Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Labor Day Weekend Haiti Trip

A short trip to the Coq Chante orphanage in Haiti was planned for the elders and some other men of the church in August/September 2008 . I was excited to get to go on this trip with these guys. I was also wanting to know more about this girl, Odette that had captured Allyson's attention. I was anticipating the fact that "just us guys" were going. we were going to have the opportunity to get to be "daddy" to these girls. I have enjoyed the trips with the women, but it is different when it is just the guys. It is like the time when i get to spend time with me and my girls. Nothing can replace a mother, but the time that daddies and his girls get to spend together is very special. I was looking so forward to this time. The trip getting there was long, as usual. As we pulled in the drive way to the orphanage the girls were waiting on us. I had the video camera ready to capture this moment as it happened. I thought I was ready, but was overtaken with the whole moment and couldn't continue videoing. I had fallen apart and couldn't get it together. We hadn't stopped moving yet and was already undone. that set the tone for the week for me. (The week was full of tears, but I won't spend a lot of time talking about that because I don't want to listen to Mark!)

Once I got gained some composure and got off the truck the girls greeted us all with kisses and hugs. I had seen the girls faces for months with the work I had done on the "our girls" and Haiti projects so I knew most of the names and faces. I called some of the girls by their name. There is something special about somebody knowing your name, even if it is a "blanc" from America. Odette was one of the girls that I called by name. Was there an immediate connection with her right then? No, but it didn't take long for one to start. One of the first things I did was to show her the pictures Ally had sent and was able to communicate that I was here husband. That started the week and every time I sat down I had Odette and a couple of other girls in my lap. The girls were very affectionate with all of us.

The week had the regular projects that take place on a trip to Haiti. The difference this time was the fact that it seemed as important, if not more important, to just stop what we were doing and hold and play with the girls. I know if they had the choice of us fixing something to improve life for them or just spend time with them, I believe they would chose for us to just spend time with them. One of the major projects of the trip was to put a water filtration system in place. The system was well engineered and tested before we went, but as the case in Haiti, not all things go to plan and adaptations along with some "on the fly" engineering is required to "make it enough". This project was very important to get done since the girls were constantly getting sick and had worms. The very things we take for granted like clean water, we were keeping these girls from being healthy. It was very tough to balance, "do we stop and hold the girls" or "do we stop working and not get this water situation fixed". I thank God that He multiplied our time and we got to both. The week was full things like this. The highlight of the week for us and the girls was getting to go the beach. The thing I remember most about the beach was after we had played in the ocean and had eaten lobster on the beach was getting to have some quite moments to get to sit and hold Odette in my lap and ask the question out loud to God "is she suppose to be my daughter?" She couldn't understand what I was saying and after being around me a couple of days I think she realized I was crazy and that I talked to myself, just like my girls at home realize that "daddy talks to himself". I had a couple of other concerns I voiced out loud to God sitting on that beach. I didn't get a clear answer that day.

As our trip was coming to an end I needed to get some pictures of the campus at Coq Chante. ("campus" makes it sound much nicer than it is.) I didn't have a lot of time to get this done before dark and this was our last day there. Odette was right with me and it had been a good week, with lots of time to sit and hangout, but I needed to hurry and I didn't want to blow her off, or for her to think I was being thoughtless. But I needed to get this done. I thought, if this is possibly going to be my daughter, why wouldn't I treat her like my daughter. So like being at home, I put her to work (yes, I am at a girls orphanage in one of the poorest countries in the world and I am thinking this). I have learned from my dad when its time to work, we work and we work hard. at first I was second guessing myself about dragging her around the whole place rather hurriedly. What would she think of me? But I started to think more about if she was my daughter- this is who I am, I don't want to build a relationship with this girl based on being a person I am not. Of course she just followed along and after a couple minutes, she caught on to what I was doing and the rhythm I was working at. She could anticipate what I needed as I needed it. It was a sweet time, she would hand me the camera when I needed it and then the video camera as soon as I finished with one. It is like working with my dad, we can work for hours and not have to say a word because we know what needs to be done. This wasn't just about shooting footage, this was about spending time with this girl that might be my daughter. I love the time I get to spend with my daughters when we get to play and work together and now I had got to do that with Odette.

