Well, there’s just no getting around it:
I’m in love.
Ya know those early, giddy days of “can’t get him outta my head” – when little else in the day makes sense and all you want to do is be together, again?
Yep. I’m there.
A little boy in Haiti has stolen my heart.
Well, he’s closer, I suppose, to a young man, since I discovered last week that Markenley will be 16 in December. (He’s nearer the size of a 12 year old.) Like my son, his passion is also football – soccer, actually, but he can’t imagine calling it anything else. For most of the world, soccer IS football.
He dreams of becoming a doctor. It’s tough to tell what kind of student he’ll be, since his schooling thus far has been in a Haitian slum. But, beginning next week, he is enrolled in an academy for English. Because he can’t trek downtown alone, I’m also signing up his uncle, who is eager to learn.
Some of you helped to make that happen and, before Markenley even lifts his pencil, I want to say thank you! We’re not just bystanders in his fascinating story – we are officially mentors, investors, friends…
That’s how it feels to me. I love Markenley as if he was my second son. I care what happens to him and want to be part of the reason he succeeds.
Though it’s still unclear whether our role in his life will ever extend toward actual adoption, it is incredibly satisfying to have unearthed concrete ways to contribute. Learning English will benefit him and enable us to freely communicate. In the fall, he will also attend a legitimate high school.
He knows he’ll need to be an outstanding student. I hope that, if he truly has a fierce desire to become a physician, he’ll fight to excel. No matter what he wants to achieve, I’m ready to move heaven and earth to help him.
Actually, it seems heaven set the wheels in motion – the rest of us are merely doing our part by saying, “Here I am, Lord. Use me.”
All holiness aside, I gotta tell ya… helping others is like a drug! It feels GREAT!
The only side effect, it seems, is missing the heck outta the one you love…
I tried to write a blog on Monday, but was too full of our day in Haiti to write about it. Even now, with nearly the entire week Lived and done, I’m still at a loss for words. Sometimes, they just have to incubate.Everything in Haiti is infused – with joy, struggle, purpose, obstacles… it leaves you wishing the people stuck here could leave and recognizing you hate to.I’m seeing it through different eyes this time. Yes, there is still chaos and hardship and destruction, but something has changed. I’m not sure whether it’s in me or the environment.
All I see now is the remarkable resourcefulness of the people. I had heard no progress has been made in Port au Prince clearing the earthquake debris, but I see lots. Sure, it’s unlike any city we’ll find in America. There is plenty of rubble, filth, chaos and barely navigable roads – in nearly equal proportions.
Yet the level of destruction that was everywhere over a year ago has morphed into something else – heavy construction equipment, bustling roadside vendors and fewer topsy-turvy roofs.
True, it’s not enough and there are deteriorated tent cities everywhere, but it is something. The people I’ve met here keep moving – giving up is not an option they recognize.
But enough of that.
All I really wanna write about is Markenley!
He is sitting beside me, quietly playing a game I brought him. Every time that reality nudges up against me, I smile.
He has stepped from my dreams and into my Life.
It took a bit of struggle that no longer seems worth mentioning. What are cancelled flights and swiftly changed plans when finally watching a boy you cherish smile?
On Monday morning, I could barely focus. I knew that what had become a full-fledged quest would soon be satisfied – I’d get to hang out with the family of the kid who has monopolized my thoughts since the day we met!
I was beyond bummed that, thanks to the postponed flight, it would be impossible to meet the students of Markenley’s school. Many of my friends sent gifts and letters to specific children and my goal was to return home with photos.
I have to trust God on that one and accept that His plan is better than mine – even when I’m not alone in my disappointment.
Markenley’s uncle, who runs the school, distributed them Tuesday morning and I can only imagine the students’ surprise and delight. Pierre Jacques says they were thrilled. It happened without fanfare or my camera hovering – and perhaps that’s best. They are uncomfortable with spectacle.
I feel such appreciation and respect for those of you who gave so thoughtfully!
When it was finally time on Monday to head to meet Markenley’s family and deliver the gifts, I had butterflies that surely could have lifted our van above the streets! (That would’ve been quite the improvement, since the potholes and traffic make travel tortuously slow.)
