I returned yesterday evening from an amazing 5 days in Haiti. I wish I could have posted daily updates, but we had no internet access or much contact with the real world other than a few text messages. We spent our time helping Ray and Trisha Comfort move therir family of 13 children with HIV/AIDS from their small little house to their new, not-yet-completed compound in Lachapelle, Haiti. I’m not even sure where to start or how to finish or what to say about the trip. It was one of the most amazing, most surreal, most difficult, and most fun things I’ve ever done. I’m still processing all I saw and all we did. I’m sure I will have a few more posts or pictures of our time with the Comfort House. But here’s just some random thoughts and pictures that I’m still sorting through. And I’ll share more in the days to come.
1. Haiti is broken, yet Haiti is beautiful. Massive tent cities set up over a year ago dot the landscape, trash lines streets and water ways and poverty is everywhere you turn. But the people are beautiful. And the view – the view is phenomenal.
2. The Comforts have a very difficult job. They care for 12 children born HIV positive and a 13th with several major medical problems (William was born without an anus and several other issues. He’s had corrective surgery and more work still needed). Some have developed full-blown AIDS. Three were born positive because their mothers had AIDS, yet no longer have the virus. All were abandoned. Because of pervasive poverty, when a child is diagnosed with AIDS, parents often simply abandon and neglect the child, figuring he will die of the disease anyway, so what little food and resources they have can go to the healthy children. Ray and Trisha have saved the lives of each of these kids, providing them with life and hope. They have many mouths to feed, many medicines to administer, much care to provide. They do the best they can. And they need help. The live in what I can only generously call “very difficult” living conditions. I’ve never seen anything like it. Yet where the kids live is so much better than dying on the steets. A few of the kids:
Above is a few of the kids enjoying some of my magic tricks: (clockwise from the left: Nadia, William, Darlensky, Rosy, Lulu, and Christian)
3. Moving is stressful for an average family in Amarillo. Imagine moving a family of 15 in Haiti into a complex one hour away that is not yet completed and the congested, crazy streets of Haiti. This is the new compound:
Ray has been building this complex (along with several hired hands) from the ground up over the past 46 months as budget allows. That means a 2 hour round trip each and every day. His vision is for a pretty amazing place that is protected and provides room for the children to run and play. It will be wonderful when finished. However, there is a long way to go. But they were ready to move, maybe because they actually had some help. So we (our team of Nolan Huckabay, Jerry Huckabay, Tommy Spencer, Paige Spencer, Jennifer Russell, Lori Herman, Devin Broom, and me) loaded lots of things and entertained kids and did whatever was needed to make the move possible. The comforts have a very temporary roof over their heads and lots of works in progress. But they do have running water and an electric generator. And Ray doesn’t have to commute any more. So hopefully the move was a good idea. Here is a view from inside the little home inside the compound: Yes that is how they are living at THIS moment. I was there and I can’t imagine it either. (notice Gessica changing the diaper of little Womise – Gessica is 8. In a family with 13 crazy kids, everyone has to pitch in. Gessica’s main job is helping care for the 4 youngest children who are 2 or 3)
4. I am spoiled. We slept in this little bungalow inside the compound each night:
We had a small faucet to clean ourselves under. We had no air conditioning. No toilets. We were there for 4 plus days. We brought our own water bottles and snacks to maintain our energy. And we were completely exhausted and ready for a hot shower and cool air. We were there for a mere 4 days. Ray and Trisha live in this daily. I can’t imagine.
5. AIDS does not have to be a death sentence. It’s not something to fear. These kids were happy and healthy and full of energy and hugs and kisses and great fun. They all have phenomenal appetites. And yes, there are several with many complications. But they can do and will do everything my children do. And many can and will grow up and become thriving adults. I truly believe that. These children have HOPE
6. You find Jesus in the least of these. In the midst of the dirt and the sweat and the tears and the discomfort, He was there with us. Laughing and praying and singing and loving on many precious children. My heart hurts today because I miss those kids and wonder about what the future holds for them. (I’ll share many more pictures and stories in the coming days so you can fall in love with them, too.) Yet I’m so thankful to be home in my clean clothes in front of my laptop computer with my beautiful wife nearby.
But I’m more thankful for a Heavenly Father who loves those kids more than I do. Who is there with them – RIGHT NOW – loving them in the midst of the dirt and the sweat and the tears and the discomfort.