This is a continuation of a story we have been telling over the past few weeks, so if you have not been keeping up, please click here for Part 1, click here for Part 2, click here for Part 3, click here for Part 4, click here for Part 5, or click here for Part 6 so that the story will make sense.
So Saturday finally came, and we had no idea what to expect. I actually had in my mind that if 10 of the children’s families were there it would be a huge success, but I just really had no idea. I didn’t know how well I had communicated what we were trying to do, I didn’t know who cared enough about their children to come, and I didn’t know how tempting it would be for some of the family members to come just because there were Americans involved. I told everyone on the phone that we be meeting at our house at 10 that morning. I also knew that this meant that people would be coming anywhere from 9 to 2 because time here is just not the same as time in America. The main thing I remember is just a sense of limbo and not having any idea of what to expect. I was so hopeful but at the same time so nervous that nobody would show. I knew that we were offering the best thing for these children, but I also knew that Haitian nationalism ran deep and that none of the families really knew who we were.
Almost right at 10 we had our first 2 Moms. I remember specifically Angena and Milouse’s mom coming and wanting to put their daughters with us. I also remember knowing that what was best for their daughters was for them to stay with their parents. Since they were there alone, we talked with them and convinced them that we would help them and that we would pay for school for them but they needed to stay with their Moms. It was the first time we met Angena’s Mom, but they both agreed, and it gave me a sense that the day would work out well. One of the best things about getting to know the children over the past 3 years prior to this event is that we know whether or not they have families who actually care about them, and we knew the families that we could reunite and the ones we could not.
After that, 2 more families from the area around the orphanage came and they were families we knew needed our help. At this point, we had our first 3 children. After that, it was a steady stream of families (there were a couple of children who we cannot find any family members but “family representatives” came), and by the end every single child had a representative there except for 2…Kervinson and Gueline who are brother and sister. It was amazing. We were still at our house, and we were now meeting with all of the families together to explain to them what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how everything would work. We explained to them that we wanted to take them to Hope Rising next so that they could see where our orphanage would be located and if they still wanted the children to live with us, we had transportation waiting to drive up to the orphanage so they could pick up their children along with all of their belongings.
So we arrived at Hope Rising, and everyone was amazed at the new place. We showed them the room for girls and the room for boys, we flipped the switch to show them the power, we took them into the bathrooms to show them the water, and we showed them the huge land where the kids could run and play. Everyone was thrilled that we had found this place, and it just seemed to be getting better and better. Everyone seemed to be on our side and ready to go and take their children from the old place and bring them to Hope Rising. There were 2 problems:
1. We had not seen Kervinson and Gueline’s Mom yet.
2. They still had to go up and talk to Audancin and be willing to take their children with them.
The parents loaded up in the 2 trucks and they all headed up to Audancin’s. We were not with them because we did want to cause a scene nor did we want to be associated directly with the events that were about to happen. This time was extremely difficult. Everyone was leaving, but we stayed back and could do nothing but wait…
While we were not there, one of our employees was there and any details I have we received from her. We know that when the families all arrived Audancin was not there. He had gone into Leogane for some reason even though the day before I told him that the children’s families would be coming to meet with him. This seemed like good news as he was not able to try and talk anyone into staying at the orphanage with him, and we know the children immediately began packing up their belongings. There was one problem…Rosie was there and did not know what to do with all of the families coming to take their children out. So she did the only logical thing (this sentence is sarcasm as you are about to see). She locked the only entrance to the gate so that nobody could leave. This is not a joke. She actually closed the gate, put a chain around it, and locked everyone inside (children and families). I am not sure exactly how long the gate was locked, but I know that she was not unlocking it until Audancin returned from Leogane.
While this was going on, we were sitting inside Hope Rising waiting to get an update. We thought that it would take about an hour for the families to go up to the orphanage, take their children’s things, and come back. We were wrong. Because of these new circumstances, we ended up sitting at Hope Rising waiting for our children to come home for about 3 hours and not knowing what was happening. This time was miserable, and we had no idea what to do. We had some friends around, the Cazek (the elected official who was there for us) was there, our cook and assistant were making dinner for everyone, and Jessica’s parents and our friend that had come down for America were all with us. But all we did was sit. I don’t remember talking a lot, but I do remember doing a lot of pacing back and forth. I just kept thinking about our 2 children whose family had not come and about Audancin and Rosie’s children who could not come and how difficult this would be for them. I kept wondering if Audancin was going to talk any family members into staying with him, or if the children even wanted to come with us. All of these different things were running through my mind, but there was just nothing we could do except for wait…and sit.
We know that when Audancin arrived at the orphanage, he had a lot to say. I know that he begged the families to let the kids stay, I know he was very angry, and I know that he tried as hard as he could to prevent the children (and his source of income) from leaving. We heard these things from the people who were there. But I really remember waiting around when, all of a sudden, I received a very strange phone call. Audancin was calling me and I had no idea what he could possibly want. I answered the phone, and all he said is that the families are here and that he is sending all of the children with them to come to Hope Rising. Now, I know that there was nothing that he could have done at this point, but it was kind of like a concession call. All of a sudden, everything seemed real. All of the planning and work and waiting were about to come to an end, and it seemed like the kids were about to come home.
About 30 minutes later, 2 trucks pulled into the Hope Rising campus.
OUR KIDS WERE HOME!
I could not adequately describe the sight of the trucks pulling in with all of our children or the way I felt as I saw the children I loved pull into a place where I knew they would be safe for the first time. All I really remember was that our kids were home, and that was all that really mattered.
The next 2 hours consisted of helping people (almost all of whom could neither read nor write) fill out the needed paperwork, get them a meal, and begin the process of trying to find birth certificates for all of the children that we did not have them for yet. We knew that there was a lot of work to do. We also knew that our children had spent the last 5 years living in a place with very few rules, very little safety, but a lot of friends and that all of these things would make a transition very difficult. But none of that mattered at the moment. All that mattered was our children, for the first time, were with us! They were safe and we could begin to make sure they were always cared for and most of all that they were always loved.
Even as I type this, everything seems surreal. As I type this I can’t even believe that our children are sitting just a few feet away watching “Hook” together after having just had a wonderful meal and a great worship service together. I also cannot believe how tired I am as we have been with our children pretty much constantly for the past 3 weeks with very very few breaks. I also cannot believe how happy we are that the children that GOD placed in our lives just 3 short years ago are now with us full-time and we could not be happier.