By: Angela Quinn
My return trip to Haiti in May marked the second visit for me in five months. My first experience there last December was so life changing that I jumped at the opportunity to return with the next team. It is hard to describe the connection I feel to this place except to say few experiences in life have felt as “right” as being at Cambry. That first trip was a spiritual awakening. It was as if the Holy Spirit was present with me at every moment of those seven days, guiding me and teaching me. He so clearly confirmed to me that it was His purpose for me to be there serving those children.
One particular moment of that first trip when I felt the Holy Spirit clearly speaking to me occurred in church. I was sitting in the pew beside “my boy” Noel on the last day of our trip. Noel had chosen me (see blog “Being Chosen”) from the beginning and we had grown closer throughout the course of the week. I turned to Noel and studied this young man. He was intent on what the pastor was preaching. As I watched him I felt a strong sense from the Holy Spirit that I should witness to Noel. As I often do, I ignored that urge because the timing didn’t seem right. I had plenty of reasons – 1) we were in the middle of a church service, 2) we don’t speak the same language, 3) It was 95 degrees in that church and too hot to think straight. As I was listing the excuses to God in my mind, the Holy Spirit interrupted me again. “You need to tell him about Me.” Okay, that was loud and clear. No backing out.
I glanced around and perfectly placed on the back row, by no coincidence, was a translator. I grabbed Noel by the hand and headed for the back door of the church, motioning for the translator as I passed by. The three of us sat outside in the grass and with the translator’s assistance I was able to share with Noel about my relationship with Jesus Christ and what He means to my life. I talked to him about eternal life and how he could receive that free gift by believing in Christ. I asked Noel if he had placed his faith in Jesus and his very quick answer was “not yet.” I then held his hand and prayed with him, asking the Father to protect this precious boy and draw him close. I am certain that when I opened my eyes, Noel was wiping away tears. Attempting to maintain his “tough guy” image, he quickly stood up and ran back in to the church. I was certain that God had just planted a spiritual seed with that young man and I felt so honored to have been there to witness it. Too bad for me that I would not be around to see it cultivated.
Fast forward five months and I surprisingly found myself back at the Cambry orphanage and reunited with Noel. I almost immediately noticed that his demeanor had changed. The boy I met on the first visit was moody and would often pout, complete with arms folded across his chest and bottom lip sticking out. This Noel was much happier, more patient, courteous, and kind. Rather than pushing and shoving with the other boys, he was now introducing other boys to me as his “zanmi” (friend). If I slipped him a snack, he would break it into pieces and share with other kids. When our team hiked across the mountain one afternoon, Noel walked in front of me pushing branches out of the way so my legs didn’t get scratched.
Noel and I were able to spend a lot of time together this trip because he earned the job as my assistant in the clinic. We had lists of patients who needed to be seen for tooth pain and various other things but no orderly way to get those kids into the clinic. I would show Noel the names on the patient charts and within minutes Noel had the children lined up outside the clinic door. He ushered them in when we were ready to see them, and hustled them out after treatment. The dental team doubled their efficiency rate once Noel started working for us. He of course earned a couple protein bars for his service but more than anything he enjoyed being given responsibility and receiving praise for a job well done. He seemed so much more a man than the trouble-making eleven year old boy I met just a few months ago.
I wrote in my last blog about Samuel, the orphan who grew up to serve as a translator for orphans. Samuel observed the relationship between Noel and me, and willingly spent extra time with us translating so we could learn more about each other. Thanks to Samuel I was able to share with Noel all about my family and what I do back home. Through Samuel, Noel shared with me that his mother passed away three years ago when he was eight. This mother of ten became sick and died at home before the family was able to get her to a hospital. Noel and his younger sister Jasmine have been at Cambry since that time. I am the mother of four young children myself and relish the blessing of raising them and being their “Mama”. My heart is pulled toward Noel and these precious Haitian children who are growing up without their mothers in their lives.
I told Samuel about the experience of sharing Jesus with Noel in December and Samuel was eager to translate so I could again talk to Noel about his salvation. This time I didn’t need a push from the Holy Spirit. I could not wait to find out if that seed had been sprouting fruit in Noel’s life. We talked for a bit and when Samuel asked Noel if he had placed his faith in Jesus Christ for eternal life, a huge smile spread across his face, he nodded his head eagerly and said, “Wi! Wi!” (or “Yes! Yes!” in English). It all became clear. That is why he seemed like a different kid, so much more mature and content. It was the change that only Jesus Christ can bring about. In Him we are a new creation.
Samuel prayed a prayer of thanksgiving to God and this time it was me wiping away the tears. You never know what lies around the next curve in the road of your life. A year ago I could not have foreseen doing mission work in a foreign country or developing close bonds with children other than my own. I feel so honored that God brought me to this point, brought this Haitian boy into my life, and that I was given the opportunity to see God work in him.