIAL” in the comment section!  

Thank you!

 

R.I.P. little Ched!

May 9, 2012 to January 31, 2018

 

 

Nora Léon                           

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic      Until next time, God willing …

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Communiqué #125

 

Communiqué #125

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

August 23, 2017

 

W E L D E R    i  n    D E M A N D 

A very exciting event was in store for us on the day that we set off to visit the community of Boisbouton on the other side of the tiny island of Île-à-Vache.  Nearly 10 months ago Hurricane Matthew had brought havoc to this community.  The storm had torn off the newly installed roof of the school and church that was being built. On our visit on this day we would see the replacement roof majestically perched on top of the restored structure.  It was truly a reason for celebration!

Pulling up to the site, I could see many men, women and children gathered near the structure.  My initial thought was that they had come here to celebrate with us.  It certainly was a big deal for the community!

Quickly, however, I would learn that they were not there for that reason at all!  They were actually there because a generator AND a welder was there.  There were so many things in their homes that needed welding, but finding a welder within walking distance was only a dream.  Now, right there in their midst, was exactly what they needed!  People came from all directions with broken down metal bed frames, “charcoal stoves” that were falling apart and even motorcycles with parts in need of welding.  Patiently each person waited their turn to finally have a four-legged bed again, a cooking surface that could be mended or needed repairs for their motorcycle.

It seems that the new structure brought out people for more reasons than the original intent of the building.  We pray that the people will return to this site to bring their children to school and their families to worship!  After all, this building is intended for more than the repair of physical items, but also for the educational and spiritual needs of the community!  May God continue to pour His blessings out on Boisbouton!

 

Nora Léon                                  

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic       Until next time, God willing …………

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Communiqué #124

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

May 17, 2017

 

 

M A N G O S   a n d   P B & J

 

 

People in Haiti always look forward to mango season! In the southwestern part of Haiti, this year the appearance of mangos is a bigger-than-normal deal! Hurricane Matthew devastated gardens and the mango crop in October 2016, leaving a people with no hopes of vegetables for months until gardens could be re-planted and harvested and no fruit until trees would again produce.

Much to the delight of adults and children alike, mangos have made their debut on Île-à-Vache this month! Suffering from a greater-than-normal food shortage has been a painful reminder what it is like to be hungry on a daily basis! The appearance of this juicy, tasty fruit is a welcome sight indeed!

It is not uncommon for children to eat 12 mangos in one sitting! It doesn’t matter that one will suffer a bellyache as a result, the tastiness of the fruit far outweighs the temporary discomfort.

The boys of GRACE Orphanage are equally as eager to feast on this treat! It is a pleasure to peel back the skin with one’s teeth and devour the juiciness fresh off the tree. An especially ripe fruit will result in the juices dribbling down one’s chin and dripping past one’s elbows, requiring a bucket of water to later remove the “sticky mess” from one’s face, arms, and clothes!

As the victims of Hurricane Matthew continue to struggle to have enough to eat and restore their lives to closer to how it was before the storm, please continue to keep them in your prayers and to help provide financial support!

On a recent visit to the orphanage, I was able to capture a few photos of our boys enjoying mangos. I also had decided to bring a large loaf of sliced bread, some peanut butter and some grape jelly. Little did I know that the boys of the orphanage had NEVER had PB&J sandwiches before. They had eaten peanut butter on bread, but had never added jelly. As I made sandwiches and cut them into triangular fourths, the boys watched in excitement. Once they tasted the sweet treat, they could not stuff the sandwiches into their mouths fast enough. I believe they were even swallowing the sandwiches whole in attempt to be ready for the next quarter that I would offer them. The older boys and the younger boys were both equally excited about the newest treat. The giggles that filled the room, the gleam in their eyes, and their excitement was so much fun to witness! They asked if today was a party!  They asked if they could have this treat EVERY day!! I cannot explain how much joy that this simple event brought to me! I think that maybe now I will bring PB&J to them EVERY time I visit. No toy, no trinket, no candy that I could have brought would have given them more pleasure.

Oh! The simple things in life! Today, as an American who grew up eating PB&J on an almost-daily basis, I am treasuring the joy that simple peanut butter and jelly brought to the boys of GRACE Orphanage!   And now I ask you … What is it today that is bringing you a simple joy??? Savor it! Treasure it, my friend!

 

 

Nora Léon                   

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic      Until next time, God willing …………

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Communiqué #123

Communiqué #123

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY to the PEOPLE of HAITI

February 25, 2017

 

O N C E   A G A I N

Once again I find myself with an ache in my gut as I enter the General Hospital in LesCayes. This time it is for the newest little guy at the orphanage. Yesterday, Ched had invented himself a swing of sorts from an old mosquito net. It was not surprising that Ched had made yet another invention. For a little 4 year old, he has amazing handyman skills, developed by following his handyman father around when he had no mother to care for him and no choice but to be with his papa. He knows his tools. He knows when a hammer is needed, when a screwdriver is needed and what to do with a nail. This time, however, his invention resulted in a fall and a nasty break of his left leg.

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Ched with one of his recent “inventions”

He was injured on Thursday and after having a sleepless, painful night it became clear that the orphanage staff would need to take him on Friday on a boat for treatment only available on the mainland. Most likely he took a 20-minute motorcycle ride over a severely rutted road to reach the wharf where the water taxi would make the hour-long voyage to the mainland. Ched arrived at the hospital early in the morning. His x-rays revealed a diagonal break of his left leg from hip nearly to the knee and the need for a cast. It was not until late morning, however, before a doctor was available to perform the task.

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Side-by-side images of the broken left leg

I have seen this same room not too long ago (see Communiqué #120) when I brought another boy from Île-à-Vache for an orthopedic issue. The room was not any more sanitary. The affected skin area was not cleansed. The equipment was the same antique pieces that I had seen before. A strong doctor pulled hard on Ched’s leg in an attempt to align the broken bone, as traction equipment is only a dream. It was then that little Ched cried out “Manmi Nora!” as if to say “Please rescue me!” As we watched our little guy writhe in pain, I wiped the tears that were flowing from his eye down into his ear. He was smothered in sweat and pleading to be able to sit up. His cast would end up engulfing his tummy and both of his legs with a crude board between his legs to keep him immobile. It breaks my heart to know that for at least the next four weeks, he will not be able to stand, walk or sit. Such an active little guy will certainly not understand why he has to remain so still.

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Two-handed pull on broken limb

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Making the leg immobile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My prayer now is that his leg will heal properly and he will one day soon be able to be the active, curious, inventive boy that I have come to love.

This event also reminds me (yet again) what a great need there is for a hospital on Île-à-Vache. Today, as the doctor was setting Ched’s leg he mentioned that the little patient just before Ched was also a boy from Île-à-Vache. He had broken his arm and had to make a similar boat ride to the mainland to receive care.

Please join me in praying for the complete recovery of Ched and for the medical facility that is SO badly needed on Île-à-Vache! Our great God can do the impossible. You can be a part of helping to more adequately care for the medical needs of the people of this little isle!

 

Nora Léon                   

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic          Until next time, God willing …

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