Sometimes it is helpful to get another person’s perspective on a place like Haiti. What you often hear from me are the reports of our projects and the issues that we are often confronted with. Recently I was forwarded this account from Melissa Hedden Roper. Melissa just spent a week at our Cassamajor facility in the Les Cayes area. Here is her story (used with her permission.
On Thursday of our week in Haiti, the October team traveled to Cassamajor, a church plant and orphanage about 45 minutes away from our home base of Cambry. After negotiating a rather treacherous turn around a washed out creek bend, the old school bus we traveled in had to back up the final leg of the road to the village. Within minutes of arrival, the medical team began to set up for a full day of work, and our first patient, a teenage boy from the orphanage, arrived. As he sat alone on the bench outside the clinic in his neat blue checked school shirt waiting to be seen, I was drawn to him by his sweet, sincere face. I asked him, in one of the few creole phrases I knew, “What is your name?” The reply came back in English, “My name is Stanley.” I admit I had to suppress a chuckle at the decidedly un-Haitian sounding name. His English wasn’t perfect, but good enough to break down that frustrating barrier of language that plagued us during our trip. He told me how he and his sister had come to the orphanage after his parents died in the earthquake. As we chatted more, I discovered that his English skills were a result of a summer course the pastor, and orphanage director, had put together for the older orphans. When it was time for his exam, Stanley and I said goodbye, but he had an amazing request for me. It wasn’t the usual desire for my sunglasses or my watch or even candy. This precious boy asked if I could get him a French/English dictionary. The educator in me leapt for joy! “Yes, Stanley, of course I can get you one. I will send it back with the team coming in November.” He thanked me profusely and with a hug, left.
That wasn’t the end of Stanley that day. He found me again, excited to show me something. I couldn’t quite understand what it was, so he simply led me to the pastor, spoke for a moment in creole, and then we started off together towards the pastor’s home across the street. When I arrived, the pastor’s wife kindly seated me in a chair in the foyer. Stanley sat in a chair next to me and soon a guitar appeared. Stanley was also learning to play the guitar and he wanted to show me his progress! For the next 30 minutes, I listened and sang along as Stanley and the music director from the church played a range of recognizable hymns and choruses. It was a precious moment in time that I will never forget!
Stanley found me again later in the day, this time with his English teacher in tow. The teacher reiterated the need for French/English dictionaries and asked for one of the most basic of teaching tools- a world map. I was delighted to promise a delivery of 10 dictionaries and two maps in November.
My last encounter with Stanley came right as we left. I gave him a final hug and a smile and praised him for being such a kind and diligent boy. He very quietly and shyly asked for one more thing. He said, “Do you think you could get me an English Bible?” “Yes, Stanley, I can get you a Bible.”
Stanley has become for me a symbol of hope. Hope for the future of Haiti. Stanley epitomizes what I saw over and over among the children I met. He is bright, eager to learn, and loves the Lord. His pastor, or “Father” (as the children call him), has the foresight to understand that education is the key to a better future. He is using what limited resources he has to give opportunities to the young people in his care to learn skills such as English as a second language and music. And most importantly, Stanley is part of a community that prays. When we arrived in Cassamajor, a weekly prayer meeting was in progress. The church on campus was filled with men and women who commit to pray each Thursday from 6:00 am to noon. Six hours of nothing but prayer in a hot, sweaty, dark, building. Prayer to a God who knows. Who loves. Who is coming again. Yes, Stanley, there is hope for you.
It is through the loving actions of people like Melissa that the Stanley’s of Haiti are getting a new hope in their lives. If you, your church, or civic group would like to participate in one of these trips let me know.
David B. Short, PMP, SCPM
Projects and Development Director