It’s all a bit of a blur now.
When Grant, Sam and I got out of our van, Pierre Jacques was waiting for us. He extended his hand in greeting – and I was so excited that I threw my arms around his neck! Never mind that he’s a dignified man, a pastor in Haiti. He beamed right along with me!
The rest is precious history… forgive me if I wait a bit longer to write it. I’ve only got a few hours left in Haiti with Markenley and I don’t want to lose an instant of it!
P.S. We heard there was a 5.4-magnitude earthquake here yesterday, but don’t know if that’s true & we never felt a thing.
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Ever had your heart so full that you couldn’t write about it? Expressing the jumble inside me seems impossible right now. In two days, I will step onto a plane & head toward the rest of my Life.
That’s how it feels, anyway.
Those who know me well understand how much this trip to Haiti means to me (since I’ve monopolized every conversation talking about it! Ha). God has a way of nudging us toward where we’re meant to be – and it’s not always a logical journey.
Last year, thanks to a simple exchange on Twitter, I joined a mission team within weeks of the earthquake. During that trip (oh, what a journey just getting there!), I met a dignified young boy whose calm shattered my own.
Everything in me railed against the apparent reality that I could never see him, again. That I couldn’t help him. Encourage him. Extend any hope.
Then, when God showed up & did His thing (as He ALWAYS does, when we invite Him), my own world expanded into something I no longer recognize. When I think of Markenley and all that is occurring, I feel joy that’s …
… well, it’s beyond description.
It’s full of hope. And appreciation. And happiness. And awe. And childlike faith. And strength. And, well… joy.
I feel happy, just knowing that God has the reins and I’m joining Him to do my part.
Fighting to help one unnoticed kid is launching EFFECT in directions I never could have dreamed up. I’m surrounded right now… literally, physically surrounded… by stacks and bags and heaps of items being sent – by crazy generous people who care – to other kids in Markenley’s makeshift school.
I call them crazy generous not just because they gave what they could, but because they acted. Simple as that.
Where everyone else thought, “Gee, that’s a cool story – I wish them well” or even “She has lost her mind – she’s getting involved where she doesn’t belong and will surely regret it,” they said, “Here ya go. I believe in you. I don’t have much, but let me help.”
Some of the packages in this room right now are from people I’ve never met – and UPS is still showing up. In fact, I’m leaning on God to soften the heart of someone at Delta, so I can take three duffel bags, instead of two.
Crazy, isn’t it, that a luggage requirement might unhinge what so many have sacrificed to achieve? That sounds silly, until you look at the contents of these bags and imagine the glow in each Haitian child’s eyes who finally feels seen. I don’t want to walk into that school without something for every single student.
On Monday, together, we will make 47 children smile. Laugh, even. They’ll kick a soccer ball that’s new and hug a doll that smiles back. Yes, what they especially need is food – and I’m cramming some of that into the nooks and crannies of these bags, too – but doesn’t every soul need to be appreciated? Celebrated? These are kids who have no agency serving them or hope of being found.
I met a woman at a writers’ conference last week who feels she knows people who will want to invest in micro-loans to help some Haitian women claim dignity and strength through businesses of their own. I feel giddy when I think of just ONE woman being empowered through this! Just imagine the ripples!
Yesterday, my husband called a business associate and mentioned my trip. Turns out there’s a young Haitian man working with them, so we called him together to chat.
…I love this part…
Of all the people & places in the world, he grew up in an orphanage just down the road from Markenley’s slice of slum outside the ragged edges of Port au Prince! Literally minutes away. He says he used to walk to get where I’m going.
He was never adopted and so lived his entire youth in those broken walls. A missionary who visited through the years helped him move toward a college education in America and he has been here six years! Without that one person caring enough to help him, everything would be different.
I can’t waaaait to meet him in person and hear his whole story.
But there’s more.
He is coordinating a trip to Kentucky for some of the orphans where he grew up to visit a local church and sing – and, if I can get the right paperwork for Markenley in time, there’s a chance he can join the group and visit America next year!!
