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.