Some say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That may or may not be the case, but the beauty I have seen in the eyes of the children in Haiti to me is undeniable.
The town of Marmont which sits just south of the much larger town of Hinche in the plateau of central Haiti, is rarely the final destination for any traveler. Traveling to this area from Port-au-Prince the capital of Haiti, requires a two and a half hour trip north through the mountains. As you travel up and through the mountains, there are seldom road markings or signs to guide your way. Our destination, the Church of Philadelphia in Marmont school is set on a particularly rugged offshoot road. This road, which is like most in this area of Haiti is beset by washouts and deep mud patches making it extremely difficult to traverse at best, and impossible during times of much rain.
Having taken multiple trips to Haiti I have seen, in the last year, an eight year journey and vision of rural Haitians and a group of churches in Florida, come to fruition. It has been overwhelming to see the transition of the original vision to the joy it has brought in the community. Many parents in this rural area have never had the opportunity themselves to go to school. The only way to provide their child with an education is to send them to live with a relative in a larger city, separating them from their family. This often puts a financial burden on their relatives, and in most cases, when this scenario is possible, it is unrealistic. On the current trip, we were able to see the completed school filled with children reciting lessons, practicing writing and learning mathematics. The children were filled with joy to be able to learn and grow in knowledge, while the parents were visibly proud to see their children learning. There is a pronounced sense of hope and pride among the entire community.
Leaving is always one of the most difficult times. The children and parents that we have created relationships with throughout our years together are special. As our group was leaving, one particular eight year old boy came up along side me to walk with me back to our van. After just a few minutes, I felt his hand slip into mine. I looked down and he looked up at me, his eyes filled with joy. He continued to hold my hand as we drew closer to the van, his grip tightening with each step. Still further along, with his grip quite possibly tiring, I felt him wrap a nylon strap around our wrists holding us together. The strap was not tight, and could have easily been pulled off, but it was his attempt to keep hold of me that was so impactful. The next few minutes we just walked, hands tightly together, sweating from the heat, his death grip on my hand, strap wrapped around around us, working our way down the muddy path back toward the van. With each step, the understanding of what had happened along our walk and the realization that I was going to have to separate myself from him was overwhelming. As we got to the van I slowly reached down to undo the strap and take him in my arms. Our hug lasted for what seemed like minutes, and we said our goodbyes.
As we began our two and a half hour trip back over the mountain to Port-au-Prince, I was overwhelmed by the love and desire to be with me the boy displayed. I spent time praying for him and his family. My thoughts turned to my relationship with the Lord, and that I as Christ’s child should desire to hold on to him with all my might as I walk daily with him. I should do everything possible to walk along side Him and take comfort in His presence. I pray that in this new year your desire, as mine is, would be to dwell with God, abide with Him, spend time with Him, and rest in his love.
[Written by LHP Board Member, Chuck Fink]