A few months ago I was out for lunch at a local cafe. I had taken Annabel to this very place countless times before and knew many of the vendors who sell their souvenirs outside. On this particular day a face I didn’t recognize separated from the crowd he pulled me aside and with sorrow in his eyes, told a familiar story. A mother was dead and another tiny baby was a brand new orphan. This man explained to me that the mother was a cousin of his and the family was searching for options for their tiniest member.
Please don’t think me heartless, the truth is everywhere I turn, every single day there is someone hoping to place a precious little baby in my arms for one reason or another. My first response was to refuse the request. I had no business taking in a child with no thought of future plans. I thought that I knew that my plans for this family were the best ones. I grieve to see babies separated from their families and I knew that if I took her into my home, even for a short time, the chance of this family ever taking this little girl back were extremely slim. Reluctantly, I agreed to talk to him more the following week and left. A few days later the same man stood on my porch and told me again of a little girl who needed help. While I still wanted to refuse to take this little girl I heard that whisper that is undeniable. “This one, right now. This is my plan for you this season”. I agreed to see the baby and help the family make a plan. 2 days later a teeny tiny 3 month old treasure was placed in my arms.
Her name was Nerline and she was swollen with Kwashiorkor, a sign that her malnutrition was serious. She had been cared for by a great aunt, a woman who looked to be at least 80 years old but was probably closer to 60. For months she had been spoon-fed a mixture of dry crackers and water, on a good day a little cows milk thrown in.
She was 3 and a half months old and her unofficial weight was 7.5 lbs (I don’t have a peds scale so I weighed her in my arms on my bathroom scale) She did not know how to suck but she was hungry for the bottle of milk that I offered her. I told the family that I would take her for 10 days, though a round of antibiotics and to give her time for her swelling to go down. At the time I thought I (and God) must be crazy! I was caring for a friends baby for a few days and that night I found myself alone with 3 babies under 18 months old! His Grace is bigger than my crazy and anything that can overwhelm. Both of the older babies slept through the night and I set an alarm to wake Nerline to eat every 2 hours and she immediately fell right back asleep. We all woke up well rested the next morning.
The next 10 days were full of a kind of healing that still amazes me. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch it, a child recovering from malnutrition is incredible. Her puffy cheeks disappeared and her tiny slits of eyes opened to reveal huge, chocolate brown irises that shined with life. By the time she finished her round of antibiotics the swelling in her face had gone down and she weighed over 9lbs. I was confident that she was ready to go back to her family. On a Thursday morning I sent her home.
On Monday I did a home visit to check on Nerline. I learned that only a few miles from me lived a family who’s world I will probably never understand. I made my way down the side of a cliff where one wrong step could leave me seriously in trouble, next to me tiny toddlers played alone… I stepped through the doorway into a room that held a bed, a propped up “table” and a charcoal grate. From what I understood at least 5 adults and 4 children lived in this space. Nerline was there in the arms of her elderly aunt. In the 3 days since she returned to them her swelling had returned and she had a fever once again.
The aunt looked into my eyes and begged me to take her back to my house, “I am old, I won’t live much longer. Already she has had one mother die, if she stays with me she will have another soon.” No argument against that could find it’s way to my lips. As I stood there visiting a bit longer and young woman came in the house and started talking excitedly to me. She ran out the door and came back a few minuets later holding a tattered photo album, she was thrilled to show me photos of a little boy she had placed for adoption years ago. This family insisted they understood and that they wanted a plan like that for their Nerline.
While I wanted desperately to help this family it is not legal, nor it it wise to just take a child offered to me. Everything would need to be done legally and beyond that, I simply did not feel like I was being called to adopt this baby. I told the family I would take her home with me again, temporarily, get her fever and her weight under control and then I would work together with them to make the best plan for their baby.
It only took a few days for Nerline to gain almost 2lbs. She began smiling and laughing, she was precious. The longer she was with us, the more Annabel and I both fell in love with her.
I began to share her story with a few close friends and they prayed with me for Nerline. 2 of those friends are a married couple who live here in Haiti, they have a heart for adoption and already have a little boy they are in the process of adoption. While God worked in my heart to care for Nerline for a little while He was working in theirs to care for her forever! In His perfect timing her brought Nerline to her mommy, daddy and big brother. Their family is precious and she fits right in.
After a little more than a month with Annabel and I Nerline went to live with her new family. She is thriving in their care and seeing how she has continued to grow is beautiful.
God is blessing me with time and opportunities to be involved in stories like these. On the days when I am frustrated feeling like I am just not doing anything meaningful, He reminds my heart, He will use me in the ways of His plans, doing the things He decides necessary, the things that paint a picture so much bigger than I can see. I pray to always be willing to be used in this way.