Monday, May 25

Little ones to Him Belong

It's late and a rainy breeze is blowing through the open air windows and I can't fall asleep.

There is a line of people sleeping outside the gate who are waiting to be seen in clinic tomorrow, hopeful for healing.

And there is the body of sweet baby girl, bathed and dressed in a white dress who took her last struggling breaths in my arms tonight as I rocked her and sang to her about the hope I have in Jesus.

I get to share in lots of joys when I am in Haiti. I love this country, the vibrant people, the colors and the smells.  There are births and beautiful babies and recovering children and wounds healing and I get to use skills that are long lost at home. I love the adventure, the challenges, and my dear friends who live here full time and the wisdom and grace that just oozes out of their lives into mine. I love how being in this country makes me brave. The joys are some of the highest I have ever experienced on earth. But these joys come with unbearable loads of heartache. Life in this country is complicated. It is twisted and backwards and unfair and maddening and it begs me down to a place that I don't often go where a deep groaning in cries for His redemption.

Baby girl came to us late Thursday afternoon with her young mother after being referred by someone who recognized the gravity of her condition. She was 7 months old and wasting away, severely dehydrated and struggling to breathe. We immediately got to working on her, and Licia with years of wisdom took one look at this child with her mouth full of thrush (a fungal infection) and said "We need to get an HIV test." Two solid lines, clear as day. Our hearts sank and we immediately started thinking about her mother, who was 20 years young, bright and healthy, and hopeful for her only child to be rescued. The staff gently pulled her aside and counseled her, she was unaware of any existing infection and stated she had been breastfeeding her baby since she was born last fall. Two solid lines, clear as day. I would like to say "as you can imagine" but I'm not sure you or I actually can imagine. She was devastated and hysterical and confused and frightened and alone in a strange place with her dying child. She wanted to leave with her baby immediately, she just could not begin to process all that was going on and she certainly could not be dying herself of HIV. The staff was kind and gentle and respected her privacy but explained to her that her baby would likely not make the trip home and if she wanted, we would do what we could to save her. She could stay or she could go and come back at any point, but we wanted to give her baby girl a chance. She agreed to leave her baby and got a phone number where she could reach us. We stabilized baby girl but it was very clear to us all that she was still dying. We prayed for minimal suffering, but also hoped for some peace and reconciliation for mom. She would go home that night and talk with Dad. The next day called several times throughout the day to check on baby. We reported that she was stable and hoped they would come to visit. She and the young father came on Saturday morning and spent a few minutes with the baby, but did not touch her or talk to her, they just watched. I imagine they were and still are grieving how their lives' took a most devastating turn in a matter of seconds on that Thursday afternoon. We have not heard from them since they left. Baby girl struggled over the weekend and it was clear this morning when she started having seizures that the end was close. We did our best to keep her comfortable today and as it neared tonight, I held her and rocked her just hoping she sensed that someone was near. She was fighting hard for air for what seemed like eternity and then finally she was still. No more struggle, no more pain. Her little body that has only known disease in her short time here is finally whole.

Last week I caught a baby who was born severely premature and had a difficult entry into this world. We worked to resuscitate him and got him stabilized without the luxuries of NICU full of equipment and staff. It was exhilarating and miraculous and we were so grateful for this little life God gave us. Baby was doing okay and for many complicated reasons we decided the best thing for baby was to go home with mom and dad who were equipped with all the tools we could give them to care for him. A few days later, baby Wesley died at home with his family in the rural mountains of Haiti.

Complicated, twisted, backwards, unfair and maddening.

The paradox of the joys and heartaches I experience in Haiti is where life is born for me. I love God and sense his unmatched graces in the most real way. I know Him deeper and want to taste every bit of beauty and joy this earth has to offer because He is so good and He is so near to us. And yet, I long for heaven and His ultimate and eternal healing because this world is broken. His beautiful creation and the people He made in His image are groaning for new life, a whole life, apart from this brokenness. He promises us that and all those promises are made true in His son Jesus.

Little ones to Him belong, this is my only hope.