::cue head spinning, heart soaring::
Yes, I know to pause here. No one KNOWS what will actually happen.
It’s part of the coolest part of all: God’s plan is ALWAYS better than my own – and He has one unfolding. I totally trust Him to ease me toward the direction He prefers.
If He had shown me the whole picture a year ago and asked me to step up, I would surely have felt overwhelmed and shied away.
All He asked me to do was Remember… and invite Him in for the rest.
(If that feels preachy to ya, go write yer own blog… haha. I’m just sharing what has been crazy real for me!)
Thank you for your prayers and support in this journey. I have felt God’s Hand every step of the way and feel secure that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be and doing what He intends…
Haiti, here I come!!!
Update: OK, just had another conversation with our new Haitian friend in Kentucky. Because they are actually bringing the group of orphans to the U.S. in August of this year, there’s no way Markenley can join them. He doesn’t know the songs and paperwork takes awhile. See? I prayed that God would swiftly close the doors He wants closed & open those that have His blessing. All is as it should be.
In exactly four weeks, I will step onto a plane to head back to Haiti. Along with my backpack, DEET and passport, I’ll carry with me an assortment of shoeboxes, lovingly filled by individuals who have agreed to pray for particular children in a particular slum called Carrefour.
I’ll also have within me a host of emotions. If you’ve read my blog long, you know that it has been over a year since I trekked with a team, through the Dominican Republic, to Port au Prince for earthquake relief work. You also know that I experienced a modern miracle.
While serving orphans, I met a child. (How many relief-worker stories begin this way?) Markenley had eyes that seemed numb to the misery around him and yet, when I drew him out with my camera and attention, I found a bright, 10-year-old boy with a smile that transformed those eyes into ones capable of hope and joy.
We spent the day together and, after our team headed back to our camp of tents, I couldn’t get him out of my mind.
This is why I believe that was true: God, with His perfect wisdom, placed Markenley squarely in my path and in my heart. My life was meant to change – and it has. So was that boy’s – and it is.
I won’t rehash the wondrous story that has led us to today, since many of you have heard it before – but, if you haven’t, I urge you to read the other posts on this site. It won’t take long – and you will see the unmistakable Hand of God at work. (Does that give you the same joy and awe it does me?)
It includes all of the drama of searching through the tent communities of Carrefour for a child who had snuck into an orphanage seeking food – it was a year before we found him! My trip on June 19 will not only reunite us, but he will spend the entire week with us as we serve Haiti!
I still pinch myself… during the past couple of months, I’ve had conversations with Markenley’s relatives and learned some of their story. Like so many in Haiti, it isn’t pretty.
Finally, it is time for action. I’m heading there with a team of doctors from Arkansas who will be providing medical and post-traumatic psychological care to several communities. (We met, because they read about Markenley on my blog!) I’m excited that, on our last day, we will take him to play at the shore.
I know already that it will break my heart to walk to that plane after a week together to return home.
As I see it, it’s up to God what happens then. Jim and I would happily pursue adoption. If that is not what seems best for Markenley, we will enthusiastically seek enduring ways to be supportive to his family and community.
I’m sharing this with you for several reasons:
I need prayer. Clarity is critical because, if adoption is next, we will need to launch the process soon. Haiti has specific age requirements for children and adoptive parents and time’s a wastin’ on both sides of that coin.
And, yes, I also need additional funding. Jim and I are determined to pay as much as we can alone but, in order to minister effectively there – including rebuilding walls, if possible, that help to support their broken space – I need help. I have created a Paypal link just for Markenley – you will see it at the top left of this page.
In any case, I just want you to know that, in a few weeks, some pretty amazing stories will likely show up on my blog. I would love for you to pray along with us and get excited as we watch God’s plan emerge.
If you have been praying for a particular child and want to send a shoebox of gifts, now is the time. (I have about 20 children who never received prayer partners, if you want to jump in.) Because I have to pack efficiently, all boxes must be to me by Sunday, June 12.
