Updated: Aug 25, 2020
To begin, I want to give a backstory on Henry and how he ended up in my life. A few months after moving to Haiti I felt God tugging at my heart to go visit a small, Haitian-run orphanage I knew called Kay Espwa (House of Hope). When I walked I was shocked by what I saw - children skinnier and far sicker than I had seen them before. It was here that I met Henry, a twelve year old at the time that was too weak from malnutrition and illness sit up on his own. I didn’t know what I would be able to do to help, but I felt the conviction in that moment that I had to do something, and I was willing to obediently step in and say "YES!"
I texted an American friend and director of a local clinic to ask if they were open. Many clinics in our city are closed on Fridays, but she asked me if he would make it through the weekend and I wasn't sure that he would. Henry Claud and I went to the doctor the next day, where we learned he weighed only 42 pounds. Twelve years old and only 42 pounds.
The first thing the doctor asked him was "What did you eat yesterday?" He replied, “corn mush.” She said “What did you eat today?” Again, “corn mush.” She then asked if he was hungry, but instead of answering he just shook his head and started to cry.
We found out he was suffering from extreme malnutrition, dehydration, anemia, and tuberculosis, all of which on their own could be a fatal diagnosis if left untreated. On our ride back to the orphanage I asked Henry if he was scared. We were riding on a motorcycle (a very common transportation method in Haiti) and I knew he wasn't used to riding them around the city. I will never forget his reply, not concerning our quick 'Moto' ride around the city but still full of fear he said, “Yes. I am so sick. I do not want to die.”
His words cut heavy through the air and completely shattered my heart. I pictured other twelve year old boys I knew: playing games and concerned only about school and how cool they look in front of their friends. But here I was with a twelve year old boy, too weak to hold his own body upright, justifiably scared that he was not going to live. That day I got him enrolled into a tuberculosis treatment program and purchased a few sacks of food for the orphanage.
Henry and I became fast friends. I checked on him daily, bringing him Gatorade and local fruits. He had monthly check ups at the hospital and a lot of prescriptions to take. He did not have a caregiver, but his fourteen year old brother quickly filled that role. He accepted complete responsibility for Henry's prescriptions and ensured he followed his treatment plan. After a few months he started feeling better! I would occasionally find him playing soccer or jumping rope and he was able to return to school. At his final tuberculosis checkup he was pronounced free of his illness and had even gained 13 pounds! We celebrated the news of a complete healing!
Over the next several months I started to hear more of Henry's story. He had been placed in the orphanage when he was 8 years old following an accident that left his leg broken and bowed, causing him to walk with a limp. Despite being in the orphanage for 4 years at that point, his mother and father were both alive. They were living only an hour away from him, but he had not seen them in years! He also had 3 siblings within the orphanage. For Christmas I invited their family to come celebrate at the orphanage with us. I remember how rich and good it felt to see their father attentive and loving on his children. As I began to build relationship with his parents I learned that his mother had tuberculosis at this time as well, and we were able to enroll her in the same treatment program that had worked so miraculously for Henry.
In April 2017, after a lot of time and even more prayer, I decided to step away from the orphanage because the corruption I was witnessing was too much to bear. I could not be associated with how they were running. I was completely heart broken. I didn't know what would come next, but I was gifted a super natural peace knowing I was stepping in the right direction. As soon as the kids finished that school year in June of 2017, Henry's older brother took me to his parents home to talk about bringing their children back home with them.
I knew this would not be an easy reunification as it had been years since the 4 children had lived at home with their parents. Their parents lived in immense poverty, and they didn't even have a house to live in with the children, living in their church's outdoor kitchen at the time. They slept on the ground, which flooded and muddied with every rain, and the mother still had recurring health problems. We talked about how I would be able to support this family with school scholarships and food stipends as well as what their responsibilities would be for their children. Empowering parents to step confidently into their role and responsibilities for their children is one of the greatest honors of my work! After renting a small but appropriate home, the father went to the orphanage to get his children and bring them home - despite outspoken anger and persuasion from the orphanage’s director.
The family has been living together ever since - a little more than 3 years! It hasn't always been easy to support them without creating reliance, and to constantly empower their parents in a culture that too often says orphanages are better solutions, but it can be done. All of their children are thriving at home!
This past December, one of their family members died and the family inherited land. They asked me if I could build them a house as paying $800 a year to rent a place for them is not sustainable or efficient, but of course that would require a large chunk of money all at once and my budget is built around monthly donations, with little to spare each month. I told them to pray about it because God is our provider. In January, just one month later, I received an email saying a very generous couple wanted to provide all the means to build a house for this family! The family had trusted in God’s provision, and watched as God touched this couple’s hearts to give, but all glory goes to Him.
This month Henry came to visit when I held a reunion for all the children who once lived at the orphanage and are now home with their families. It was an incredible time shared together, celebrating all that God has done since we first met, but during this trip I realized Henry's limp was getting much worse. To be honest, it made me a bit sick to my stomach to see how significantly bowed his knee was and how pronounced his limp was becoming. He couldn’t walk far without experiencing pain, and his left knee popped out of joint with each step. With the help of a social worker friend, we got him an appointment to see an American orthopedic surgeon just one week later! We raised over a $1,000 for this surgery and all expenses have been paid for in full in less than 2 days, because as we said, God is the GREATEST provider!
Last Wednesday, he did all his pre-op labs and exams. Thursday he had an easy hour long surgery where they placed a metal fixture on his leg and a metal rod in his femur. As of Sunday, he is home recovering with his family. We will have a check up at the hospital in two weeks (August 31st) and he has several months ahead of him with the fixture on his leg, but he is pain free and starting his recovery!
I wanted to share this story with you to thank you for your continued support financially and through prayer as well as to share of hope.
This story of God's love and healing is so overwhelming to me. A small child who went from thinking he was going to die alone to now being back with his family in their very own home and being operated on by a respected American orthopedic surgeon. It makes me cry just writing it all down. This is a story of redemption - of God’s desire for true and complete healing for His children. A story of God seeing His son and providing for him when he felt he had been forgotten. A story of God’s heart for wholeness, and the common grace of family, friends, social workers and doctors that bring about His great and Holy healing. To think that I was able to play a small part in this great story brings me joy too great to put into words.
This picture and the one below is from when I first met Henry.