Groan

miracle-on-voodoo-mountain-wide-800x445Read through without groaning.

I can’t.

I was wondering, why would a single, white gal from the states move to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere? It’s dangerous. It’s hot. It stinks.

You take one-step off the plane and you groan.

That’s the reason.

In Mk 7:31-37 Jesus is moved by a mans suffering, and groans.

Later in Mark 8:12 when the Pharisees refuse to believe, Jesus groans.

This is the same word used in Romans 8:22 when it says all creation groans under the curse.

We pray, “Thy Kingdom done, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” God has given us the power to bring a taste of Heaven to Earth, but we will never be effective in that commission without heartfelt groanings. We have to hate the curse. And we have to want Heaven.

Last week we had Sue who lives in Port-au-Prince come stay with us. I asked why she moved to Haiti on Sunday. The answer?

Groanings.

The article below can help put it in perspective. It is from one of my favorite books, Miracle on Voodoo Mountain. It is writing by a 20-something-year-old gal who also moved to Haiti. I cut and pasted some sections of it below – in the hopes that it will get you to purchase it here.

Book Excerpt below [except brackets]

 Deye mon gen mon./ Behind the mountain, there are mountains.–A Haitian proverb

As I sat on the roof and watched the sun go down on my second day in Haiti, I ate another energy bar for dinner. I felt so very alone. Am I crazy? My friends are right. I must be crazy to leave such a great life in the States for a place like this. I don’t even know why I’m here. Oh Lord. Did I make a mistake? Should I just go back home?

 I needed to hear a familiar voice that night, so I made a quick decision to splurge on an expensive two-minute cell phone call to my mom. As soon as I heard her voice, the tears began to well up in my eyes.

“I’m fine, Mom.” I tried hard to keep my voice steady and to sound sure of myself even though I wasn’t. “It’s beautiful here.” As I got off the phone I repeated the same routine as the night before, except this time my sobs and sniffles drowned out the beating drums in the distance as I cried myself to sleep.

I awoke the next day to the same goat-chicken-pig-people sounds and knew if I stayed around the house again all day, I would implode with fear and anxiety. I ate my breakfast energy bar, dried up my tears, and looked at David, the roof boy….

I pointed to myself, then moved two fingers like legs walking uphill and pointed toward the front of the house to show him I wanted to walk to Bellevue Mountain. It was the only place I had a name for in Gressier, and since I had holed myself up in the house for two days, I thought it would be refreshing to get out.

“Okay,” David said with a smile. He got it! I smiled, too, with a little jolt of happiness at having a plan, if only a small one…. Tons of children waited for their turn at the community water pump right outside of my gate. I looked at my feet as we walked, avoiding the gaze of dozens of dark brown eyes on me. As we strolled down the street, people yelled at me in Creole, and children ran up and grabbed my hands and clothes.

I followed close behind as he led me down the uneven brown road. We stepped onto a narrow footpath with clumps of weeds and bushes dotting the sides. We walked through a group of long-horned cows with tiny ropes around their necks, grazing peacefully. The path wound between a few decrepit houses and down into a small valley through a leafy green mango grove where the soil was rich and dark. As the path began to curve upward, we climbed a steep hill and came through some bushes to the top. It was flat and green, and my eyes followed the path that cut through the grass until I saw it. There, just as I remembered, stood the tamarind tree. It was a rich dark green, about twenty feet tall, with a single sturdy trunk and strong, supple branches that curved gracefully down at the ends.

I waved toward the tree and the land around it and asked, “Bellevue Mountain?”

“Wi.”

 …The top of Bellevue Mountain is a beautiful place. A cow relaxed nearby on the lush green grass, and I could see beyond the edge of the mountain all the way out to the turquoise sea. I smiled and took a deep breath, staring off into the distance.

A movement caught my eye, and that’s when I first saw her–a little girl, maybe six or seven years old. She was wearing a raggedy, soiled, yellow tank top that was too big, hanging off one shoulder down to her thin elbow. It must have been a woman’s shirt, and she wore it as a dress.

She was barefoot with matted orange hair, and her bony figure screamed of malnutrition. I watched as she threw a rock at a blackbird.

I felt drawn to her. She was so little. What is she doing out here all alone? I remembered the girls I’d seen earlier that morning, walking to school. They each wore a uniform with their hair neatly braided and tied with bright ribbons. Why isn’t she in school?

 I got close enough to call out, “What are you doing?” I was sure she didn’t understand me, so I glanced at David, and he repeated my question in Creole…

The little girl answered back in Creole. “There are two blackbirds.” David turned toward me to translate… “Yes, I see them. But what are you doing?” I asked again.

As she rocketed off in Creole, I received another loose translation from David. “Throwing rocks at birds.”

“Yes, I see. But why?”

Her beautiful brown eyes widened as she looked up at me. “To eat!”

…Bernard arrived shortly after to help with translation; David had called him when we left the house. Bernard was fluent in Haitian Creole and English, which he’d learned from a group of deportees from Brooklyn.

A few moments later I saw an older woman walking up the mountain toward us. She spoke broken English and told me the little girl’s name was Michaelle (Mick-kay-ell). Then, in an emotionless voice, she explained, “Mother dead. No father. Nobody wants her.” She looked at me, then turned to Bernard and began explaining in Creole that no one wanted Michaelle, so she had taken her in. She called herself Michaelle’s aunt, even though they weren’t related.

…The woman continued, telling Bernard her house had been destroyed in the earthquake and she’d moved from outside of Port-au-Prince to Gressier several months ago. “No one wanted Michaelle, so I brought her here although I can hardly afford to feed her.” Bernard looked at me, his eyes sad as he translated.

