Friday, August 30, 2013

Feeding the Hungry

One of the most difficult moments I have had in the past month was realizing that nearly everyone I meet and interact with here in Haiti is starving or hungry.  They are used to 1 meal or maybe 2 per day.  They work or sit in the heat all day.  As I sit at church, trying to understand all that is being said, I can look around at hundreds of hungry faces.  I have almost gotten used to seeing children who are malnourished.  Their hair is light in color and dry.  Their faces are sunken in, their eyes seem hollow, and they show little expression.  They are irritable and tired.  Their arms vary from very tiny to very swollen.  Their stomachs are distended, and they do not even realize that hunger is not supposed to be normal. 

Two Sundays ago, I was sitting in church and looked across the aisle at a young girl.  She was so thin that immediately I knew...this child is starving.  Then it hit me.  They are all starving.  Every single child that I see in church is hungry.  None of them had enough to eat.  None of them slept well, due to the heat, bugs, and pain in their stomachs.  None of them have even had enough to drink.  I choked the tears back as I asked God, "Why?"  Why are these children starving when we have more than enough to eat? Why do we as Americans go on every fad diet that exists and try so hard to lose weight when people around the world are starving to death.  Why am I not eating less so they can eat more?  How can I even help?


I thought of our malnutrition program that is run out of our clinic.  We can see up to 30 children in this clinic.  It is saved for only severe cases.  There are some that are too severe, and they need in-patient care.  However, if they are not past the point of nutrient absorption, we will admit them into the program. Still, we cannot seem to get the funding to reach more children.  This program could run 5 days a week, seeing 50 patients per day.  It could be a program completely separate from the clinic.  There is no shortage of children needing the help.

 We have mothers paying a tap-tap to drive them up to two hours in order to come to our clinic.  This is because they have heard of our program that is saving the lives of small children.  Every day in the clinic, children are seen who are starving and severely malnourished.  Yet, they sit on a waiting list because of funding.  How is this right?  How can we sit by and let this continue to happen?  As my heart breaks, my fingers are pointing back at me.  What have I done to feed the hungry?  What have I done to ensure they are not going to bed hungry tonight?  Satan screams at me, "You will never save them all! It is useless! They are going to die anyway!"  Yet, is this not why I got my degree in the first place?  I was given a passion for the children who are hungry every night when they go to bed.  So now what will I do with it?

There is one little girl whom I adore.  Her mother is nursing her, trying to keep her healthy.  Yet, they do not have enough money to buy meat.  For this reason, little Landa is anemic. She will nurse and get down to play.  Literally the first thing she does is pick up a handful of dirt to eat it.  She just nursed! Why does she keep eating dirt? Well, because she has no iron.  Her body is craving iron, and dirt has more iron than she can find in her diet.  This breaks my heart.  She has become severely ill multiple times due to eating dirt.  Her mother knows it and is working so hard to keep her from eating dirt.  How do you keep an 18 month old sitting in someone's lap 24 hours a day in order to ensure she does not eat dirt? 
This is one story of many that I am learning.  They are all hungry.  They are all tired and irritable and fighting to live.  I want to do something more.  Yet, I sit here, not even sure where to start.  So I write.  I write in hopes that someone will hear how they can invest.  I write in the hopes that it will be therapeutic for me and help me express the pain I feel for these little ones.  I write so that one more person is fighting for these little ones in Haiti who simply need a chance...a chance to live.  I write so that you will know that we are passionate and we love Haiti...but it is breaking us too.  We live in luxury while children starve not even a mile up the street.  The very thought disgusts me.  And I think, "Finally...I am starting to understand.  I am finally seeing a piece of God's heart that we hide so well in 'the land of plenty.'  I just might be taking one step to preparing to live radically for the lives of others."  Why did Jesus live a homeless life?  Maybe because he saw might not match theology, but it screams from my heart.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Adoption Challenges

To clarify, we are not adopting.  This is not about our challenges to adopt.  However, it seems that adoption is one of the main topics that come up when we are visiting with short-term teams who work with NVM.  Through these conversations, we see so much of people's hearts and passions.  Sometimes we hear successful adoption stories.  Most frequently, people are asking about adoption in Haiti or more specifically, at our children's home.  There is something about this place that makes you want to take a child home to love them.  While we have to remind people that most of the children they interact with have families, there are still some who do not.  These children live with other relatives or in a children's home (or orphanage).  This is where so many find their heart for adoption.

I have been blessed to watch multiple friends go through adoption processes.  I have watched from different distances with each, but God seems to have surrounded me with people who have a heart for adoption.  I have seen adoption through DHS, US adoption agencies, and international adoption agencies.  Each of them has been absolutely beautiful!  As I continue watching friends and following their stories, I am amazed at how long the process sometimes takes.  I have learned a great deal from my friends.  First, let me share a little of our "adoption" story.

