(The journalistic account, because I’m afraid I’m going to start forgetting the details….)
My head, it swirls, as I try to process the events of the past week. My heart vacillates between disbelief and overwhelm and outright glory.
Monday and Tuesday were a whirlwind of getting ready to go. Leaving behind a household of four children, a dog, a cat, and a small business is no small task, even for just a few days. But we did it, and at 3:15 on Wednesday morning we pulled out and headed to KC to begin our journey to Haiti. Travel went well until our last layover in Miami where a flight attendant shortage kept us grounded for an extra 2.5 hours. Once we landed we had trouble finding our driver and holiday traffic made the relatively quick drive to the orphanage painfully long. But reach the orphanage we did and once we pulled in and got out of the vehicle, she was beaming.
Thursday we traveled to Petionville to get our paperwork from the attorney. Sarah was beautiful and confident and capable. The drive to Petionville took over two hours (again, due to holiday traffic) and would be at least an hour in normal traffic and we learned that Lovelie (the orphanage assistant) makes this trek nearly every day (and that’s after riding a taptap two hours, one way, to the orphanage from her home). We were reminded of how difficult it is to do anything efficiently in Haiti. Delivering or picking up files, which would take an hour, maybe two, here in the States is an all day affair there. Everything is so difficult, so inconvenient. It made me so grateful for the work that Lovelie and Sarah are doing on behalf of these children and the families so eager to bring them home.
After that we stopped at the market to buy some groceries. Then we returned to the orphanage and held a party in Amania’s honor. We hung streamers and served hot dogs, chips, and cookies. Amania handed out lollipops and small bottles of bubbles to everyone. It was a precious, precious time. One I hope she never forgets. The children were so happy for her and rejoiced along with us.
Thursday night her birth parents came to the orphanage to say goodbye. For two years I have prayed that the Lord’s will would be done in regards to meeting her parents and getting a photo. I have wanted this for her, for her future, for the questions that will come that I really won’t have many answers to. But I also didn’t want it. For reasons that probably don’t have to be explained. But the Lord willed and there they were. We were sitting in the guest house after the party and she was outside with her friends when Matt noticed her just staring at some people on the porch and put it all together. They looked so young…younger than us. And so poor and helpless. And my heart just broke. And as I noticed her mother’s rounded belly betraying another child on the way I wanted to scream. I know they can’t afford to do otherwise, but oh my heart ached. Will this child too end up at the orphanage? We learned that she has two brothers and a sister, all older, and we learned that she wants absolutely nothing to do with her birth parents. And as one child tried to tease and say they had come to take her home (all in Creole, so I had no clue), she turned their back to them and silent tears rolled down her face as she clung to my leg. As I picked her up, she cried heavy on my shoulder, holding on with all she had. And after awkward introductions and an assurance to Amania that she was still going home with us, we went in and went to bed.
Friday morning we woke bright and early. Our Amania, she loves mornings about as much as her white mama, but Friday morning she awoke with a huge smile on her face. We’d never seen her as happy as she was that morning (and most of the day, really). She got dressed with enthusiasm and helped us pack our bags eagerly. Sadness returned as she saw her birth mother sitting outside waiting to say goodbye again. And as we circled to pray, Nicole had to force her to hold her birth mother’s hand and she stayed as close to me and as far from her as she physically could without disobeying Mama Nicole. And Daniel, he prayed the most amazing prayer over us and tears flowed on every face that understood English. And we drove to the airport, feeling both somber and surreal about it all.
At the airport, Amania came alive again. Pulling me through lines, her face aglow with a giant smile. On the airplane she was giddy with anticipation and even squealed when it took off. She slept an hour on the first flight and was excited when we landed in Fort Lauderdale. Our long layover was there – four hours – and she appeared to be somewhat unimpressed with her new “home”. 🙂 I pulled Google maps up on my phone and tried to explain to her that we had two more plane rides and then she would see her sisters. That seemed to help. We played ball in the airport and let her play on our phones. We walked around and looked out the windows (not much of a view) and just sat and waited. Finally that plane took off and she slept the entire three hour flight. Dallas was a super-fast layover and we fed her on that flight trying to keep her awake. We almost lost her, but as the plane started to descend she woke up a little.