Thanks for joining me in this journey. I’m certain I couldn’t do it alone. God’s presence is all around me – of that I’m convinced – and knowing that I have a circle of friends who also care deeply makes all the difference!
Thanks from my heart!
The roads in Haiti are lousy. Picture what that might mean. Potholes, filth, chaos.
Now picture worse.
And worse, again.
See the people milling around, aimless without industry, seething with hunger.
Imagine the poverty. And sickness. Dilapidated tarps and tents for homes. Fear. Anger.
OK. Forget about trying to get this stark reality into your head. We can’t. The scene can’t be set.
Hollywood hasn’t done it, yet.
Unless you’ve traveled the streets (that’s what they call them) of Haiti, it’s beyond knowing.
It’s into this bedlam that Jay Louis and his friend ventured last Wednesday. It wasn’t that they were eager to wander the slum of Carrefour, on foot, for three hours near dusk.
God said go and so they went.
When providence took them, without an exact address, to the walls of the very orphanage where I had met Markenley a year ago, it didn’t stop there.
A woman came to the gate and they showed her a picture of the boy who has haunted my dreams.
It is the same face that I have been told, time and again, cannot be found among the hundreds of thousands of wandering homeless in Haiti.
Even those who run this orphanage have insisted throughout the past year that he is not among them. That he is not known.
But it was a place to begin.
Beyond it, there would surely be no hope. Without a whisper of a trail, he would be lost.
And so, in Kreol, Jay shared the story of a woman far away who could not forget. He held up the picture, poorly printed on plain paper in a cyber cafe in Port au Prince, two hours’ trek away – the face of a 10-year-old child who could be anywhere – or nowhere at all.
“That’s Edouard Markenley,” she said.
Holy mother of God.
But God wasn’t finished, yet.
“I know his sister’s cell number,” she added. “Would you like for me to call her?”
Ever had so few words transform your life?
Mine will never be the same.
One phone conversation and 18 short hours later, Markenley’s aunt brought him to the orphanage to meet Jay Louis.
Face to face.
Ever wonder how it will feel to stand before our Lord in person? I can’t even fathom the joy but, now, I do know something about the sheer magnitude of anticipation.
I don’t believe I’ve ever wanted anything as fiercely as I’ve wanted to reconnect with that child and make sure he’s okay.
The thought of him found leaves me giddy.
Giggling, smile-in-my-heart, can’t-believe-it’s-coming-true thrilled.
When they met, Jay Louis discovered many things. But, first, he had to find a way to ease away from the orphanage’s boundaries.
When the director learned what was afoot, she swiftly stepped in, believing money would soon line her pockets.
“Anything you have for him, you should give to me and I will see that he gets it,” she reportedly said.
This, regarding the child she had insisted was a stranger.
I wasn’t there, but the corruption rampant in Haiti is not new to me. When our team was there a year ago, it took the entire week for our shipping container loaded with medical supplies and tents to be released.
Everyone’s hand stays out.
Well, not everyone, fortunately.
Jay Louis and Sam accepted very little when we hired them to search and, quickly, God moved their hearts from profit to compassion.
They have nearly nothing themselves and yet their first concern has been for a child they’d never met.
When Markenley was told there was a white woman (they call us “blan“) searching for him, he knew it was me.
Though a year has passed with no sign of my relentless interest, he recalled the day someone took the time to draw him out and teach him how to use a camera. On that day, he had hugged me as I left, smiled and waved.
It nearly cost him a beating.
On that day so long ago, he had been sent to the orphanage to slip inside and bring home food. There was little chance, otherwise, for his extended family to eat that day.
Instead, I engaged him and monopolized his time. He returned to their slice of struggle, empty handed.
Though one family member had wanted to beat him as punishment, another intervened.
Many times, I have wondered about where he is, who he is with and what his life is like.
Now I know a bit.
It’s tough to get answers, though, when my connection with Jay Louis is through limited texts and broken phone conversations. His time there was brief – but he did visit where Markenley lives.
I have a picture now, taken just two days ago, of this precious boy flanked by the young men who went to great lengths to find him. Markenley, who had been sitting for a few hours with the new knowledge of my search, is beaming.
