"The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, O Lord, endures forever." Psalms 138:8
In my life there have been a few people who have made an impact on me that was truly life changing. People who have challenged me and inspired my very way of thinking.
Kervens is one of them.
You can read about Kervens in this previous post.
Kervens entire life story is spotty. I know that he lived in an orphanage for a number of years where he received an education and was taught English, which he speaks almost perfectly. I know that last year he was sponsored to go to school. I know that his school was non-functioning after the earthquake. I know that his father and sister are dead and that after the earthquake his mother was missing. I know that he lives with someone he calls a "father-in-law". That fact that he uses this term only intensifies my fears for Kervens...
Restavek (according to wikepedia):
A restavec (or restavek; from the French reste avec, "one who stays with") is a child in Haiti who is sent by their parents to work for a host household as a domestic servant because the parents lack the resources required to support the child. The restavek may be treated well, or abused. Restavek may refer to a child staying with a host family, but usually refers specifically to those who are abused.
In Haiti, parents unable to care for children may send them to live with more affluent families. This is perceived as acceptable because in Haitian culture, it is ubiquitous for housing to be shared among members of an extended family, including distant relatives. (In contrast, the concept of a single nuclear family occupying each household is seen as desirable in other cultures.) Therefore, in Haiti it is acceptable for parents to send children to distant relatives to live. Often these relatives are living in more urban areas. The children receive food and housing (and sometimes an education) in exchange for housework. However, many restavecs live in poverty, not receiving an education. Sometimes, the child is raped. The United Nations considers restavec a "modern form of slavery".
Since I met Kervens I have wondered about his home life. He often refers to his "father-in-law", a commonly known term used by restaveks, and though I have seen several other children in the home, he only ever speaks of one "sister" who was killed in the earthquake.
The first time I met Kervens he was sitting on the steps outside a nearby church. When he saw me his eyes lit up, he came running to walk alongside me. This happens often so I didn't pay much attention, that is, until Kerven spoke. In broken, yet beautiful English he said "Alo, my name, it is Kervens. Welcome to Haiti" Oh how I treasured that welcome, 5 months into my stay ;) Kervens then went on to tell me how he was at church and he needed to get back. He returned and sat on the steps outside. I wondered about the curious sight but continued on my way. A few days later I spotted Kervens again, this time in the middle of the day when most other Haitian children are in school. Again, he walked with me. He told me of his past, living in an orphanage and learning English. He told me he loved to read and that one day he wanted to grow up and become a "businessman". Mostly, he talked about his faith. At 14 he was incredibly mature. He spoke about "Jezi" and how he saved him. He spoke about how God sees his heart and knows that he can do great things because of God's love for him. I was mesmerized. For several days Kervens walked and talked with me. Finally after a week I was courageous enough to ask Kervens about the first day I met him, sitting outside of the church. I asked him why he was sitting outside on the steps instead of inside with everyone else. What he said was something I will remember as something that broke my heart in a very uncommon way. He said, "Miss Rhyan, I sit outside because of my clothes. I love Jezi but he did not want to give me many, many things. he gives me food to eat, some days and he gives me these clothes I have but no more. I don't have a tie to wear and if I want to go into church I need to have nice pants, nice shirt and a tie, you know, to dress nice for Jezi."
Breathless. That's how I felt after hearing his reasoning. Kervens is accepting of a life that is unacceptable! That he has food to eat SOME days. That he is not allowed to enter a church because of the clothes he wears, it is unacceptable to me. But in Haiti, it is life. I can not be offended enough to change that. And as much as I hate some things, I do not WANT to change Haiti. That is not my purpose there. My purpose is to serve, to love and to accept, even the things that to me are, unacceptable.
Do you remember this story?
That was Jocelyne, you can read about her on Dixie's blog as well . I have known Jocelyne for several years, ever since I came to Haiti. I watched her belly grow when she was pregnant with Dawinski. I sat with her and prayed for those days when we didn't know if her children were alive or dead. I held her baby while my heart broke over the words she told us, of the devastation she had seen. I came back a few weeks later to her Endy, thriving under the care of the women at our toddler house. I sat with him while he told me his dreams for a bicycle and soccer ball. I explained to him that, although a bicycle is difficult to fit in a suitcase, I would bring him a soccer ball next time I came to visit. For years I have loved Jocelyne and now I know and love her boys too. Endy and Dawnski are 2 of the most precious little boys I have even met.
The life Kervens lives in unacceptable and though he is my friend, he is not mine. It hurts. It hurts because I want to pick him up and take him away to a life that is not difficult. I want him to see the things that a 14 year should. I want him to visit zoos and amusement parks. I don't often visit places in pure relaxation anymore, instead I enjoy them, while longingly picturing a face of someone I remember. I catch myself saying out loud, I wish I could show this to Kervens. I wish Endy could see this. What would so and so say if he were here. I want to give them these things but they are not mine to give. I am not here to save them, thankfully that job belongs to someone much more well-equipped. He has broken my heart for His people and called me to serve them, but He is still in control of them. I am so thankful for that. It is my job to love but it is not my job to save. At times it seems the only things I can do are such small things, it is difficult for me to accept that I can not change the whole world. I am blessed though, to know that I can change some things. I can make someone’s world a little better.
I would like to bring a few things into Haiti with me next week. Specifically I would like to bring items for Kervens, some church clothes and perhaps a few other clothing items. And I would love to bring some special gifts for Endy, things that will be just his. I dream of having a sweet new little outfit to give to Dawinski. How beautiful it would be to dress him up and take his picture, to always have that image of the child who represents so much hope.
If any of you would be willing to help me provide these things you may do so through my donation button on the right side of the page, please indicate that the money is to go to “gifts”. I can’t wait to bring, just a little bit more joy, into the lives of these children who need it so much.