The trip home was an experience I may share at a later date. I will share that you should not to plan trips to Haiti during hurricane season.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Trip Back Home

Saying good-bye to that little girl in May was one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do. Eddy tried to talk to her when she was so upset and he told her that I would come back. So I knew whatever I did I had to live up to that promise. The picture below shows the little girl that I left in Haiti that Friday morning. I did not realize until I looked at my pictures later how upset she was with me for leaving. For anyone that has been to Haiti or lives with someone has been all of the emotions that you experience are so hard to sort out. I remember saying to Brian on the plane "when will this pain go away" & as soon as those words came out of my mouth I thought- I don't think I want it to. God used the people and girls Coq Chante orphanage to change me in a way I can't put into words and that hurt is a daily reminder of the person that he wants me to be and what he is calling me to do.

Coming back it took me a while to "fit" back in to my life. I don't think a day has gone by since that trip that I do not think about the girls or the Gaspard family. Some days I think back to all of the amazing things that happened while we were there and other days I am so grieved missing a little girl that I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. As the summer went on and life got back to "normal" I still could not look at Odette's picture without feeling this tug as my heart that I can't explain. Andy started talking about the possibility of taking an elder trip to Haiti along with a few other guys that were going to work on a water-filtration system for the orphanage. I was so excited that Andy was going to get take a trip to love on the girls and to meet Odette.

When Andy was on his trip he called me one night & said "here someone wants to talk to you", Odette got on the phone talked to me. I can't remember what all was said but it was the sweetest phone call ever. When I finished falling apart I realized that just hearing her voice filled that hole in my heart that nothing else could. We have been asked many times in the last few weeks why we "chose" her and our answer is always the same "we didn't choose her- she chose us". I will let Andy tell you his story of their September trip and meeting Odette for the first time.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More Odette pictures- Haiti May 2008

White Stone Church Haiti Video May 2008

The Beginning of the Journey

Prior to my trip in May 2008, Andy had made three trips to Haiti (December '03, October '05 & December '07. I had always been supportive of his trips but never thought that I would get on a plane and go to Haiti myself. God began working on my heart while Andy was gone last December and I knew that He was saying that it was my time to go. I kept that to myself for weeks until my friend Megan called and said "I think I am supposed to go to Haiti on the next trip". So that it where this all began. I nervously said yes & spent months preparing to get on the plane and head to Haiti. Before we even got there I was in love with 18 faces that I couldn't wait to meet. Here is my story that I wrote about Odette when we returned from the trip in May. . .

I don't know where to begin telling you about a special girl named Odette. This connection was a complete surprise to me. I had learned all the girls faces and names before we left in May but for some reason had trouble remembering which was Odette and which was Benita. Now that sweet face and smile is forever ingrained in my heart. The first night that we were there, Odette had a horrible headache. We gave her Motrin before bed and the next morning Kim Holbert took her to the clinic. We found out that she had malaria and worms. She felt so bad those first days. I ended up sitting down in the church the first Saturday with Odette in my lap for what seems like hours. She felt bad and was content to just sit as I rubbed her back for the longest time. I knew right then and there that that was my purpose for the week- to sit and hold girls and be a mommy to them for the week. I can't begin to count the hours that Odette was on my lap that week. Even when she began to feel better she would pick to sit with me over doing any activity. We took a DVD player for the girls to watch movies in French. I couldn't convince Odette to go watch it, she would just smile at me and pat my lap. There were so few words exchanged between us during the week but I have never been so content to sit and be still in my whole life. She taught me so much that week about how to love. When I think about her now it makes me want to just be still and enjoy the things going on around me. The last few days as I held her and thought about leaving I can't tell you how many tears I cried. She would just turn around with the sweetest smile and would wipe the tears from my face. It was the most precious thing ever. She even would point me out to the other girls and smile like she didn't get why I was crying. I thought I was there to comfort and love on girls but was amazed at the love and comfort I got from them. The last night as the girls were praying over us Odette finally understood why I was crying and fell apart herself. I have never heard such sobs and wailing cries from a girl in my life. I tried to comfort her and put her in bed but she was beside herself. Finally I realized I might be making it worse so Brian Lloyd laid in her bed with her for the longest time talking and singing to her until she finally calmed down and went to sleep. I stood outside her room the entire time while my heart was breaking. I thought I knew what heartbreak felt like until I stood outside that little girls room in Haiti. The next morning I went to say good-bye and I couldn't get a smile out of the girl who smiled all week. She looked like she lost her best friend and at that moment I felt like I was leaving mine. I can't wait for the day that I will fulfill my promise to her that I will be back to see her. I left part of my heart in Haiti and I will forever be changed by a sweet little girl named Odette.

Our Journey

We are starting this blog to share with our family and friends our journey to bringing Odette home. We know many of you have questions about how we came to the decision to adopt and have questions about where we are in the process. Hopefully this will answer any questions you have & at times may be more information than you would ever need. We appreciate your prayers as we continue this journey to bring our daughter home.