Today I feel it is time to take a break from the series I have been working on and spend a little time on why we do what we do.
I have been feeling a tug on my heart lately to go deeper into the Love of the Father and just abide there-- but this life makes it so difficult to stay in those moments.
I am writing today to share of a life riddled with God's fingerprints. As I look around me I see joy abounding in ways America never dreamt.
I see my materialistic nature shedding itself like an old crusty snakeskin.
I see my soul smiling at the giggles of kids playing with rocks as their goal posts.
I see my old heart being revived and made new in ways that do not make sense to the American girl I once was.
I see joy abounding in a suffering world.
It's in the mom feeding her baby with no shame from others around. It's in the potty training toddler half naked running through our english class. It's in the morning greetings from passerby's who view their greeting as their passport. It's in the freedom that comes from lack of busyness. It's in being neighborly as the neighborhood is the family and community is a lifeline.
I often get focused on the lack of things here but where they lack in resources here they abound in richness of things Americans are actually longing for in our hearts.
Following God might look like selling all of your belongings and moving across the world, or maybe it just looks like coming out of your house and moving your feet across the street. Whichever it may be for you- I know it will always look like LOVE.
But not just any love that we as Americans or humans have fabricated- a love that takes time for others, dies to itself, gets uncomfortable, lives vulnerable and messy without fear of rejection but even after rejection this kind of REAL love- it lasts. It abides. It thrives not because of its destination but because of its source.
The source, the place this love flows from is God who is Love. If we do anything without this Love, without the source of it, it is for nothing.
If we accomplish nothing else in this life but loving people richly and discipling people deeply while Abiding in the source of True Love- then we have done everything worth doing.
May your Joy Abound in the richness of He who is the source of Love. For joy abounds in the land of hearts for those who trust in Him and follow Him when the world around seems to have lack. I see joy abound here in a people I cannot even begin to scratch the surface of their sufferings. I see joy abound here because they choose it everyday. I pray you can grasp what I am trying so hard to convey- joy abounds even in suffering because of the abundant Love and grace God has for us, its a choice.
Yesterday was something out of a movie.
Actually, it was supposed to be a day to take a break from people, posting, planning, providing, or preparing. We were supposed to have an entire day at home without people and without stress to just play games and relax. Then we were supposed to end the night at our favorite Haitian restaurant eating some yummy food.
Instead- let me tell you about how the day actually happened...
We started early with english lessons at our house and one of our most dedicated english class students. Then we were supposed to sit outside but it was much too hot for that so we listened to music in the darkest room in the house- trying to escape the scorching heat that brings all your sweat glands to life. I put together a very easy, light lunch of summer sausage and cheese and snacks and we began to play Phase 10. During Phase 4 a knock on the gate rumbled our barking dogs to their feet and I pretty much knew our date day was about to be interrupted probably for the rest of the day.
Hopefully you have been reading all of my latest blogs on The Truth about Orphanages. If you're up to speed you might know about the incredible kids we used to work with and are brokenhearted for. This blog is actually an extension of the stories we have shared.
For all intensive purposes I will name this door-knocker Steven.
Steven left his place at the orphanage several months ago. He hated it there. He hated the constant hardship and never feeling like he belonged. He despised the constant abuse in many forms- but especially verbal. He was told he was a cockroach, a parasite, a beast on the daily. He missed his family something awful. What he missed most was belonging somewhere and a sense of protection. The things God instills in family, even in an impoverished one, are ones that cannot be mimicked in an institutional setting.
Once learning about Steven's exiting of the orphanage- that he chose to leave in an extreme way, we went out to his home village where we had been exactly a year earlier meeting his dad for the first time and watching their tearful reunion after eight years of separation and not knowing where Steven ended up. You see, he hadn't just been in one orphanage but at least two and he was exposed to many things at a young age.
Fast forward to Steven showing up at our house and staying for a few days while we try to formulate a plan for his future. He was not accepted back into his father's house for the shame of being kicked out of school by taking a knife (something he was instructed to do if he wanted to leave, because he was not allowed to just leave.) He was having difficulty living with a brother and then was staying with cousins down the road. We sent him back to his home and said come back to us in a few weeks with some living options you have found in this area.
And he did- he came back and we let him stay with us for a week. He had his own room and bathroom. We paid for his food and he spent time with Alex learning how to fix a truck, a motorcycle, and installing solar panels. He had not done his homework on the housing though so we gave him another weekend to do so and offered to help pay for it for six months until he can get on his feet and pay for it himself.
