Apparently, the team left somewhere around 6 am last Saturday morning. Apparently, they took water, snacks, and flashlights with them. Apparently, I was asleep when all that happened. Apparently, no one gets up early on Saturday mornings in Bayonnais, because these photos capture the view from the door of the guesthouse when I stepped outside.
These photos capture the view inside the guesthouse on Saturday morning. It's a good thing that I love solitude. Although I didn't eat breakfast alone, but spent the better part of an hour listening to an expository, multi-dimensional explanation of the whole Bible, beginning with the first two chapters of Genesis and ending with that last two verses of Revelation, I spent most of Saturday morning blissfully alone, reading, journaling, napping, and praying for the safety of the climbers.
The second half of John 17:11 became my morning mantra. In the middle of his prayer on behalf of his disciples, Jesus pleaded: "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name." I repeated that simple prayer dozens of times. When the team reappeared in the courtyard just before noon, I jumped up and ran to greet them as though they were my own prodigal children who had returned from a sweaty, dusty adventure in the mountains of Haiti...
When one of the team members told me that there were moments on the hike when she thought, "I hate Gail right now because I know she's back there in bed," I knew I had made the right decision. Sometimes the best thing to do is raise the white flag of surrender and simply bow out of the race.
After lunch, showers, and a brief time of rest, the team gathered in the main room of the guesthouse to meet and greet some of the children who are being sponsored by members of First Presbyterian Church. Slowly, shyly, they paraded into the guesthouse, with bows in their hair, lumps in their throats, and terror in their eyes. Even the teenagers seemed reluctant to speak at first.
We cried silent tears as the children, through interpreters, told about their families, their battles with hunger, single parent family life, and their hopes for the future. The girl in the brown shirt above is one of six or seven siblings being raised by a single father. The girl in the blue dress, although she looks cute and sweet in her dress, suffers from frequent sicknesses and is in rather frail health.
The photo above is of Rose, that precious little blue-clad princess, meeting her sponsor, my roommate, Melissa. Rose is in kindergarten and her sister, not seen in the photo, is in 3rd grade. Melissa used to be a kindergarten teacher and her son is in 3rd grade. One boy, whose sponsor was with us on the trip, told about his love for music and hopes for being in the music industry someday. His sponsor sings in the choir at First Pres and takes care of pipe organs for a living. One girl spoke of being an only child (which is exceedingly rare in that village) and living with her single mother. Her sponsor is a single woman in Charlotte who lives with her widowed mother.
It would be easy to write off those "coincidences" as obvious pairings made by the sponsoring organization between children and prospective sponsors, but there was no formal matching procedure. The sponsors simply gave their money and the organizers "randomly" chose the children. Some might call that "luck;" we cried, shook our heads, and marveled at what God had done.
This young man's story broke my heart in a deeper way than any other. He is 15 years old (the same age as my own son), one of several siblings, and a proud student at OFCB. What moved me first to tears and then to action was his matter-of-fact description of the pervasiveness of hunger in his life - how he and his friends wander around the village looking for food, how he often goes to bed hungry, and how he sometimes ties a rope around his stomach when he cannot sleep due to hunger pains. None of us could fathom a reason why or how tying a rope around his midsection would ease the hunger pains, but it's what he does. As soon as the gathering ended, three of us sprang from our chairs, ran to our bedrooms, and gathered up crackers, peanut butter, granola bars, and whatever else we could spare and gave it all to this young man. His gratitude was evident, as was our sense of powerlessness as we realized that our meager provisions would last only for a day or two... and then what would happen to this delightful young man? What would happen to his siblings, to his friends, to all people everywhere, including right here in Charlotte who go to bed hungry every night?
Having seen all that I saw, having heard all that I heard, having lived out that eye-opening, heart-breaking experience last weekend, the question I am asking myself over and over is this - What will I do now?