The next thing I knew, Titite was on my lap in church and was organizing my notes neatly and tucking them into my Bible. I may never know why he chose me. Maybe because I was the one with the tie or because I had the look of a grandfather. Whatever the reason, he was about to turn my world on its ear. He dozed off quietly on my lap as the preacher spoke in Creole to the local congregation. Soon it was my turn to speak and I had to wake him up to make my way to the front of the church. When the service was over, he was right back by my side and he pretty much stayed there for the next five days. Whenever I was on campus and he was not in school, his hand was in mine.
Noticing our connection, the orphanage administrator, Pastor Guercy Meme, told me Titite’s story. Titite and his two year older brother Chi Chi, lived with their parents in the north of Haiti. When Titite was two years old, Haiti was hit hard by hurricane Katrina flooding much of the country. Titite’s father swam to safety with his two sons and placed them on a rooftop of a building while he went back to save their mother and the baby she was still nursing at the time. The current apparently swept father, mother and baby away to their deaths, leaving the two young boys alone in the world on that rooftop.
I am not yet sure how they ended up at an orphanage in the southern tip of Haiti but I am certainly glad they did. According to some of the older children, Titite was so traumatized by the loss of his family that he didn’t speak a word for the first full year at the orphanage. At some point his God given enthusiasm for life had to find expression and he began to come out of his shell. By the time he came into my life his personality was bright and he was delightful to be around. His eye for detail and organization was quite remarkable as he was constantly noticing anything that was out of place or slightly askew and putting it into perfect order. He could be totally trusted to keep up with anything of value and be sure to deliver it safe and sound at the end of every excursion.
On my last day at the orphanage, I had the privilege to call eleven special children together and speak to them through an Interpreter to tell them why I had been there the previous week. I asked them to consider placing their faith in the same King who had called me to be there with them and to follow Him throughout their own lives. I also especially asked the stronger, bigger boys in the group to look after the smaller ones throughout the orphanage. When I said it, I was thinking of Titite as one of the smaller ones who needed looking after…I should have known that Titite would have seen himself as one of the stronger ones that would help the smaller ones. A few weeks later, back home in America, I received a photo from Pastor Guercy showing Titite with one of the most vulnerable children in the orphanage, five year old Toto, sitting on his lap during Sunday School. My boy had taken the charge seriously and was on the case looking after little Toto.
So what’s the moral of this story? I am not sure that I fully know it yet. Maybe I just needed to tell it. I do know that I went to Haiti hoping to give something back to someone I didn’t know on behalf of the One who knows every hair on my head and that He arranged things such that an eight year old orphan showed me how asleep I had been for a long time. When this child lay sobbing on my chest the night before I was leaving to go home, something changed in me that I hope will never be reversed. ”Pure and undefiled religion is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unspotted from the world”…James 1:27. Dear Lord, may you break our heart for what breaks yours and give us the vigor and the courage to act whenever and wherever you may call us.
– Roger Braswell