Written by Tim Brand, Executive Leader of Many Hands for Haiti.
Moving. Everyone should have to do it at least a couple of times in their life, as it forces us to take inventory of what is important enough to keep and in general, helps us to take inventory of all that we have. This week, my family moved for downsizing purposes. As I was carrying out the umpteenth box from my former house, I was hit with the stark contrast of my recent life experiences. Having one foot in a Third World and one foot in a First World can be maddening. I won’t do this story justice, but I will try…
Exactly one week before, I was in Trou-sable, Haiti, one of the poorest sections of Gonaives, going home-to-home, praying with families and handing out bags of rice. One of the homes was the Oralus family, a family with 5 children. Three of the kids are ALWAYS on our land and at school – Luderson, age 3, Rochena, age 4, and DjeDjilove, age 6. DjeDjilove is one of those kids that everyone remembers. Huge smile. Runs to me with arms held high and just wants someone to pick him up. Always holding my hand and looking at me with the big, brown eyes. Although I’ve known DjeDjilove for over a year, I didn’t realized where he lived and how dire his situation really is.
DjeDjilove and his two younger siblings live in what is called the Salt Flats. This is where the poor of the poor go. Literally, the waste land of Gonaives, named after the seasalt left behind by numerous floods in the past. We approached this “house” (I use the term lightly) and DjeDjilove runs to me, proud that we were stopping at his house.Standing outside of DjeDjilove’s House. His is the small one in the middle. The bigger house on the left is a different house. In front of the house, holding the Luderson, DjeDjilove, and Rochena.
I was aghast at what I was looking at. His house was one of the poorest in the poorest section of the city. Both his parents were out working, probably selling some goods somewhere, so it was DjeDjilove, Rochena, and Luderson all fending for themselves during the day. Remember, these kids are 6, 4, and 3. The 6 year old is the one responsible for his younger brother and sister. The house was made of trash – scrap pieces of metal, sticks thrown away, mud packed on the walls, and fences put together from scraps of barb wire the family could find. The house had a noticeable lean to it and the “door” was literally two windows stuck together.
Inside of the house
The inside was just as bad. Dirt floors. One bed, that was full of stuff as to not be stored on the dirty floor. Extremely poor conditions. Now knowing where these kids came from, I looked at Luderson and Rochena and could visibly see the signs of starvation – the protruding stomach, the orange colored hair. But there they are, happy we came to visit them, holding our hands, smiling for us. I couldn’t have felt more small in that moment.
We gave them four bags of food and DjeDjilove, being the responsible one at the age of 6, grabbed the bags, took them inside and put them in some place safe to use later. He was so happy. They now will have food for the next couple weeks. Incredible.
Which brings me back to my week. My family moved as a downsizing effort that needed to happen for me to continue working full time with Many Hands for Haiti. At times, I have become frustrated that after leaving my corporate job, I had to sell my house and all the “sacrifices” I’ve put my family through. There have been real tears of sadness shed, as it is hard to die of self and give up things your family loves – such as your nice, big house. Many times, I’ve found myself thinking, “I deserve this nice house. I earned my money.” But, times like the one described above buzz me in two like a ripsaw and I quickly realize how off-centered my thinking is. The injustice of all the opportunities I have had, do have, and will continue to have, while these kids have had absolutely no opportunities and were just born into this nightmare, burns me from the inside out. I literally had more packed in my “one-week in Haiti” bags than they did in their whole house. They do not deserve this – these are kids with a beautiful smile, humble spirit, and are fending for themselves everyday the sun comes out.
The bright side of this story – all three of these kids will be going to school next year through Etoile. They will have books, a school uniform, teachers who care, a meal each day, and clean water. They obviously can’t afford to pay for it, so sponsors like you help make this reality. For less than $1 a day. Or the price of my Diet Mountain Dew I am drinking right now as I type this. That sentence alone makes me cringe – the choice of a Diet Mountain Dew or to feed, educate, and allow these kids at least a fighting chance to change their own life.
This is why we do what we do. To defend the weak. To give voice to the voiceless. To care for the oppressed, the widow, the orphan (or in this case, the 6, 4, and 3 year old who have to fend for themselves for most the day so Mom and Dad can scratch a living). May we never lose sight of all we are given, may our heart not be harden by the material things of this world, may we not buy into the lies of Satan that we need more “stuff” to be happy. For the world pays the repercussion of our indifference and self-centered nature – we rot from the inside, neither hot nor cold in our souls. And families like the Oralus’s literally die, not knowing they are loved and cared for. May we see the world as God sees it and be bold enough to do something about it.
And as if the living conditions aren’t bad enough, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isaac hit Haiti this week. These homes in the “Salt Flats” are the first to flood, as they are in a low-lying area. I am sure the sticks and mud that hold the house together have a very difficult time holding with 60+ winds and much rain. Please keep this area in your prayers.
Well said Tim and I wiped a tear from my eye as I read it. I have been to the salt flats many times. The emotions you have so accurately reflected are not new to me. My frustration at seeing poverty of this severity is what led me to believe in the Starfish (Etoile) approach to trying to make a difference. God bless you and I am betting you will soon love your new smaller home more than you ever did your bigger one.–Tommy
Wow..Tim–thank you for this story. I’m not sure if you know this, but my husband Derrick and I are the ones sponsoring Luderson for school this fall. He seems so much smaller and more helpless than he did in the photo hanging on our fridge. I’m heartbroken for him and his family now that I can visualize their conditions. I’ve been praying this week that they made it through the hurricane ok. I can only hope that by some miracle their house still stands. Thank you for your sacrifices that make this organization a reality so we can help the Oralus family and countless others like them.
Tim, Thanks again for all you are doing and sacrificing for the poor and oppressed, as you work for injustice in the world and usher in the presence and Kingdom of God.
Oh, Tim, I just hope you realize how much good you and your family are doing for all of those loving souls in Haiti! I hope and pray that we can join you there soon. Whatever I can do in the mean time…let me know!
Tim – the sacrifice you are making is huge but God will surely and already has blessed you. The 6 year old boy taking care of his other siblings touched my heart. Those are the kids I want to make clothes for. I know I am unable to go there but my heart is there.
Wow Tim God is doing amazing stuff through you
I thank God for your obedience and sacrifices you and your family have experienced. You are a living example of what many are being called to do. Thand you for your trust and faith in God!
Tim keep doing what you are doing. The reality of Haiti is unbelievable for those who have never been there. Keep telling their stories.
Thank you for the words of encouragement from all. We will continue to walk as God leads. It is amazing to stand back and see all the wonderful things so many people are doing. I’m just a fallen, sinful man trying to listen and do what God tells me. And being open about the good things and bad things so others may learn and take courage to follow as well as God leads. Again, thank you for the words of encouragement!
Well said… very well said… Our generation gets to be the difference-makers for kids like these – IF we don’t get lulled to sleep by materialism and the cares of this world. Thanks for offering us a big dose of perspective. It keeps me motivated to keep my family’s priorities aligned with God’s. Thanks for all you do brother.
Tim, I just read your blog! What an amazing young man you are with such a wonderful heart! You and your group are doing so many amazing things to help these people! What a blessing you are to them and what an example you are to all of us who need to step up to the plate and follow your lead! God bless you and your family and all these amazing things you are doing!