It was difficult to sleep. Anticipation had kept me awake, as did the roosters crowing every half hour, the dogs barking (probably fighting over a discarded dinner bone), and the stuffy, humid air.
I wake up early and eagerly get ready for the long-planned visit with Ancyto, the Compassion International child my family and I sponsor in Haiti. The hired driver/interpreter is due to arrive at about 10 a.m.
I linger, getting things organized. Camera. Water bottles. Protein bar. Cell phone. When I get to our breakfast room I see the driver has already arrived. It’s only 7:30 a.m.
The cab driver and I head out early. We must travel a roundabout route because the more direct road was washed out in the last hurricane and has yet to be repaired. It’ll be a 90-minute ride. The driver and I chat as I stare out the window at the changing countryside. He tells me of history and events of Haiti.
I watch as we pass naked children. Women dip water from a mud puddle where their donkey is urinating. Other women are leaving the large, murky puddle with their containers filled.
We wind along bumpy, potholed roads, up and down mountain sides, to a large river where we stop.
The driver makes a phone call and talks loudly in Creole. He is concerned whether we can get through the river.
The driver then puts the vehicle in low gear. We start into the river and are soon up to the door in water. We begin to climb the bank on the other side. We made it. It is not far now.
The view is a lovely green-blue of ocean water; beaches are dotted with roaming cattle grazing on a few blades of grass.
We are in Cotes de Fer, another community seeped in despair and hopelessness. With no work available, men sit around the town park, looking about aimlessly. Earthquake rubble sits just as it did more than a year ago. Naked children run through the streets. Garbage litters the curbside.
We pull up to the child development center. My heart is beating wildly again. The palms of my hands are moist. I search for the face I have posted on my refrigerator at home.
We enter a small room and he stands from a chair in the corner. Ancyto! I put out my hand to touch his. He is so tall. Oh, that’s right, he’s 14. He doesn’t smile and I’m wiping tears and chatting. The interpreter is trying to keep up with what I am saying, snapping pictures of us every 30 seconds.
We sit in a small, dark room of Ancyto’s school and chat about his schoolwork and favorite subjects. I give him gifts — a soccer ball, a pair of sandals, a package of gum. Ancyto pockets the gum with a smile.
I tell him about my children and their interests and show him pictures from the small album I made for him — pictures from the farm, pictures of my children, pictures of us as a family. Ancyto looks intently and turns the pages slowly. He comes back to pictures of my 16-year-old. He looks again at pictures of my youngest son and smiles. I cry.
My heart longs to touch this young man’s heart, to make a difference in his life. We go for a walk and he shows me his classrooms — simple plywood structures after the earthquake flattened the previous child development center.
I meet Ancyto’s mother and sisters. We walk through town to visit their home and pass many of their friends. I’m introduced to his older brother. We meet Ancyto’s father, who leaves the group of sitting men and walks with us.
We arrive at their simple, small, crowded, freshly cleaned home. Jagged cracks in the wall show the obvious earthquake damage. Ancyto’s mother is so proud to have me in their home.
We talk about gardens. We talk about raising children. She shows me a basket of fresh fruit she has arranged for me to take home. I feel all warm and flushed because this is such a big gift for a family of little means.
Dad has no work. They have very few possessions. They struggle to survive, yet they give me a gift. Me — an American with a good job, a farm, and here in Haiti to minister to them. I am overwhelmed.
It is soon time to leave and I feel my heart tug. I want to stay longer. I want to crawl into their lives and be with them, listen to them, walk with them.
We return to the development center, where a meal has been prepared for us in honor of my visit. I am humbled. I don’t deserve such honor. I’m just as human as they are. I’m the one with much.
Everyone is so gracious with so little to give. We break bread together, eat and laugh and talk about Ancyto playing soccer. Ancyto is spinning the soccer ball on his finger. His face shows anticipation of kicking that ball around with the other boys. The time has come and I must say good-bye. Ancyto’s mother cries.
“Thank you, thank you so much for giving my son a better chance in life.”
My vision blurs. I brush back the wetness in fear that if I cry I might not stop. I think,
“This is so big, Lord. I want to run. Help me say good-bye. Help me to leave here graciously.”
I turn to Ancyto and touch his shoulder. He looks at me gently and touches my arm. The interpreter translates for him,
“Someday, I want to visit you – my other mother – and your family and your farm over in America.”
“Yes, Ancyto, we will pray God would make that dream come true.”
I swallow, I hold his arms close and we embrace gently, tenderly, lingering. His 4-year-old sister tugs at my sleeve. She wants a hug too. We reach the vehicle. I get in, then turn and wave. The family huddles together, touching one another, wiping tears, waving and blowing kisses. And I pray,
Lord, I am not just sponsoring a Compassion child. Rather, You have given me another whole family. I am the one who is so blessed by these sweet people. Watch over them. Protect them. Keep their hearts only for You.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leanne Beyer is a widowed mom of five children and has been a Compassion sponsor for several years. She was one of the first sponsors to visit her sponsored child in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. When Leanne is not working as a registered nurse, you can find her working hard at her family’s 75-acre farm in Wisconsin.