I have so many experiences I want to share with you…and I’ve started on writing a dozen of them. But something happened today that I need to tell you about. Sista Este’ (Esther) and I were out under the trees, showing the kids how to braid bracelets and I noticed Pastor sitting and talking with two women. After a long conversation he called me over, “Please, Gramma Lynn, what do you think? She wants to live with us.”
I looked closer and realized the women were actually a young girl, and an elderly woman. “This is Rosawei and her grandmother. Rosawei is 11 and truly an orphan.” He held a battered manila folder which he opened to show me her birth certificate, and I assume the death certificates of her mother and father. “Her grandmother can no longer care for her and wants to leave her with us.”
He said he had just finished explaining his principles – (rules the children must live by): she must agree to go to school, work hard in school, go to church, show her new brothers and sisters respect and love, respect Pastor and Madam and the older children. She must show respect for herself by staying clean and brushing her teeth, she must never leave the compound by herself…I can’t remember them all, but they all made sense.
“Look at her hair, Gramma Lynn.” I stood closer to Rosawei. I had noticed the attractive cornrow braids. “It’s not her real hair, “ he said. I looked but still didn’t understand.
“Feel it.” So I did and it felt like plastic. “She has braided in the unreal hair.” He came over and touched her scalp. “See this red. That means malnutrition. She has lost her hair from not eating good food.” He asked one of the orpahange girls to remove her scarf – Chelove came to us with red hair from eating bad. Look at her now beautiful black hair. Madam cooks her healthy food.” Chelove grinned shyly.
“Pastor,” I asked, “can you tell Rosewei we will give her healthy food?”
“I tell her that. She has agreed to all our principles. Shall we let her live with us?”
I looked at Rosewei who was nervously clutching a pitifully small rag bag of belongings and I couldn’t imagine saying no to any child in this situation, but I might be missing something (I said yes in error to a widow on Saturday…another story) so I asked, “What is God telling you to do?”
“Do you have any questions about your decision, Pastor?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Do you have any doubts that she should live here?” I was getting frustrated.
“No, of course not!” He acted like it was a silly question – which made me smile.
“Then of course, she can live here!”
Pastor nodded to the grandmother and said a few words.
I watched the three of them and it hit me that this was a life-changing moment for Rosewei. I looked to her grandmother, expecting sadness, regret, and a hug goodbye. Nothing. The grandmother smiled at her granddaughter, turned and left.
I looked at Rosewei and she looked resigned. Not scared as much as hopeless. And alone. Pastor called Edianna over – a sweetheart, a bit older – and motioned for her to take her new sister up to the childrens’ home. I knew she was in good hands with Edianna but my heart ached for what Rosewei must be thinking. Again, I understood how little I understand about these children and what they have experienced.
I told Esther we needed to pay special attention to the new girl this evening. Rosewei arrived around 3. At 5 she came back down with the other children for a “talk” with Pastor. He wanted to explain to all the children about how, now that the rains are coming, the risk of cholera is rising and they have to be extra careful about staying clean. The 34 children are comfortable, yet respectful around Pastor. They sit still and listen quietly. I watched Rosewei who was sitting with a couple sisters her age. She looked uneasy. It started raining and we moved inside.
My heart melted as I saw who was the one to make Rosewei feel at home: Michelda, the youngest, leaned on her new big sister like she had known and trusted her always. Roswei relaxed and calmed.
After Pastor’s talk the children ran outside. I noticed Rosewei right away start to braid Miya’s (another tiny young one)hair. She held back from the bracelet craft we were working on. But after another hour, I looked up and there was Rosewei with a big smile on her face, showing me the three colors she had chosen to work with.
We saw a life transformed today. What a blessing and an honor. I am so thankful to be here in Haiti – and I thank God for His unending grace.