My sister is stepping in today as a Guest Blogger, sharing her thoughts on our recent trip to Haiti.
Feel the love.
Flying into Port au Prince I had so many thoughts spinning through my head, but the heaviest on my heart and mind were my boys. How would this be for them as they took their first trip back to the country of their birth? (Eli having no memories, since he was so little when he came home, and JP having so many, since he lived there until he was 12.) As we landed at the airport, all the anxieties I had disappeared and I was just covered in peace. It was a peace that only could come from God. I felt at home and was so grateful that the boys were able to experience this huge part of who they are with their parents and sisters with them. I also was so grateful for the little village of people that we were traveling with. I could tell God had woven us all together to experience this trip together. The fact that our dear friends the Georges were there by our side in this country that means so much to us was priceless. They were there when we began the process to adopt each of them, prayed for them as we waited, and have loved our boys unconditionally from the moment they met them. Also in our group of travelers were my sister’s dearest friends and their kiddos, who I have respected and adored…two of the families were excited to soon introduce their kids to their brothers who they would soon see! Also in our group, was my precious niece Breelynn, who has such a heart for this country! Seeing her with her cousins in that airport, I was just so grateful that the week ahead they could all share together. Leading our group was my sister who has truly become part Haitian, as her work with the school and teachers have brought her to Haiti numerous times to do the work that God has called her to do. She joked that she was tour guide/activities director (picture Julie from Love Boat) but not only did she keep us organized and everything flowing beautifully- she was the glue that held us all together. She was the heart and soul, the friend, the child advocate, the face of Kozefò, the communicator, the resource for the staff there, the spiritual guide, but most importantly to the boys and I she was an auntie. I believe her heart for this country started with a love for my boys. The way she has honored them by being a light in their country is something that we can never even begin to thank her for. As we first all gathered at the airport ready for our adventure, I had no idea all that we would experience and how our hearts would swell. This trip has changed me in incredible ways, but mostly my heart as a mom. Seeing the orphanage for the for the first time with JP and Eli by my side was priceless. Telling Eli all the stories that I remember of him there and hearing JP tell his stories of all his memories was precious. They both loved being there among the kids and both seemed so joyful to experience this. JP was off right away-connecting with Rock-Papa Rico, chatting with the boys, talking to the cooks and Miss Nahomie, and checking out every nook and cranny. I was able to walk the neighborhood with JP and it gave me a glimmer of his life before I met him. We even spotted on a wood plank underneath one of the beds that JP had left his mark on years before, as JP was written over and over again in pen. I think seeing this space filled with classrooms and children in uniforms gave both of the boys such pride that there is life and hope and light in a place that they once called home.
Sadly, we don’t have any information about Eli’s birth family and I worried how my sweet Eli’s heart would be when we went to meet JP’s birth family. JP was so nervous and wasn’t sure that he wanted to go. He wasn’t sure what he would say and was worried about his Creole. He was able to process a lot of his feelings with Breelynn and really wanted her to come with us as we loaded up the van to see them. It was a long, hot, bumpy drive, but soon there was the vision of Guerline in her pink floral dress standing in the middle of the cavern covered road with a JP sized smile across her face. She jumped in the van, covered my cheeks with kisses and sat on my lap as we headed towards her home. We all piled out and hugs were given and the vision of her embracing JP warmed my heart. It was such an odd feeling. As JP’s mom, I just yearned for her to embrace him, to show him love and to prove to him that he is valued and loved by her. There is a respect and love that Guerline and I have for one another that is unexplainable. We both know that JP is exactly where he needs to be, and we both want him to live the life that God intended for him. Evelore was quiet and sweet, but so excited to see her brother. Then little Fritz came out. He is 3 and JP had never met his half brother. He was quiet and shy, but JP surely made connections with him. JP seemed so happy, but yet nervous and not knowing what to do. He was heart broken that his oldest brother Junior was not able to be there. It is Junior that he had the most memories and closest bond. JP gave all the gifts out that we brought for them and we all looked through some pictures and then all of a sudden…Junior showed up! It was pure JOY on JP’s face as he held his brother so tightly. Tears flowed and our hearts were full! It was truly a reunion like no other and man do they look alike! JP’s nervousness was gone and the rest of the visit was filled with fun and laughter and lots of love! As excited as I was for JP to be reunited with his brother, I worried about my sweet Eli as he was looking on and soaking it all in. Eli adores JP and looks up to him and JP is the only brother he knows! How would our little Woodchuck feel about it all? As all of this was going on, our witty little Eli was singing God Bless America and marching in a circle saluting. Oh that dude can bring JOY everywhere he goes.:) There was a moment when Guerline took JP down the road to meet people in their neighborhood that I started to panic a little bit and think she better bring my boy back! 🙂 But, she was just a proud mama wanting to share him with all around. They came back and JP looked at me and said, ” Mom are you ready to go?” He was ready, he was grateful, he was happy. A few days later, Guerline came back to the guesthouse to see JP before he left. She took 3 tap taps to come and see him. I have to say I was emotionally drained and not ready to have time with her, but was grateful that she took time to see JP. We sat and talked through some hard questions. It was very healing and yet so hard. She talked about how JP would hide in the mango tree, so that he wouldn’t have to go to the school, she talked about him causing trouble as a little dude, and when I asked her what she wanted to know about his life here she said she didn’t have any questions. That hit Scott so hard emotionally. I told JP to tell his mom how wonderful he was doing in school, how he plays soccer, basketball, and track. How involved he is in his church and how important his faith is to him. JP just shook his head no. 😦 No matter how old you are or what your family situation is all you want is your parents approval and pride. Scott and I couldn’t be more proud of who JP has become and for the person he is! What a privilege it is to be his parents! Guerline told us at one point that night, “God knew JP’s destiny,” and she is “so happy that we are his family.” Hearing those words from her were a gift. God knew JP was supposed to be a Schlecht, and I am so incredibly proud to be his mom!
Nine years ago, as I walked up the steps of the airplane with Eli in my arms, bringing him home, I never would have imagined that his adoption would bring about a chain of “God-led moments” that brought JP home; Vaniesa and Sebee home; a school and feeding program started; my sister would be known as Madame Sara and she would know every student’s name, as well as their stories; a well-known English Institute would be created there; Stanley and Davensly would be coming home to Woodbury and Oakdale; friends and family would be sponsoring students to go to school there; we would witness a Spektak that was filled with songs, skits, speeches, dances, and creativity; that parents would come to celebrate their students; and that this group of people that I would travel to Haiti with would become family to me!