The mamas were giving their testimonies.
One by one, they came to the front with their babies, sharing how much of a difference Compassion’s Child Survival Program made in their lives.
One special mama had two babies, not her own. People didn’t understand why she’d taken them in. She couldn’t afford to care for the babies. She was shunned and found herself all alone crying near the street one day. A Compassion Child Survival Program staff happened to pass by and told her about the program, that she’d be able to get support as she raised those babies. She agreed and the children were enrolled in the program. The translator prayed over her, “even though family might not understand you, God does,” he said.
There was another woman with a baby of her own. But she’d also taken in her deceased cousin’s baby. Mid-way through her story, she broke into song. I had no idea what she was saying because there hadn’t been translation yet, but there was something beautiful and tremendously sad about this song long before I knew the words. She sang with courage, she looked up, towards the back of the church as she poured this heart-song out from her soul. There was hope and promise in her words, but in her eyes, I saw the sadness, the depth of pain. She said the Compassion Child Survival Program staff taught her to sing this song when she was feeling tremendous sadness and despair. They encouraged her, “You need to sing this song whenever you feel sad, and you will feel better.” The song, my heart be happy.
And then there was Archille.
She came to the front, holding her son close, tight in her arms. She spoke quietly and tears came to her eyes the second she started talking. She appeared to be hiding a bit behind her son, as if protecting him from her own pain. He was near and dear to her, you could tell. She felt alone, very alone, and I sensed that the moment she started talking, even before I knew why.
Archille shared with us, her son was born with one leg.
She’d been shunned and teased, disowned and laughed at for having a son with one leg. It was and has been immeasurably painful. She didn’t know what to do, didn’t know where to turn. Her tears, the depth of her pain, visible. If there was a way I could’ve reached out to her in that moment, I would’ve.
Archille then proceeded to do one of the most brave things I’ve ever witnessed. She started taking off her son’s pants.
In that moment, we saw his one leg.
It was holy, intimate. We knew the reality she’d been telling was truth.
Archille was advised, Compassion’s Child Survival Program was the best way to care for her boy. Through her involvement in the Child Survival Program, Archille has developed “good friendships and relationships in [the] center.” Home visitors encourage her. And Compassion’s staff have compassion for Archille. They’ve worked with her and she’s “thankful for all they’ve done to help with [her] boy.”
The translator prayed over Archille and her boy, “If God accepts the boy as he is, as we do, we must love him.”
I recognized Archille’s pain the second I saw her hide behind her son, the second I saw the tears in her eyes and they couldn’t be held back anymore. I’d known that pain myself. When tears are so close to the surface that you cry if you speak even one word, you just need someone to listen to you, care for you, act on your behalf.
Perhaps there’s a purpose for our pain, that we might be able to more readily recognize it in others. And help.
We had an opportunity to ask the questions anyone would ask at that point. How does he get around? How would Compassion help this boy with his leg? Mama answered, indicating her boy is able to stand on one leg, gets around by crawling, and is often carried. Compassion has already sent mama Archille’s and baby to Port-Au-Prince where they’ve seen doctors about baby’s leg. He will get a prosthetic when he’s older, but for now he’s too young, so they have to wait.
Yvonne, our trip co-leader and Compassion representative, held the sweet baby boy as we sang songs and prayed with all the mamas and babies. Safe in Yvonne’s arms, Archille’s boy led our way to the Child Development Center.
We spent the next hour or two meeting children and engaging with teachers in the Child Development Center. (I’ll share more about that later!) But Before we knew it, it was time to visit the Child Survival Program building where mamas and babies meet with Compassion staff. It was a lovely space with boards tracking immunizations and child growth, as well as toys and cribs for the babies. This felt like a safe haven, and it was.
I was one of the first to enter the building. The seat next to Yvonne and this beautiful boy with one leg was open. So I took it. There was a part of me that thought the seat would better be taken by someone else, all the others who cared about this boy and wanted to be close, too. But there was me. Perhaps it was God who brought me in among the first. Perhaps it was He who left the seat open.
I had an opportunity to talk with Yvonne about this boy as others entered the space, the hope I had to share his story. We talked about the possibility of getting crutches for this sweet boy, as usually, he’d be walking around this age. Yvonne commented how heavy it must be for mama to carry her boy around all day since he’s getting so big. And I asked, did mama have a sling in which she could carry her son?
Before long, we noticed mama standing right behind us, outside. We invited her in to join us in conversation.
Yvonne told mama Archille that she’d like to work with the project director to try to facilitate getting her boy some crutches so he can start moving around and develop muscle tone in his leg. She couldn’t promise it would be done, but she was going to talk to the director and do her best to help. And Yvonne asked mama, “Do you have a sling you carry him in?” Mama Archille said “no.” I asked mama, “Would you feel more comfortable carrying him on your back or on your front?” “I’d prefer to carry him on my back,” mama said, “but he likes me to carry him in the front.” Yvonne reminded mama once again that she couldn’t promise, but that we’d try to get something to help.
An opportunity came for me to ask mama Archille questions that had nothing to do with sweet baby boy’s leg. “How old is he?” I asked. “Two,” mama said. “When will he be three?” asked Yvonne. Mama replied, “December.”
“Same as my baby” I exclaimed! “Three in December!” Mama Archille and I smiled big smiles, huge, like divine appointment huge. We discovered, our babies’ birthdays? Only NINE days apart!
Everyone was elated. It was a moment out of time for the folks that had gathered. Well, a moment out of time, at least for me. I’d barely even noticed the rest of the group had arrived until I looked up and realized, they were there.
Yvonne, still right next to me, stepped in at just the right moment, with just the right words I would’ve never imagined possible – “You know you can sign up to sponsor him even before he’s officially enrolled in the Child Sponsorship Development Program? I don’t want to put you on the spot, though.” Um, ya. There was no putting me on the spot. It was a no brainer, taking the opportunity to sponsor this little guy. Of course, I’d say yes.
After some brief conversation with the translator, Yvonne, and another Compassion staff, it was determined that I’d need to take with me the baby’s name, baby’s date of birth, mama’s name, and the Compassion Child Survival Program in which which he was enrolled. Then, when I get home, I’ll need to contact Compassion and indicate I’d like to sponsor him when he becomes old enough to enroll in the Child Sponsorship Development Program.
We all decided, this was meant to be. I’ll be the boy’s sponsor when he comes of age.
The translator spoke with Archille and wrote down all the information I’ll need when I contact Compassion back home.
Before mama placed her boy on my lap for a picture, I’d noted, her beautiful baby boy’s name was Charles.
Pain, it’s true and real for all of us. Pain, it pulls us down, makes us want to run and hide or grab ahold tight of anything that’s near.
Hope, it comes in any package. Hope, a promise of better days to come.
Would you like to give hope to a child in desperate need of it? Check out the Compassion website to take a closer look at all the children waiting for a sponsor. These are real. live. children. Not just pictures on your computer screen. They’re real children with real families with real lives, and they could use your help. If you’d be here, you’d see. You’d choose to say yes, I guarantee. We have so much, it’s time to give. And hope’s where it’s at.
*This is part of a month-long series about my journey to Haiti. Click here to read all the posts in the series.