TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
I N H I S H A N D S
As I write this, I am sitting in North Carolina awaiting my return flight to Haiti while leaving a part of my heart in Roanoke, Virginia. No actually, not my heart, but the precious child who has been blessed with the gift of a future that would not have existed if she remained in Haiti where the needed medical care was not available.
Over the past six long months, God has proven, time and again, that He is in control and that things that I fretted about and planned for were not in my control at all, but in His!
The summer months were spent on getting official papers for me to travel with someone else’s child, obtaining a passport, re-working ID documents for the parents, re-doing paperwork that was now obsolete and replaced by new forms and new regulations, requesting an appointment with the embassy to apply for a medical visa and so-much-more!
After a summertime of slow progress in finalizing the myriad of steps to make it possible to submit an application for a medical visa, God moved things along in the month of September.
The embassy appointment was set for September 16, requiring traveling by public transportation the four-hour trek to Port-au-Prince. The mother, child, translator and I would have a five-day stay in Port-au-Prince. Various steps were required before I even dared to buy a plane ticket to avoid the cost of having to change the date of travel or perhaps not need the ticket at all!
So many people were praying!!!! I just know that God showed His amazing good favor by allowing the process that can take several days to actually be wrapped up in only three days. It is a reality that “nothing in Haiti is easy”, so, it was a pleasant surprise when the process went so much smoother than I could ever have imagined. The visa was approved AND issued in a couple of hours – unheard of! The travel papers from the social service office were filled out in a matter of minutes and on the same day as the visa appointment– also unheard of! The actual travel document was in my hands the following day, although 2 ½ hours later than promised, but nonetheless in my hands. The flight was booked. A slight glitch finally took place when the flight confirmation failed to show up in my email inbox and I would learn that my credit card was rejected and we were in jeopardy of losing the last seat on the plane. God too handled that, as we were able to make a couple of long phone calls and resolve the matter with confirmed seats for travel the next day.
Early the next morning, the mother arrived from a family member’s home with the baby. I had asked that she be sure to breast feed the baby before turning her over to me to assure that the baby had one last feeding before I would need to attempt to switch her to bottle feedings. I also asked that she braid the baby’s hair so that it would look good for the long hours of travel – a thought that had already occurred to the mom. I took a photo of mother and daughter so that later I could give a print to the family. We headed to the airport. On the way, I asked the chauffeur to translate for me, telling the mama how we would take very good care of her daughter, that I would be praying for the mama and the rest of the family during their months apart, and that she would be going to a very good home where the family would treat the baby as their very own. When we arrived at the sidewalk outside the airport, the mama said her goodbyes as tears filled her eyes. She was one of the few mamas who I had ever seen cry when they gave their child into the hands of the unknown. Many mamas just seem resolved that it is a necessary step for the survival of their child. The chauffeur told her not to cry because the baby was in God’s hands. The mama wiped her tears and nodded. They climbed back in the van and disappeared from sight as porters helped me with my luggage and led us into the airport for check in.
As we went through the various security checkpoints, people watched as this white woman carried this adorable black child through the airport. Questions were asked as to whether or not she was my daughter, or being adopted or what?!?!? Some were surprised, but pleased, to learn that this baby was actually being transported for medical care. Many people offered assistance and were happy to help in any way that they could.
All throughout the airport the baby scanned the many black faces. It was obvious that she was looking for the face of her mother. Her eyes would dart from one woman to another and then back to me. With the need for comfort, she often tugged on my dress wishing for the breastfeeding that she was so accustomed to. Needless to say, it was something I could not offer her. Her distress mounted and she refused to drink from a sippy cup or a bottle. She refused to try the unfamiliar baby food that was so different than the beans & rice with sauce that she was so familiar with. Occasionally she would cuddle on my shoulder, but only for short periods of time before she again searched for the breast milk that would calm her. If I would stand with her cuddled close to me while doing “a little dance” she would settle down. If I would maintain the same position with her but sit down, she would again display her distress. I knew that meant that sitting in a plane for a long period of time was going to be quite the challenge. And that was exactly what happened. Before the plane even left the gate, I was apologizing to fellow passengers for what would prove to be a long ride with a bellowing baby. One hour of a “non-stop, nothing is going to calm this child” episode was very trying for me and for the rest of the people on the airplane. As passengers learned her story, they were a little more sympathetic, but nonetheless, it was an unpleasant experience for all. Thankfully, the baby finally gave in and took a nap for the remaining 30 minutes of the flight.
When we finally disembarked in Miami, I looked forward to being able to change her diaper and again attempt to get some liquid into her tiny 15 pound body. She enjoyed going through the airport as it involved movement that seemed to settle her a bit. It also gave her a chance to once again scan the crowd for that one black face that might be the face of her mother. We had a long wait at the luggage carousal, where several women who once lived in Haiti were working. The baby was becoming agitated again, as she scanned their faces and actually reached out to a woman who resembled her mother. The kind woman came over to hold her for a short while, calming her down and doting on her. I warned the woman that she might not dare leave, as the baby would start crying for her, which is exactly what happened. Having to get back to work, some of the remaining women began to ask questions. “Was I adopting the baby?” etc. etc. etc. When they learned of the baby’s medical condition they expressed their gratitude at my willingness to go to such lengths to get help for her. They wanted to know everything about my little angel.
