Originally published August 9, 2014
Carmalie is a pretty, 9-year-old girl with a wide, toothy grin that just begs for a camera to catch it. She loves to dance, and her friends describe her as the happiest girl in her neighborhood.
Sometime in the early morning hours of Aug. 8, in a broken-down shack in a dusty, rubble-filled little town in Haiti, her grandmother, who cared for Carmalie and three other orphans, died. The children all called her “Grams.” Grams had taken them all in, provided shelter for them and what meager food she could find with the help of nearby missionaries and protected them from the realities of life in a place where it’s not uncommon for desperate parents to effectively sell their children into modern slavery for the weak hope they will be fed, clothed and educated. (https://www.freetheslaves.net/haiti/)
Twelve hundred miles and a world away, there is a family in America — a Christian pastor, his wife and their four children — whose hearts have been broken for Carmalie and others in the Haitian town of Montrouis. They plan to move there and start a ministry in January, and they had hoped to adopt Carmalie, with Grams’ hearty blessing, when they arrived. Today, with Grams gone, they are unsure how the child’s hitherto absent father will react when they arrive for a brief visit next week — whether, for instance, he will seize the opportunity to use their love for her to extort money from them.
Even if the father gives his blessing on the adoption, there’s no guarantee it will be a smooth process. The bureaucracy in Haiti moves at a snail’s pace, and adoption can take years. One Seattle woman experienced a three-year wait and eight trips to Haiti before finally getting physical custody of the two sisters she legally adopted from an orphanage where they had been sent by parents who could not afford to take care of all nine of their children. And she was finally only able to bring the girls back to the U.S. with the help of ABC News.
Carmalie’s story is a common one in Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, where life was already hard for children before the catastrophic 2010 earthquake that left nearly 160,000 people dead in the nearby capital city of Port-au-Prince and left tens of thousands of new orphans amid the destruction. Conditions for everyone there — and especially for children — have been unfathomable. With food resources scarce, habitable post-earthquake shelter in high demand and clean water almost a luxury, it’s hard for the most loving, well-meaning parents to give their children a good start. And the statistics bear out the many anecdotes that reach Americans through the news and from missionaries and other friends who have visited the country. Haiti’s mortality rate for children under 5 is nearly twice the world’s average.
This is the place to which we will venture in just a few days, and as our departure nears, I find my heart both crushed for the suffering of Haiti’s people and overjoyed that God would use me to bring light to such a dark and troubled place, which, nonetheless, is a place full of people He loved enough to send His very son for.
Longing for the blessed life he had before tragedy struck his household and Satan wreaked destruction on his body, the Old Testament’s Job recalled how people great and small in his town had revered him “because I delivered the poor who cried for help and the fatherless who had none to help him.” (Job 29:12 ESV) Scripture is clear that godly people should have a special heart for orphans and a special desire to help the poor, and Job’s obedience in doing both was exemplary.
Haiti is desperate for obedient believers like Job to come to the aid of its poor and to deliver its fatherless. Haiti is desperate for people who “fear God and turn away from evil.” (Job 1:8 ESV) Haiti is desperate for a Savior, and I can hardly wait to tell the orphans in Montrouis about mine — Jesus, whose Father has promised never to leave them or forsake them; Jesus, who promised the poor in spirit would be blessed, because “theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
I can hardly wait to offer a drink of clean water, a hug and an overflowing cup of the Water of Life.
— R.E. Spears III