In March 2013, I visited Haiti. I was unprepared for the devastation. Crying myself to sleep the first night, I wondered where the hope was. Over the course of the next few days, I quickly found that hope can rise out of places where we least expect to find it.
It was sweltering hot inside the church that day and it seemed to get hotter by the moment. A sudden rainstorm brought 100 kids inside for arts and crafts when the plan had been 25 at a time.
Sweat beads trickled down my face. Was I just nervous or was it really this hot? I was a visitor, this was way out of my comfort zone, and the children were so excited. What did they expect from us? Would we deliver?
The interpreter arrived, and after a quick flurry of words that I did not understand, the children looked up at us in attention.
We started working on the crafts together. Common things like paper plates, foam crosses, glitter and stickers became beautiful artwork.
Children were smiling and laughing. I took it all in, my heart filling with joy as I saw these children having fun. And then a realization — I was also having fun.
Our project finished sooner than planned and the happy, squirming children waited for instructions of more to do. I decided to pick up a crayon and write my name, pointing at it and then at myself. “Terri,” I say.
A flurry of excitement began as each child wrote his or her own name on their art projects.
Picking up a cross I read one child’s name out loud. A smile spread across his face as the other children began moving in tighter around me. One by one I read each name while the child’s eyes watched me closely.
Somehow this art project had turned into a way for each of us to introduce ourselves. We didn’t speak the same language, yet we found a way to get to know each other.
As our game went on, I realized the children didn’t just want me to say their name; they wanted me to know their name. Every time I said a name, the child to whom the name belonged beamed with joy, and some even hugged me as their name left my mouth. Then it dawned on me,
God knew each of these children’s names before they were born.
Could hope be in knowing that someone knows your name?
Just as we started cleaning up, a little girl walked up to me. She looked me in the eyes with deep concern on her face, reached out her hands, placed them on my forehead, and brushed her palms across my face and down my cheeks in one quick movement. She looked at her hands now covered with my sweat and gently wiped them on her dress.
She then reached out her hands again and this time her arms went around me. Her gesture caught me totally by surprise as I felt my heart turning to mush. It was all I can do to not break down and sob like a baby.
I felt broken in two and humbled by her gesture of love.
I felt really, really small as the arms of my great big God suddenly wrapped around me through the loving hands of that little girl.
She was the Hope in Haiti…. These children are the hope in Haiti…. Jesus is the hope in Haiti, and He knows each and every one of their names.
And He had been there all along. And that day he was working … through the hands of a child.
For another hopeful story starring the children who will be the future of Haiti, meet Erickson Jean Francois. We met Erickson right after the earthquake at age 9 and have been following his family’s story since then. It’s a story of survival, hope and dreams for the future.
Terri Siebert is a Volunteer and Sponsor. She and her husband Mark have 3 children and 3 grandchildren. She blogs at www.astorybyme.com