The time came to find our next gate. I started to contemplate what the next leg of the journey would be like, knowing that we had a long day ahead of us. By day’s end, we would have three airplane rides and would have been through four airports. It was not looking good for the next flight to be any more stress-free than the first one. As I sat down in my seat with the baby, an older couple filled in the two seats next to me. I felt compelled to let them know what they were in for. The woman was very kind and proceeded to try to find a way to appease my distressed baby. Out of her carry-on bag came a set of keys that was sure to entice the baby to enjoy the jingle of a newfound toy. Not! Oh! Certainly a tiny box of Cheerios was a tried and true way to distract a tired and hungry child. Nope! Well, an offer by the couple to move to another set of seats seemed like the best bet for them to get some peace and for me to have room to more easily care for the child. Yes, the extra room was nice, but the peace for this couple and the rest of the passengers was not to be had. Another hour of loud protests was quickly becoming a habit. I prayed for patience! I prayed for tolerance from the other people! I prayed for comfort for the child! I prayed that the baby would give into feeding in a new and different way! I prayed that she would not become dehydrated! And then noticing her swollen gums and new teeth about to break the surface, I prayed some more. It seemed that she was developing a fever, but finally she slept again. All too soon, I needed to disrupt this pleasant state as the plane had arrived at the next airport.
With a very tight connection, we boarded a motorized cart and were whisked away to the next gate just in time to board the next plane. No time to stop for anything. Upon boarding the plane, I asked for a volunteer to hold the baby while I headed to the bathroom. Again, when arriving at my assigned seat, I explained to the passenger who would be sitting by me of what she could expect. She kindly offered me her aisle seat in the event I needed to get out to change the baby’s diaper. Much to my relief, this shorter one-hour flight ended up being the one that this worn-out child finally napped on. For a few moments, I too could close my eyes and breathe a sigh of relief before arriving at our final destination.
A fellow missionary who had been instrumental in locating a doctor and hospital (whose services would be gratis) greeted us at the airport. It was she who also offered her home to me as a place to stay for the few days that I would be in town! My host even located frozen breast milk to entice the baby to consume the liquid that was so needed by this child. A bath for the baby was the next thing on the agenda, with hopes that a restful night would follow. Upon bathing the baby, we learned that the baby’s skin had become compromised on the site of her meningocele, most likely caused by the long travel day. I started beating myself up feeling like I was responsible for her condition. With a heavy heart, I headed to bed after my host offered to relieve me of my baby duties, so that I could get some much-needed sleep. While I zonked out for the night, my host and her husband endured a long sleepless night with our restless angel.
The following morning, another family member graciously offered to be a wet nurse for the baby, as she continued to long to be breastfed. Doing so, we were given the assurance that the baby would not become dehydrated. The compromised skin continued to be of concern, thus, the pediatrician who would be seeing the baby was contacted. On a Sunday morning, she dropped everything and had us bring the baby to her office for an exam. The host family agreed to meet us there. The skin situation had the potential of delaying or cancelling the upcoming surgery altogether, so special measures needed to be put in place to assure that no further breakdown of the skin would occur. After a thorough exam and the fitting of a protective cover for the affected area, the baby was ready for the journey to her host family’s home.
Amazingly, the baby slept through the night on her first night at her new home. The second night, however, proved to be a challenge. The following morning a return visit to the pediatrician took place. The baby would be given five vaccinations (to get her up-to-date) and a fluoride treatment for her teeth and medication for thrush and low-iron. Her skin condition was monitored, and thankfully, showed no worsening of the condition.
Immediately following the doctor visit, I headed for the airport for my return trip to Haiti. Upon arriving in Haiti the next morning, I was greeted by the chauffeur that had earlier escorted us all around Port-au-Prince and had been the one who delivered the baby and me to the airport, with the mother coming along to say goodbye. Out of curiosity, I asked him what the mother’s reaction was when she saw us leave and enter the airport. He explained that she had cried loud, long and uncontrollably. Oddly enough, it made me feel good. It demonstrated to me how very much she loved her baby and how she would be looking forward to the baby’s return. The chauffeur had calmed her by telling her that she could trust me to take good care of her daughter and that her daughter was being given the gift of a chance at a full life.
Now back in Haiti, I was able to meet with the parents and bring them photos of their daughter in the USA. I assured them that I would give them updates and they would remain in my prayers.
I have been notified that the surgery has been scheduled for 7AM on October 1. Please join me in praying for a successful surgery and recovery and for all who are involved in her care while she is in the USA. Pray for her birth family!
What a great God we have, as through this all, this little angel is IN HIS HANDS!
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time, God willing …………