For the Girls | Haiti, Part 2

She touched her little forehead with her index and middle fingers, then curved her hand over to the side of her face, forming the letter ‘B’ against her cheek. The word for “brown.” She pointed to her skin.

Then, her tiny hand formed the letter ‘Y’ and shook it gently. The word for “yellow.”

She pointed to me.

After a pause and a confused expression, I finally grinned in understanding, giggling at myself. And she grinned back.

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One of my most treasured experiences in Haiti was sitting in the concrete courtyard at the orphanage, surrounded by shrieks of laughter and the sounds of tiny bare feet, speaking in sign language with this girl, and several of her classmates.

“Jesus.” “Friend.” “Good morning.” “Mama.” “Papa.” “Boy.” “Girl.”

We were a funny group, pointing to the most basic of objects and then motioning to these girls to show us the correct equivalent in sign language.

Those sweet kids. They couldn’t hear much – but they said much.

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This is Darlia. As you can see from that first picture, she has the most stunning blue eyes – a rarity. Her demeanor was quiet and reserved at first, but when I started to learn a few words, and she saw my efforts to speak her language, she bloomed. She laughed as I messed up basic signs and she gently tugged at my hand so she could show me her friends, her teachers, her classroom. So she could tell me that I was her friend.

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This is Amanta. Oh you guys, how I wish you all could have met Amanta! I think she was one of the first kids I met when we unloaded on our first day. That was her MO – first on the scene. First with a big smile, a hug, an over-exaggerated handshake that made you feel totally welcome. And an absolutely contagious laugh! She had the best laugh. She loved playing hand clapping games with us girls, and roared with laughter anytime anyone messed up. And we knew she was laughing with us, not at us.

One afternoon, she was teaching me to say “good day” in sign language, and I apparently was a little too eager with my movements because she collapsed into giggles. When she imitated me so I could see my mistake, she made it look so exaggerated that she made the sign into a dance move! So, from then on it was our dance move. Whenever I saw her, she’d give me a clever smile, put her hand on her hip and do the “good day” move. Oh she made me laugh! I think she made all of us laugh. And, on our last day, this joyful girl cried the hardest at our departure.

With her big personality, big smile and big heart, joy followed her everywhere.

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This girl – this is Mylove. She was the most patient with me when it came to learning new signs…and when it came to revealing pieces of her heart. One night, during a rousing game of duck-duck-goose in the concrete courtyard, she snapped her flip flop. After insisting and saying “please! please!” in sign language, I convinced her to take my flip flops as a backup. From there, we were close.

She taught me the signs for “mom” and “dad” and “home.” And then she put those words into context. She told me, in fluid movements that I was just learning, how her dad had passed away from old age, and how her mom still lived outside of the orphanage, but she hadn’t seen her in a really long time. Mylove told me that it made her sad, but that she was happy to have found a home at the orphanage all the same. She showed me to her room, introduced me to one of her teachers, and wore my old flip flops with more pride than I ever did.

She told me that, before she came to the orphanage, her name was “Myloe.” But when she arrived, she couldn’t hear or communicate well, so when the leaders finally figured out her name, it came out as “Mylove.”

It seemed fitting to me.

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Finally, Emma.

Full of sass. Spunky. Clever. Observant.

She loved to call me crazy – shaking her fingers at me – and then scamper away, almost as if to say “you’re weird. I don’t know if I want to hang out with you.” But it wouldn’t be long before she’d be back. One time, she came back to the courtyard with a workbook filled with Bible verses – and how to say them in sign language. It was so fun to go through the pages with her, trying to keep up, while she giggled at my halting signing abilities.

One afternoon, she threw up this sign. One I knew by heart – one that I think all of us know. One that transcends barriers of all kinds, for all kinds. I – Love – You.IMG_1967

Those sweet kids. They couldn’t hear much – but they said much.

That’s what makes a trip like ours special. If your friend or family member has come back from a mission trip and they are over the moon about the kids, this, I think, is why.

Their sweet faces welcome you instantly with their expressions. Their tiny frames tuck themselves under your arm in a hug before they even know your name. The shy ones bloom into their personalities with every passing day. And suddenly you feel like you can be one of them. Your inner child kicks in, and with it, a kind of freedom. You start to see yourself as they seem to see you – special, unique, filled with possibility, worthy of love.

These orphans – they don’t have a mama to tuck them in at night or to care for them when they’re sick. There isn’t someone to tell them, every day, that they are special. And yet, they are more open, more faithful, and more courageous than I am at age 23. I learned a lot from them.

It was beautiful and special to see our team members bond with different sweet kids throughout the week, laughter bouncing off of concrete walls, bonds forming with a special kind of glue that can’t ever be severed. Many of our team members were returning to the orphanage for their second or third or fourth or fifth time, so they got to come back and reconnect with those little ones who had already occupied a special spot in their hearts before.

They themselves got to reconnect with what it feels like to be a child. Maybe not saying much, but in their hearts, knowing.

They are beloved. They are counted special. They are held by the Father.

So. This is for the girls – Darlia, Amanta, Mylove & Emma.

Be strong. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Know that you are free to be you. You are treasured, gifted and unique in every way, designed to do great things while you’re here.

You are beloved. You are counted special. You are held by the Father.

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