A couple of years ago, we brought a teenager into our home via kinship placement with DHS.  She has a beautiful laugh, smile, and heart.  God moved our hearts to love her unconditionally and offer to adopt her.  We proceeded with these plans as far as DHS allowed.  At one point, the DA and DHS agreed that guardianship made more sense.  While this was hard to swallow, we felt helpless to do anything different.  We were concerned that DHS would remove her if we were not compliant.  We agreed to guardianship, still acting as if it was indeed an adoption.  While she is still a part of our family, she has moved on to another home now.  We miss her dearly, and it hurts to not be able to see her or hear her laugh every day.  However, we trust God's hand in this and know He is able to care for her and carry her.  So, here we are in Haiti, and she remains in the USA.

While we did not get to finalize adoption, there are many successful adoptions daily.  These are where I have learned the following:

1. Adoptions can take a very long time!
I have seen adoptions that go through in 6 months, and others that have taken years.  Throughout the process, the adoptive parents have to be patient and persistent.  They have to work hard for the child, fighting for them all along the way, regardless of the many thousands of miles that may separate them.

2. Adoptions are hard, emotionally.
There are so many challenges, but adoption is not all rosy and wonderful.  There are tears shed, nights of doubt, worries, and heartbreaks.  It is an emotional roller-coaster.  The entire family pays a price for the adoption.  This does not mean it is not worth it, but it is hard.

3. Adoption comes with a great amount of fear to be fought.
I think the biggest fear I felt and so many others have shared with me is the fear of rejection.  What if you do all of this and the child never loves you?  Another fear is abuse/destruction.  What if the child abuses one of your children?  What if they become destructive physically? What if they destroy your family in other ways?  What if bringing a child into our family would upset the balance and rob us of our peace?  What if the birth parents want them back?

4. Adoption is expensive, in more than one way.
Adoption can consume your thoughts and all of your spare time while it is in the process.  It then demands a great deal of time after the adoption is finalized.  The monetary cost is pretty straight-forward.  I think most people know that adoptions cost a lot monetarily.  But it also can be a toll on your body as you stress or lose sleep.

5. The adopted child will not waltz into your family and fit right in.  There will be battles and adjustments that will take a long time.  There will be unseen challenges, and this can sometimes take years as well.
We often get this fairy tale image of a child  being adopted and happily fitting in.  They are content, obedient, and happy.  The family all just keeps on living and the adopted child jumps in where the family is.  This is not true of any adoption that I have seen yet.  The child has struggles, and often he/she cannot vocalize them.  The family does change, because it has to with any additional family members.  The schedule changes, the child can have unwarranted fears, and they may at times reject the family.  The child will struggle to accept this new home (it seems this increases with age), and the family never knows what will trigger a melt down or rebellion from the child.

While contemplating all of this recently, I realized that this is exactly why God loves adoption.  First and foremost, He is persistently fighting for us so that He can adopt us.  He knows many will reject Him, and it breaks His heart.  He loves unconditionally, knowing that it will often go unnoticed.  He works hard, knowing that most of His adoptions will take years of tears and persistence before they are finalized.  It is hard on Him emotionally as well.  His heart breaks and I believe He cries over many of the children He is trying so desperately to adopt.  While I do not believe that God fears anything, I do believe that He understands the same fears we have.  He does not have to fear, but He sees when He will be rejected.  He knows not every adoption will be successful.  Some children will never love Him, some will run back to the world and what they know, some will become destructive in His family (the church), some will rob the family of peace.  God knows all of this, and yet He still pursues us.  Our adoption came at a high price - the Son of God.  We may never fathom just how much this really costs...the loss of your own Son in order to adopt so many more.  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the adopted child will not waltz right into His family and fit right in.  There is a lengthy process of them adjusting and adapting.  At times they will fight it.  At times they will break down and just cry.  Sometimes they cannot even vocalize what they are battling inside.  The family/church changes with this new addition to the family.  If they do not change, it is only because the child has been rejected by them.  They have not taken it upon themselves to ensure the newly adopted child becomes part of the family in every way.  This also breaks God's heart.  Sometimes the child will have unwarranted fears - often times, in fact.  For if God is our Father, whom shall we fear?  Sometimes the child will reject the family/church and struggle to accept it as home.  Sometimes they may rebel.

The key to all of this is the response of the parent.  While the siblings may sometimes grow tired of the battles or the loss of peace, the parents never do.  God is most definitely the same way.  His mercies are new every morning, and He alone can truly love unconditionally.  He will never give up, even when others do.  He always holds on to hope, and He never fails.  For if God is love, then He must hope and persevere.  How blessed I am to be adopted!