Well it kind of began all magical and fairytale like, except not at all.
I can look back on our first year here and realize we had NO CLUE of what was going on around us and no idea of what Haiti really needed. At times, we even felt like we were helping when instead we were just hurting. We learned the hard way to humble ourselves and stop trying to save these kids- we will never be the Savior they need, that's what Jesus is for and what He alone can do.
We were rounding out our first year of ministry at the orphanage. Early on we learned the kids do NOT view us 'white American visitors' as family. They actually ALL had families of their own, most even had parents and none of them were a fan of our 'American Way.' Our rules and systems were wasted on this institutional living where attachment disorders of many kinds run rampant. They heard and mostly participated in our nightly bible study. Who knows what they thought of us as we implemented ourselves into their daily living. We had high hopes and BIG hearts for changes to be made and "orphans" to realize their true potential as Co-Heirs with Christ. We still have those desires for them; however, we learned in the first few months the kids we thought were "orphaned" by terrible/incapable or dead parents were really just "orphaned" by poverty. Despair and a better chance of being taken care of led these loving momma's and papa's to give over their children to the orphanage and its caretakers.
Sure their living situations were not ideal at some of the houses they came from but these children (along with 80% of "orphans" worldwide) are poverty orphans. The term poverty orphan comes from the fact that a lack of money or resources will lead parents to give up their children in hopes that they can find a better life. While trying to meet physiological needs (and not doing a fantastic job at even that) the orphanage was neglecting the rest of Maslow's Heirarchy of needs. The children were not cared for in ways that promoted their safety needs, their sense of belonging or being loved, their self esteem and importance was neglected and belittled in every way possible, and their self-actualization (the drive to become the best version of themselves) was not there. In fact, a few of the kids struggled with suicidal thoughts on a regular basis and self worth issues which included eating disorders. We learned about the mistreatment of the kids in the orphanage, previous abuse from nannies who watched them, physical abuse from various people, and molestations between the children themselves. After almost an entire year of staying in it for the sake of the kids and trying to change how things were- we realized after many conversations with trusted missionary friends- we were only supporting what was going on and not thwarting it.
Our funding, our positivity, our rules and regulations, our American mindset was aiding vile behaviors because we truly had no control over the situation. Toward the end of the year a lot of truths came out we were unaware of and recently even more has been made known to us.
As Maya Angelou said:
"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better DO BETTER."
So here's how we are following Maya's advice:
After stepping down from our "fake" position as administrators (which was never official at an unregistered orphanage anyway) we have begun our pursuit of orphan prevention through family preservation and job creation. These fancy terms made simple just mean we do not want families to feel so desperate that they must hand over their child to the first place that can meet their physiological needs better. We want to help create jobs and expand businesses here in Haiti for Haitians. We want to pursue opportunities for families to learn and grow together to find hope that God will do exceedingly and abundantly more than their family could dream of!
We do not want the desperation poverty brings to send parents knocking for someone else to care for their beloved baby. We want to not be the Saviors just because we are white and more priveleged but instead we want to point them to the one and only Savior who is mighty TO save. #amen!
Stay tuned for the GIANT dreams God has placed in us to begin this year! Stay tuned for how they unfold.
We are about to embark on a whole new adventure and are excited to pursue God's Goodness to His people in new ways. We are praying for an enormous impact on families to want to stay together, for children to not be orphaned by avoidable circumstance or simplistic needs, and for a wave of empowerment to rush this community!
Sure, our story is the opposite of a fairytale in many ways but especially in the sense that:
ALL OF IT IS REAL.
We live in a messy reality, a heavy world full of suffering, and we are no longer sugar coating the truths we are learning. I love a good, fluffy fairytale but I LOVE a true story of heroism, inspiration, and empowerment EVEN MORE. Join us in the nitty, gritty messy life we live and just know we are not the heroes I am referring to above... but you'll see ;)
As always friends- Abide in the one who leads us into deeper waters, not to fear, but to walk with Him!
Kristen & Alex Bradshaw