This young man left an institution that did not prepare him whatsoever for the reality of the world around him. This institution stole from him the very principals he would have acquired in a family setting. It left him and all the kids entitled without knowing how to work or provide for themselves. We see a stark contrast from the institutional living to kids who grow up in a family- even in extremely impoverished areas with imperfect parents.
Let's skip ahead to the knock...
Steven had not come for his Monday meeting with us in which we paid for a translator. Then we even paid this same translator to be here Tuesday and Steven did not show up or call to let us know he would not be coming. So I told Alex to say we are unavailable because days off are crucial to our mental wellbeing. But a simple "We're busy," does not suffice in situations like this. The rest of the afternoon was consumed in this mess of a man. He is strong, loved, and capable. He is a Son of the True King but his understanding of this life is so skewed. We let him know no longer is the offer still standing to find a house because he did not come to the meeting. We had a trust talk- a very detailed example that left Steven's face almost white with fear. After the talk he did not have much to say even when given the opportunity.
We made a plan for Steven with him for a work schedule and a time to come and learn mechanics from Alex. Except I was still concerned about the look on his face during the trust talk, my gut knew something was up.
The morning he was leaving after his stay at our house I encountered Steven up and ready sitting in our office with his back pack. I made him some breakfast and when it was time to walk out the door he had said, "Oh I left my sandals upstairs," and he grabbed his backpack off our dining room table to go get his sandals before leaving. This memory popped back into my head during our trust talk.
After he left our thunderstorm rain meeting I went upstairs to investigate. I had already checked his room when I was cleaning it after he left and found no signs of anything missing. But upon examining our office I found the remnants of a set of DVD's. The brand new plastic wrapper was ripped off the case and actually the case destroyed with neither DVD in it. We were and still are beyond bummed. (These are a Christian set of DVD's on taking charge of your mental & emotional health. Something I had planned on watching this weekend, but it was nothing exciting for a Haitian boy, just something to sell to someone else.)
This might sound like nothing to you but in Haitian culture- theft is not taken lightly. Street justice is a real thing here and now we are faced with a serious lesson that needs to be learned before it is learned any other way.
Devastated, I write this in tears. A constant battle of the heart for the truth to be made known. For all of us to realize the importance of a family setting. For us to not take lightly the things we have and the ways we were raised. I will NEVER stop waging war for the twelve kids who have forever impacted my heart. For the heartache they suffered to not continuously repeat in some twisted cycle of what we Americans believe constitutes for orphan care. Let it be made known the only orphan care there is- is to put an orphaned child in a family and to support those families. Had Steven grown up in a family setting he would have most likely been taught about stealing, he would have learned the Haitian proverbs telling him things like Sa ou fè se li ou wè (What you do is what you see) or Pa janm koupe dwèt moun k ap ba ou manje (Never cut off the finger of the one who gives you food), and in love the meaning would stick. Being a number in a group makes it much harder for these life lessons to have an impact on these children.
During the storm yesterday I found beauty in the rain and in the getting soaked. There is a love that runs deep for these kids, a love so profound and its source is far beyond our human capacity. As I sat there trying to unclog the drain that keeps our yard from flooding, I was drenched through and through. Thus is the love of God- refreshing, intense, and all the way through. Here we are in this life, in the middle of the storm, and we are just getting soaked but it is painful and beautiful all at the same time. A simultaneous chaos and loveliness I cannot convey to you any better than with this extremely lengthy blog post
As for Steven, we will meet with him Tuesday and do what any good parent does and follow up with consequences. As I wrote this blog today, the song "I Wish You Pain," by Andy Grammar came on and I had never heard it but the words got me right in the feels. If you familiarize yourself with the song you will indeed realize I am not a horrible person.
"Cause I love you more than you could know and your heart it grows every time it breaks. I know that it might sound strange, but I wish you pain." -Andy Grammar
So often we avoid hard things. We miss out on countless opportunities because we refuse to leave our comfort zone. And this boy of mine is strong- he will overcome the obstacles. I believe in him but we have to give him a healthy nudge and some tough boundaries for all of us. We will do so tenderheartedly and with humility not taking lightly the different ways God has called us to be here. The call to do the hard things is not wasted on us and we hope it becomes an example to him from people who love him as more than just some number in a line up.
So friends- be in prayer for us as this is not the first or last time one so precious to us will betray our trust or take advantage of what we offer. Pray for us as we are learning too. We are learning Se bon kè krapo ki fe l san tet (Its the heart of the frog that made him foolish).
Abide in Love. Abide in the One who loves you through and through and is not afraid to teach the tough lessons for our benefit.
Abide in the One who is with you while you are caught in the storm.
Kristen & Alex Bradshaw