Last October you may remember about me writing about 3 children that crossed my path on the mission road at dusk. Their desperate need mixed with hopeful eyes left me searching for answers as I climbed the hill that evening, wondering if I would ever see them again.
Little did I know that first encounter would bridge into what I am about to share with you today - To the glory of God, here is a 'year later' update.
I'll never forget my first trek into the mountains - where I stood at the top of the hill and looked down upon the shambled tent of a shelter where they lived. The way I recognized the barefoot children whom I had met on the pathway, and saw the condition that their parents and many siblings were living in. It left me overwhelmed and unknowing in where to begin, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't forget about what I had seen, nor remove the weight that hung heavy in my heart.
The goat path that was once so foreign to me has now become one of my favourite trails as I've found such joy in building relationships with the 2 families... Watching the babies take their first steps, enjoying watermelons from their farm fields, and learning from the way they testify true contentment and trust in the Lord for provision.
Not a day goes by that I don't think about this family, and I am so grateful for the friendship we share, as well as the partnership and support from so many of you in North America who have lifted up prayers, given financial support, and visited them in Haiti.
In my time home this past summer, I spent a lot of time thinking about future steps and ways that I can play a role in bringing hope to these beautiful people in the year ahead. I asked myself - What would be the best way to help these families break out of the cycle of poverty? The answer was confirmed time and time again: The children needed an education. If they could only go to school, they would have a chance at getting a job and providing for their families in the years to come.
Despite a few of the children attending schools in the nearby villages in past school terms, none of the education they have received has provided a foundation to build upon. In recent weeks, Robenson and I have done basic number recognition drills and alphabet songs, all of which the children have barely mastered without prompting. It would be generous for me to say that the 7 school-aged children (ages 6-14) are at a junior kindergarten level.
The ages of the children are a discouraging variable. Their small physical size led me to believe at first that they were much younger than they actually were. The oldest boy who I judged as a 9 year old is instead 14. The trend of a 5 year gap between the ages I assumed compared to actuality is true for all of the children.
Returning to Haiti this year, my priority was to enroll the children in the School of Hope.
The harsh reality was difficult to swallow - None of the kids were anywhere close to the grade level benchmarks where they should be based on their age. They would not be accepted into school with such a limited knowledge base.
I had no doubt to face plan B - Find a private teacher to work with them over the year, in hopes to catch them up to their levels and try to enroll them again next year.
But plan B scared me. How was I with such a limited creole vocabulary and awareness of Haitian education supposed to communicate the needs of these children and set up a school system with a possible teacher? I put the word out around the mission hoping that somebody would fit the position. A few friends of friends with teaching background emerged as prospects, but nothing substantiated, mostly because of my own hesitancy. The person I had in my mind needed to know the family, they had to genuinely care about each child and their needs, not just do it for the pay cheque each week. My job description surrounded someone with a real servant heart, endless patience with the children, and a concern for not just their educational progress, but also their physical and emotional well being.
Clearly, I wasn't just looking for an ordinary teacher.
These children needed someone to talk to them about the truth of the Bible. These children needed someone who could guide them in proper nutrition and health. Education, and ultimately the goal for the children to one day be integrated into their proper grade levels was important, but these other areas were just as much of a priority considering their background.
The days passed, School of Hope commenced, and nothing had developed. I was so discouraged, but I couldn't lower my standards. I put the word out for people to start praying. It became clear that only the Lord would be able to find this person and plop them in my lap.
It wasn't until last week when I was chatting over Skype with Sadrac, the interpreter who used to accompany in my mountain treks to visit the families last year, and I was sharing my frustrations. He understood the needs of the children and echoed the importance of having healthcare and Christian education integrated as a key theme into the numeracy and literacy curriculum. I asked him if he knew of ANYONE in his social circle who fit the criteria.
With that he said - well, my older sister used to teach kindergarten.
I almost fell out of my chair. I knew that this was the answer to our prayers.
Since that time, I have met with Idelie (which is also Robenson's sister) and Sadrac has communicated with her by phone about the unique description of the teacher we are looking for. On Wednesday I walked with her to the mountain families where she met the children, and we discussed more of the weekly routine for them, as well as curriculum needs.
Slowly but surely, it's coming together. There are still daily roadblocks that come along - curriculum books, school location, need for a chalkboard and benches, morning routine structure, but day by day the Lord provides a solution that I could have never found on my own.
Yesterday I met with Joan from the School of Hope, who is developing a new Christian education for Mission of Hope, and her encouragement and guidance to me was more valuable than I could ever express in words. She gave me great insight into the types of lessons to start out with and gave me another link to a mutual friend of ours (Jennifer) who has a Christian community health manual that Idelie could use. I am meeting with Jennifer on Monday afternoon to see how this can be incorporated in the weeks ahead. Once again, the Lord reminds me He's got it all figured out, I just have to keep trusting each step. I feel so grateful for the way He is affirming this path we're on, and people who are joining along the way.
In other news, the hope of building real homes for both families is also taking shape as housing equipment gets shipped in for reconstruction. I will do my best to keep an update on what future developments take place for these families in the future.
I'm learning step by step that an uphill climb isn't easy, but by God's grace He is paving a path for us as we keep the faith. Someday when we finally reach the summit, the view will be all the sweeter. All glory to His provision and faithfulness day by day.
Please keep these children and Idelie in your prayers as they begin school on Monday. Pray that Idelie will have a maintained passion for teaching, a love for the children, and fresh ideas for building trust with them day by day. Pray also for the children that they will have an enthusiasm for learning, and that they can easily retain the information they are taught. Pray that the relationships will continue to flourish and that each child will grow into the person God has created them to be.
Now all glory be to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us,
to accomplish infinitely more than we could ever ask or think.
~ Ephesians 3:20