In June 1998, I went to Haiti for the third time with Hope For the Children of Haiti, Inc. (HFC). My mission team visited Cite Sole, which can best be described as a village of slums in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Thousands of tiny cement brick homes (many as small as 4 x 6) with metal roofs and dirt floors line the dusty, smoggy port along the coast. My mission team interacted with the local villagers in several ways – some tried to communicate across the language barrier while others spoke the international language of futbol (soccer) in the sweltering heat. I had the privilege of holding several of the little children, some naked and most of them severely malnourished. For every child I could touch, there were several that stared at me with the look of desperation.
I remember each of the children’s faces, but none so vividly as the 4-year old girl that I held in my arms as her mother said in native Haitian Creole, “I already have 4 children with no husband. I can’t feed her. Will you take her?”
The little girl heard her Mother’s words and froze with fear. Her eyes were dead with unwantedness and her body was covered with signs of severe malnutrition. Despite our hearts exploding with a desire to help this frail little girl, we were unable to legally take this child. While we were not able to help, that little girl’s face remained with me. Her photo (above) remained on our wall at home and I often said prayers for her. In April 2000, I wrote Daina’s Song as I recalled how much she was suffering.
I later had to add a final verse to Daina’s Song (“The Difference”)!
In August 2000, I had the opportunity to return to Haiti for the first time since 1998. Due to security conditions in Port-au-Prince, we were unable to visit Cite Sole. I was so disappointed — I had longed for two years to see if this little girl was still alive. While we could not go see her, I remembered that little girl deep within my heart and prayers. Would I ever know if she is ok?
That week, we worked at HFC’s orphanage in the village of Bolosse on a second floor expansion. After six days of painting and playing with the 60 children that HFC cares for, I was going through each child’s records to update our US files for HFC’s Child Sponsorship Program. I noticed a document that read, “Daina Christelle Dessources arrived orphanage July 1, 1998 from Cite Sole.
Could it be? I asked myself.
I asked the staff to take me to her and immediately, I knew that this was the little girl that I had held in my arms two years earlier.
My wife and I had kept Daina’s photo hanging in our home (it still is today). I looked at her photo almost every day and often prayed for her. I dreamed of somehow being able to help this little girl. Yet I did not recognize her at the orphanage for six days! This is a testament to the God-given hope and health that has transformed her face and her life.
As it turns out, Dr. Jacob Bernard (HFC’s Pastor and Managing Director in Haiti) remembered this little girl when our mission team left in 1998. I remember him saying at the time, “This child will soon die without help!” He did not forget.
HFC’s ministry is shining brightly in a land of hopelessness. Children are being fed, clothed, educated and taught the love of Jesus. Dr. Bernard is reaching beyond the walls of the orphanage to rescue the most desperate children and serve his people in many ways.
The story of Daina is just one story. Each of the 60 children has their own story – many not fully known to anyone – and each one is filled with tragedy and finally hope. No one can ever replace a child’s mother and father, but HFC is – by God’s provision and the faithful prayers and financial support of so many – loving and caring for each child one at a time. By the grace of God, there is Hope for the Children of Haiti.
Hope for the Children of Haiti is called by God to give Haitian children, particularly orphans, the opportunity to become well-rounded adults who are self-sufficient in Christ. HFC was founded by Marion Austin, a woman who surrendered her retirement years to serve the Lord as a missionary to the children of Haiti beginning at age 67 until she passed away at the age of 85 in December 2005. Marion overcame several bouts with cancer and a double hip replacement to travel to Haiti several times each year until her death.
You can find out more about HFC at http://www.hfchaiti.org.