Walking up near the Kindergarten, a young boy stood looking at the ground under the tree. There were a few other adults waiting for the Kindergarteners to finish school. As I got closer, I could almost FEEL his embarrassment and nervousness.
I approached him and bent down a bit asking his name. No Response. I looked at him, hands in his pocket, eyes GLUED to the ground. I asked for his name again, a mumble of something came out. I had seen this scenario way too many times…I gently touched his chin to make his eyes meet mine, I looked at him intently and asked, “Are you in school?”…No Response. I knew what that meant.
Before I could even probe him further another man walked up and stood next to him. I looked at the man and asked if he knew this child. As he said yes, the story began to unfold. This child was coming to pick up another child that was in school…so common, so upsetting, so frustrating and typical of a child in a Restavec situation. I asked the older man why this child who lives with him wasn’t in school…he looked at me and quickly said, “I don’t have any money.”
As one of our Directors of Respire Haiti Christian School and a former Restavek walked up, he looked at my face, heard my tone of voice and within seconds knew what was happening. As loving and calm as possible we began discussing the importance of ALL children going to school, the way that our Father LOVES us and how we are ALL Children of God.
The older mans eyes fell to the ground…
Even though our school is FULL, I could not stand the thought of this child coming to pick up another child from school EVERY DAY for the next year. We looked at each other exchanging some silent words…and the Spirit spoke to both of us together like He often does…we looked at each other and both said, He HAS to be enrolled in school.
We told the young boy and the man who he lives with that his first day of school would be the next day (Monday)…the little boy released a small smirk and it was the first snippet of emotion I saw…my heart was filled and I breathed deep knowing the Lord had just orchestrated this….
Jean Louis, 13 years old, NEVER been to school. When Monday arrived, he was there bright and early. As I grabbed his hand to walk him to class, his hand was limp and his eyes stayed on the ground. I prayed silently as we walked…LORD SHOW him who you are. REVEAL yourself to him. Give him courage, strength and confidence IN YOU. Help him to find his identity in YOU and NOT as a Restavek.
As we walked down to his classroom, I told him how he would LOVE our school. That we would make sure he had a uniform, books and he would get to eat breakfast every day. A small smile came out…
That afternoon his “caregiver” came to pick up the Kindergartner and asked where Jean Louis was…classes were over so I asked him to walk with me to his class. There we saw Jean Louis sitting with 4 other children and their teacher Monsieur Gabriel….going over the alphabet…as Jean Louis sat in the front row smiling and talking…my heart fluttered. A SMILE 🙂 His life, his freedom…is beginning.
I looked over at the older man and said gently, “This is important. School is important. He needs to learn how to read, write and most importantly to KNOW that His Father in heaven loves him.” The older man looked in the classroom and looked back at me…his eyes, not leaving the classroom, glistened as he said, “Yes, I know. Thank you.” I looked back up at the man and said quietly, “Don’t thank me, the Lord has done this and I’m just blessed to be a part of it.” He smiled a gentle smile of understanding.
It is a CONSTANT testing of patience and resting in HIS Spirit to not just LOSE it and go crazy YELLING when this happens. (Yes I DO get worked up when there is such injustice right in front of me) Especially this situation, I felt like it was almost a slap in the face that someone had the nerve to send a Restavek to pick up another child at our school. I can ONLY imagine the emotional abuse that happens when a child who is NOT in school and is forced to go pick up a child who IS in school. It is ONLY by the grace of God that I am able to have some composure and PEACE that HE is fighting for these children, that He is USING Respire Haiti and the community of Gressier to fight for these Restaveks. That One by One He is forever changing the lives of these children.
Please pray with us and join us in our fight!
“If one member suffers, all suffer together…” 1 Corinthians 12:26