“Does Michaelle go to school?” I asked.

“No, she can’t go to school. No money,” she said.

…Early the next day I found the path and climbed Bellevue Mountain again, following the woman’s instructions to find Michaelle in a big blue tent on the side of the mountain with the older woman, four other children, and several adults. The relationship this mishmash family shared was unclear and unsettling.

Michaelle was playing in front of the tent in the same ragged yellow dress she had worn the day before. When she saw me, she ran inside and changed into a blue-and-white princess dress costume with white shoes and ankle socks. Her excitement propelled her ahead of me down the path. I had to walk fast to keep up with her. As I followed her down the mountain, I wondered who she was and why she was living in such a strange situation. Is it because of the earthquake? How did her mom pass away? Why was she trying to eat a bird? Was she really that hungry? Why isn’t she being fed? And why was she wearing that old yellow rag when she had a cute dress to wear? I had lots of questions, and I wanted some answers.

A person’s a person, no matter how small. –Dr. Seuss

 “Non,” she shouted, clinging with all of her strength to the branches of a scrawny little bush in the mango grove. Michaelle was refusing to let go. It was a Sunday morning, and we were halfway up the path to the blue tent on the mountain where she lived. With tears streaming down her face, yelling and screaming hysterically, words poured out of her so fast I couldn’t understand even one syllable. I crept closer and sat down next to her in the dirt. When I got down on her level, I realized I didn’t have to understand any Haitian Creole to know what was going on. I didn’t need to understand a single word to see that her face was filled with fear, fear of returning to her tent. I was rocked by the waves of terror emanating from her tiny seven-year-old body.

My heart ached, and I felt anxiety rising inside because I knew I couldn’t really talk to her, even though I tried. In my most soothing and confident voice, I called her Micha (pronounced “Mee-ka,” my new nickname for her) and told her everything was going to be okay, but it didn’t seem to help. After a few minutes of feeling completely helpless I, too, burst into tears as I stared, transfixed, at her frail body shaking and plastered to the dusty bush. I’d never before felt so helpless, and I begged God to show me what to do. Why is this happening? Please! Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.

 …Micha’s aunt and the others in the tent where she lived didn’t seem to love her. At least they didn’t show it when I was around. It was so confusing. Why is Micha so sad all the time? Why is she the one that seems to be doing all of the household chores and all the work? Why doesn’t she want to go back home? The questions and curiosity and confusion swirled around in my brain and wouldn’t stop. My stomach clenched, telling me there was something deeper happening and I needed to find out what it was. After the emotionally exhausting morning I wrenched open the front gate, crossed the front yard, and burst through the front door, frantic to find my cell phone. I needed answers, and I didn’t care how expensive the Internet data charges were going to be.

I turned on my cell phone and pulled up Google. Then I typed in the three words that would forever change my life: Haiti + child + servant.

 A word I’d never heard before popped up in big, black, bold letters: restavek.

I froze, staring at the word on my cell phone screen for a good five minutes before scrolling down. There is actually a name for this way of treating children in Haiti. My mind reeled in confusion. I didn’t want to believe it, but as I continued reading, my head felt as though it would explode with this horrific discovery. The word restavek (sometimes spelled with a c instead of a k) is translated “to stay with” and is a common arrangement in Haiti, where parents force a child to live with another family because they are very poor or because of parental death or illness. Sometimes it includes the child being sold, kidnapped, or borrowed for a period of time.

I read a statement by the United Nations, condemning the restavek system as a “modern form of slavery” where even young children are put to work as laborers and treated as less than human.1 The majority of these restaveks are girls between the ages of four and fifteen, and they are responsible for all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and fetching of water for their households. Additionally, restaveks often suffer severe abuse and are very rarely enrolled in school.

There was much more, but I’d seen enough, and I put down  my phone. The room felt as though it was spinning. “Micha,” I gasped. Like an overwhelming rush, everything started to make sense. This is why she wasn’t in school when I met her. This is why I always saw her carrying heavy buckets of water or washing clothes in a tub outside the tent or surrounded by endless piles of dirty dishes. This is why she sleeps under a table on cardboard.

 Like a slideshow, images from the last few weeks popped up in my head as I remembered the many young girls I’d seen around Gressier who seemed to be working constantly. I had wondered why they stared down at the ground, eyes glassy and sad, and shoulders drooping. It was all starting to make sense, and I knew I had just made a life-changing discovery; I was finally able to put a finger on the disturbing feeling that had crawled its way up into my heart every time I passed these children. It was as if I could see the darkness of the situation and the evil behind it. I realized what the Holy Spirit had been stirring up in me the past few weeks, and I felt as though the Lord was igniting a fire inside me.

Children’s faces, one after another, popped into my head as I realized that Bellevue Mountain and much of Gressier were full of restaveks in an epidemic of child slavery. It made me sick to my stomach that I had been walking around this community for the last few weeks, knowing that something was wrong, wanting to question the situation, but not knowing how to begin. And it made me even sicker to know that so many Haitians had accepted and participated in this form of slavery in their own country with their own people.

I couldn’t find any firm statistics, but organizations that had studied the situation estimated that 300,000 to 500,000 children in Haiti are restaveks. I couldn’t get my mind and heart around that number. I still can’t. I never will…

I knew cooking pots of beans and rice or singing songs with kids wasn’t going to be enough.

[Get the book here.

I get to go back to Haiti this summer. What a privilege.]

 Romans  8:26 (NLT)  The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.

 

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