Many people have asked whether we plan to adopt him.
Let me be clear.
I would bring that boy into our home in a skinny minute. It’s as easy as breathing to picture him here, where education and fine dining and ready counseling are abundant and ready to save the day.
If only life was a Hollywood script.
But I don’t have to tell you that it’s not. The obstacles to adoption in Haiti are daunting. At first glance, they appear insurmountable.
And God gave Markenley a family.
Like many in Haiti, his extended family has banded together, flimsy in circumstance but united somehow in survival – an older sister, a mother who is mentally handicapped, an aunt, two uncles, grandmother, two grandfathers and four cousins.
Together, they live in a ramshackle room, tenaciously existing in what is left of a collapsed cement building.
Together. As in all together.
Thirteen of them. In one room.
With no sewage.
Sit with that one for awhile.
No electricity. No fridge. No shower. Dirt. floors. Little shelter.
Jay Louis says, “I can tell you that ‘it is not good.’ But actually it is horrible.”
My heart aches – with a wish to help him that is fiercer than ever and with joy to have the chance.
Already, my small group of girls from church – middle schoolers convinced that, despite their youth, they can make a difference – have provided a way for Jay Louis to go with Markenley’s aunt to purchase groceries. Next week, our friend Stacy will personally deliver to him new clothes and shoes and a gift for his family from us.
It’s not much, but it is a beginning.
Quite frankly, it feels profound to have a beginning.
So, from here, we will find our way. God led us to this place; I’m convinced it must be for a very special reason.
I’m beyond grateful to be in his life as God’s plan for Markenley’s future unfolds!
I’m having a tough time writing this update.
I never realized, until now, that it’s tough to grin from ear to ear and type at the same time. I keep giggling and that, to be quite candid, is a real distraction.
There are just some things that can’t be put into words and, while that’s generally regrettable for a writer, today it seems just fine. Perfect, even.
It has been that kind of day.
For the sake of sharing the most incredible story I’ve ever experienced, I’m going to buckle down and get this right. But do you really want to know the minutiae? All that truly matters is that:
WE FOUND MARKENLEY!!!!!
(I keep adding exclamation marks. ‘Tis just how I feel! (!. !.)
Last night, as you know, I received a text from the young Haitian man who was scheduled to begin his search for Markenley, on my behalf, today.
But he just couldn’t wait, he said.
He felt God telling him to go NOW.
In Haiti, that’s no simple request. There is transportation to consider – into, in this case, a dangerous section of town. Near dusk.
But Jay Louis doesn’t question when God tells him to do something – he does it. Right away.
I’m learning that is just his way. (And I’m oh so glad!)
In this case, it meant skipping class. (My son would surely love to convince me that it’s God’s idea for him to cut class, but somehow this is the first time I’ve actually felt it is legit.) He also had to convince his buddy to join him.
No hill for a climber, right?
So they paid some guy to give them a ride in his van across town to the center of a slum and then they drove slowly up and down, trying to find an orphanage that I had only partially named. That, of course, would only be the beginning of the search, since I have been told several times by the orphanage director that she does not have a 10-year-old boy there and only suspects that he lives nearby.
And that was a year ago.
At last, Jay Louis’ buddy said that his dad was calling, wanting to know where he was, and insisted they needed to head home.
“I just felt certain that God wanted me to do this now,” recalls Jay Louis. “Right then, I received a text from Stacy with the address of the orphanage and we were directly across the street from it!”
Ah, Stacy Furlow.
I can’t adequately share today’s miracle without explaining her role.
A few weeks ago, this precious woman in Arkansas read one of my blogs about Markenley and then, like most other readers, she moved on.
In fact, she has her own website (http://beyondthismountain.blogspot.com) about her experiences in Haiti and, after reading my account, Stacy says she genuinely weighed whether to shut her own site down. Someone else, it seemed, was telling the story of this broken country well and, without immediate evidence that her own words were being seen, perhaps it was time to work silently.
But something caused Stacy to pause and she backed up.