She was tired and a bit moody when we landed in Kansas City and we were honestly concerned about how she would respond to everyone waiting for us. Boy, did she rise to the occasion! That child brought out a side of herself we had rarely seen. Friendly with everyone, posing for the camera. It was hilarious. We went to McDonald’s for ice cream with everyone that came to the airport and she just fit right in. She loved being the star of the show. As soon as we loaded up to head home, she crashed in the back seat. She slept all the way home and the slept all through the night.
Saturday she got up and played hard with her sisters. I am so thankful for the warm weekend we had so everyone could be outside. They played “futbol”, jumped on the trampoline, blew bubbles, and more.
Then it came time to get ready for her party. Everyone was showering and putting on nice clothes. I gave her a quick bath and put her in a new outfit and she started to become very sad. At first I assumed it was because she didn’t like her dress (it was very cute, but just grey – no bright colors), and I was a tad annoyed. I figured she was tired so I had her lay down for a bit. Matt went in to talk to her and check on her and said she had tears running down her cheeks. I tried talking to her and even caved in a offered her different outfits. No go. She was cold and sad and not budging.
So I had her come sit with me while I did my hair. And silently I prayed. Lord, you’ve got to help me with this. You called us, you will see us through. I don’t know what’s wrong and she can’t tell me, but you do and you can. Please show me how to help her. And the Holy Spirit revealed to me that she thought we were taking her somewhere to leave her again. And my heart broke. I bent down so we were eye to eye and told her we were going to a party and we would never ever leave her and she was safe with us and would come home with us and that we loved her. And her entire countenance changed and she was happy and playful and content. (Later at the party, Emily, who is fluent in Creole, asked her if she had in fact thought that we were going to take her some where and leave her and that was the case. She reassured her, in Creole, that we would never ever do that and that she was safe and loved and home.)
And we went to her party, hosted by our families and attended by so many people. We were blessed to have everyone there to share in our joy. She was much more timid at the party, willing to go to those she knew, but not particularly warm to strangers, and glued to me most of the time. I took this as a good thing. 🙂 We shared about her name and why we chose it and we sang Happy Birthday to her (although she still doesn’t believe us that she’s six) and we sang The Stand, sort of our Haiti theme song. It was beautiful and wonderful and I’m so glad we did it and that we did it right away.
On Saturday night we took her out for our family standard – Mexican food. It was warm enough to enjoy the patio and it was fun to introduce her to chips and salsa and quesadillas. She has eaten like a champ ever since we got to Haiti last Wednesday night and has sampled quite the variety of foods – standard American fare (hot dogs, chips, cookies), pizza, chinese, and mexican. She didn’t like sliced apples but enjoyed the whole one she ate today. And I don’t see food hoarding being a big issue (something I was little concerned about), as she seems content to just eat whenever we do and has had no trouble throwing food away when she’s full. I have not yet introduced her to whole wheat bread. Considering how they love white bread, that may not go over well. I’m sure if I slather enough peanut butter on it, though, she’ll eat it. 😉
Sunday was church and Sunday school, followed by a long, quiet afternoon and evening. Monday we laid low and the girls all played most of the day. Today she has sort of bounced from sister to sister as they do their school and I have spent some time doing a few things with her too.
All in all, I couldn’t have asked for things to go any better than they are. She sleeps amazingly well. She does all of her own toiletting. She is getting along remarkably well with her sisters and is completely comfortable and at home with them. I don’t think she quite knows what to do with Matt or me. I think her concept of adults and their role in her life is different than what we think of. She is warming up, but it takes time each day. She did call me “Mama” today when she wanted my attention. The only other time she did that was last June when I got off the truck at the orphanage and she was beyond excited to see me. She speaks a little more English every day and is becoming increasingly tolerant of the dog. There is work to be done and a honeymoon phase that will come to an end, but I am beyond thankful for how well the past few days have gone.
Please continue to pray for our transitions and for her bonding to us, her parents. I admit we feel like we’re flying blind here, but trusting the Lord will lead us.
For His Glory ~
2 thoughts on “Coming Home”
Thank you, Sara, for letting us travel with you down to Haiti to pick up Amania, and feel mixed emotions with you as you (we) nervously viewed her birth parents on the porch, and exult with you as you brought your girl home and watched her begin to merge into your family’s daily life. It takes an effort to write well, and bring your readers into your experience; I devoured every word.
Crying. Full of joy. Praying.