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 this....it might not match theology, but it screams from my heart.