I've been asking myself lately "why on earth did we choose to adopt from Haiti?" I've been weary with this adoption process and its unpredictability. Been doing a lot of questioning. Then, through tears and humility, God reminded me "Why Haiti"...
I got permission to put this on my Blog...I'm praying it inspires you too to do "something".
A Heavy Burden...by Marcia Erickson with Terri Churchill
I want to share a story that I’ve been struggling with and holding in my heart for the last couple of months. It’s a hard story to hear and a hard story to tell, but I’m feeling the need to bring it out into the light.
When we visited Haiti last October, I met a fifteen-year-old girl named Marlene. She was a constant presence with me as I visited Lougou, always following me around and asking me to take her picture as she posed here and there. The most pictures I have of one person from my time in Lougou are of Marlene.
One day as we walked the mountains, Marlene ran ahead of me and emerged from a tiny mud hut holding a baby boy. I was stunned to learn that this was her child. She was only a child herself. I asked if I could take their picture and she struck a pose as if to say, “Why do you think I brought him to you?”
I am haunted by this image. The smile Marlene had in every other pose was now missing. She was giving me a snapshot into the reality of her life, not as a care-free young girl, but a teen-aged mother in Haiti, and all that this implies.
Marlene is a part of our Haitian Education Program and had been encouraged to stay in school by Nick and Madeleine Avignon, field directors for COFHED as well as the community leaders of Lougou. Marlene did stay in school and her son entered the program with her. COFHED’s education program starts with 3-year-old preschoolers but they were finding that many of these children were severely malnourished. Two years ago COFHED introduced a feeding program for children 6 months to 3 years old. They began to see amazing benefits when the 3 year olds started preschool healthier and ready to learn. COFHED states on their website “We envision a Haiti where children can expect to live into adulthood and to serve God and their neighbors.” I saw this vision beautifully played out in the life of Marlene as well as her baby boy. Marlene’s baby was in this feeding program for 8 months …eating one meal a day through the program.
Funding was down last year, and the community wrestled with how to distribute the leaner resources. In the end, the feeding program was cut. This brings us back to my trip last October. As I peered through my lens, it was clear that this baby was severely malnourished.
I checked in with Madeleine in December to inquire about Lougou, and she shared with me that Marlene’s baby had become very ill with complications arising from the malnutrition. Marlene approached the community leaders and asked for help, and they gave her money from an emergency fund to get medical treatment in the nearest town. Marlene set out on foot holding her baby, a journey that would take several hours. As they made their way down the muddy mountain path, the child died in her arms.
I have been so burdened. Working in a country like Haiti, I am very aware that children die all the time from simple things like lack of food or basic medical care or housing. But it is something else, something more personal, when I have walked with this baby’s mother and laughed with her and this little baby had been a part of a feeding program Providence helped fund, and in the end the program was cut.
It is tempting to recoil and protect myself, to point to the immensity of the problems in Haiti or take refuge in my past efforts. But I can’t escape the feeling that I failed Marlene. Not Providence or COFHED or the government or anything else. I’m not saying this to punish myself or to make myself more important than I am. I know that many things contributed to this baby’s death, most of them outside my control. But unless we make these losses personal in some way (and they always are if we’re honest) we will become hardened and maybe more children will die who could have been saved.
So I’m laying my heart out here. I’m sharing my burden because it’s just too heavy for me alone. I’m more determined than ever to continue raising money and building relationships so I can faithfully do the little part that God has given to me. Maybe I’m asking you to suffer with me. I am lifting up these pictures and asking you to hold them close, and dare to feel the loss with this young mother.
PO Box 4711
St. Paul MN 55104