As I left the café mid morning one day and crossed the street, I had about 5 seconds to think to myself…”Well this is unusual…walking up the mountain by myself.” (I normally have one of my four kids with me or other children/people that are headed in the same direction walking with me).
Turning the corner to head up the mountain I was stopped in my tracks. I almost had to do a double take to make sure I was seeing what I thought. I glanced over again and saw a tiny child on her hands and knees. The lady hovering over her was dressed beautifully, and completely ignoring the fact that there was even a child beneath her. The child hurriedly put the shoe on the ladies foot. As the older woman yelled something down at her, she took her dress swiftly and wiped off the ladies’ shoes. As if the lady hadn’t even noticed what the child just did, she turned around and hopped on the motorcycle that had been waiting on her without saying one word to the child. The child picked up the set of flip-flops by her side and placed them in a bag. She began walking up the mountain, head down, watching her feet kick up the dust.
As I trailed after her for a minute my [righteous] anger began firing up, I could feel my face getting red and tears filling my eyes under my sunglasses. What in the world did I just see? Could that lady NOT have put on her own shoes? Can she not carry her own flip-flops? Did she REALLY just MAKE that little girl kneel down in the dirt in FRONT of Everyone?
I wanted to yell out to everyone who “pretended” not to see… “Are you okay with this?”… “Did you NOT see what just happened!?!”
After a few minutes of these thoughts, I composed myself and then called out to her. She didn’t stop. I gently called again…her pace slowed as she worriedly looked behind her. I reached out to grab her hand. Her sweet eyes opened wide. I introduced myself and I asked for her name…nearly inaudibly she spoke. I asked her again and her voice lowered even more, her eyes sticking to the ground. I asked her how old she was and she stumbled over her words making it obvious that she was not aware of her age. As I asked her where she lived she pointed to the top of the mountain.
I walked with her for a few minutes holding her hand.
Her demeanor began to relax and she answered my questions a little more comfortably. As I asked about her family, she then explained that she had been in the area for a few months. Both of her parents live in a city about 8 hours from Gressier. She was taken from them in January and yet wasn’t put in school anywhere here.
The mix of anger and sadness at this injustice boiled in me. I squeezed her hand and explained where our school was…her eyes widened again as she responded that she knew exactly where we were located. I asked her if she could come meet me later in the afternoon so we could talk more. Her face, giddy with excitement, lit up and she nodded yes.
As 1:00pm rolled around I anxiously waited for her to no avail. Finally, as I went on with my afternoon somewhat defeated, I nearly jumped out of my shoes when I walked out of the gate at 3:30pm and saw her. I knew that she would be perfect for our Jump Start program. (It is a class in the afternoon that specifically caters to children who are a little bit older but are on a 1-3rd grade level. The classes are smaller so that the children can get more individual attention.) Even though the year is almost over, I wanted to make sure we could keep track of this young girl and try and figure out more about her parents and her situation.
The day after we enrolled her, I passed by the classroom and my heart sunk. I didn’t see her. I was heartbroken and walked in the room to begin to ask the teacher. Then suddenly someone pointed and said, “There she is!” I couldn’t believe it. Even though the class only had 14 children, I didn’t even recognize her. Her smile was huge…she looked like a new little girl in her uniform, glowing confidently sitting amongst the other students.
The injustice of restavek children never gets easier. The way that some individuals can so easily disregard, disrespect and abuse children absolutely breaks my heart. And I know it breaks God’s heart.
HE has and always will orchestrate the children that should be (and are) in our school. I never walk up the mountain at that time. I never would have seen this interaction and this sweet child if HE hadn’t orchestrated it all.
The injustice may never get easier, BUT GOD is directing everything that is happening on Bellevue Mountain and I am just blessed to be a part of it all.