Returning to my blog, she left a comment of support, sharing that she has friends now in Haiti – men who could provide the three things I said I need to search for Markenley: transportation, translation and security.
I remember clearly the moment I read her note. It was like manna from the heavens! For a year, I have been aching to go look for this boy and, for a year, the obstacles have seemed too great.
Swiftly, I wrote back to her, eagerly asking for more information. I would take her up on her offer and, somehow, some way, I was going to go at last! I even began perusing flights.
I could feel that it was time!
And then… nothing. No word came back from Stacy. She didn’t return to my site and never saw my eager note to her.
Flummoxed, I refused to let it be just another dead end. I knew, in my bones, that it was truly time! A full year had nearly passed since the earthquake and, surely, Markenley would vanish forever into the dust and mire of the forgotten world if I continued to wait.
So, I did what anyone in the 21st century does when there seems to be nowhere else to turn: I Googled her.
It revealed a Twitter link and, through that, I discovered Stacy’s website. When I saw the faces of Haiti, I knew I had the right girl!
I read every word of her blog, stunned by the beauty of her writing and tears that poured down my face at the stories she shared.
Swiftly, I pursued her, sending notes on her blog and Twitter. When she responded, a fast friendship formed!
I wanted to throw into high gear plans to travel to Haiti as swiftly as possible. We even unearthed what seemed to be workable dates. Alas, her work schedule wouldn’t gel and, though she had a trip of her own with her husband planned, it is one of the two weekends a year that I committed long ago to be on retreat with my church kids.
(Have I mentioned lately that God’s plan is always better than our own?)
Fast forward to my realization that her friends in Haiti could conduct the search on my behalf for Markenley. They speak Kreol, can move freely and safely without sticking out like sore thumbs among the tents and cluttered streets. And they care!
I suppose this is where I should expose my own unsuitability for launching a search in a foreign country for a kid I’ve barely met. These things, you know, take money. (Doesn’t everything?) While it doesn’t take nearly as much as it would in the United States, any money seems like a lot of money when your bank balance is flimsy. I suspect plenty of you know the drill. In this economy, income seems to turn into “outgo” long before it even arrives.
So I needed to raise some funds.
(I suspect God chuckles sometimes when I’m clueless.)
The solution had been sitting in my computer for an entire year.
When we met in the orphanage that day, our bond formed around the camera. It crossed the gap of two different languages and gave us a way to share with each other. When I left him that day, there were pieces of his perspective saved on my memory card!
Again, opportunity fell into my lap. Barbara Barth, a new friend, was opening an antiques shop in Lilburn, Georgia, and wanted to include the works of local artists as a fun aside. She invited me to display my portraits of Haiti – for sale! Since it was her grand opening, she wouldn’t even charge me for the exhibition space.
My small-group kids from church encouraged me, and it was their idea to add an Opening Day bake sale to begin a school fund for Markenley!
I’m not sure if you are reading between the lines and see all the God moments sprinkled throughout my fumbling retelling of this story, but they are everywhere!
Throughout the day of the photo exhibition’s debut, ones and coins trickled into the bucket we set out for Markenley, in exchange for brownies and hot chocolate. At the end of the bake sale, a man drove up and I suspected he wanted to complain about my girls waving their signs in the street.
Instead, he had tears in his eyes and complimented me on their hearts for service and said their selfless acts – outside on a freezing winter day – had left him emotional when he had driven past earlier.
Rather than just smiling and thinking warm thoughts, he had done what NO ONE would do in response – he went to the bank and withdrew cash to contribute! To the girls’ utter astonishment, he shelled out bill after bill, to the tune of 100 bucks!
Oh, the celebration of a dozen sixth-grade girls and their teacher who have seen God in action!
I guess this has turned into a bit of a book. Sorry for the length. I just can’t get around God’s tendency to work in my life in ways that take their own sweet time and teach me a thing or two about patience.
With the money we raised from the bake sale, picture and t-shirt proceeds, I was able to contact Stacy’s friends and engage them to launch an official search for Markenley.
You nearly know the rest of the story!
(dot dot dot)