If you have been following our blog for very long, you already know that Abigaille is one of our very early Mamba miracles. When we first saw Abigaille, she was one sick child of many on our first non-clinic Medika Mamba intake day. We didn’t realize until we took a closer look at her how sick she actually was. She was almost 22 months and when we did her intake weight she was 6.6 kilograms – 14.5 pounds! She was very dehydrated from a very high fever and had sores on her face and ears and other infections. She was nearly limp and I watched Liz turn into a mama lion! She was going to take care of this baby no matter what! We felt she needed to go straight to the doctor but her mother was away selling in the market for the day.
Under Haitian law whoever took her to the hospital would have to stay with her and was liable if anything went wrong. Many days we are faced with difficult decisions that require prayerful consideration. We gave her water, a fever reducer, an antibiotic and sent her home with the agreement that the mother would meet us at 8:00 am the next morning so we could get her to the hospital. Actually our amazing Pierre Richard was the one who ensured they would be there the next morning but we hardly knew him then either!
We arrived with Pastor Firmin the next morning and Abigaille and her mother, Denise, were waiting at the church. I have never seen anyone look as defeated as Denise did that day. She sat with her head down, her whole body slumped and absolute misery in her eyes. Pastor Firmin asked her if she realized that she would be in jail for child neglect if she lived anywhere except Haiti and she nodded her head yes.
On the ride to the hospital we began to learn her story. She sold cooked food in the market in Port-au-Prince every day, leaving before sunrise and returning home well after dark. She left Abu with her 19 year-old daughter (Gilenn) with money to buy food for herself and Abu. She had, in fact, taken Abu to the doctor a month earlier but the daughter had sold the medicine rather than give it to Abu. What must it be like to have no choice but to leave your sick baby to go out and earn money to feed your children, knowing that she would not be taken care of?
The Doctors Without Borders hospital/clinic saw her right away and prescribed several medicines for Abu. They did not admit her to the hospital so we delivered mom and baby back home with medications, several sachets of Medika Mamba and Clorox to treat her water. She agreed to stay home for at least two weeks to take care of Abu. We knew that by getting her to agree to stay home, we were preventing her from earning the little income she had so I gave her a small amount of money (about $12 US) to buy some food. That was Monday. Friday she returned to clinic with a much improved Abu. We instructed her fully on the Mamba program and water treatment and gave her additional Mamba.
On Sunday, guess who showed up in church? None other than Denise and Abu! We were excited to greet her and invited her to sit with us. We were even more excited when she stood for the visitor welcome. Pastor Firmin asked we if had invited her and we had to say no. She declared her intent to repent and follow Jesus right there and I was blessed to pray with her!
We began to explore with her the possibility of buying and selling food and goods near her home so she could be with Abigaille. After playing with all the numbers of what it would cost to purchase various items like beans, rice, flour, charcoal and then resell them at a profit, it became evident that the volume she would have to turn would be impossibly large! She also does not live in an area where she could sell enough ready-made food to feed the family.
The week before we left for the US (November 28, 2012) we had a conversation with her about employing her to assist with work at our home (laundry and cleaning) so she could earn the $25 per week I was giving her rather than take it as a hand-out. We are working very hard here in Haiti to NOT create dependencies, but rather to the help the families become self-sustaining over the long term. She was very excited and agreed eagerly
We have had the special opportunity and blessing to get to know Denise, Abigaille and, yes, even Gilenn over the past 8 months. Denise and Gilenn are illiterate and have no marketable skills. Denise has four living children and two others have died previously. She is 41 years old and isn’t sure of her daughters’ ages except Abu. We think that Gilenn is about 19, Mikerlange is about 10 and Sandra is around 8. Denise has another daughter between Sandra and Abigaille who lives with her father.
We were not even aware of Mikerlange and Sandra until recently. Like many other families here, they were living with Denise’s uncle (or some other relative). He has grown older and is no longer able to care for them. We are thankful that they are back with their mother and not on the street or in an orphanage! We have spent some time with Mikerlange at our house when Denise is here and she is a sweet, polite young lady that quickly finds herself a place in your heart.
GIlenn recently got a ‘loan’ from her uncle and started selling food in Port-au-Prince. We admire her initiative but would rather see her home under her mother’s guidance and really want her to go to school and get educated to elevate her earning potential. Sellers in the market rarely earn enough to take care of their families, as we have seen with Denise and other moms in the Mamba program. Sandra and Mikerlange also need to be in school this fall.
Currently Denise has me hold out one-half of the $25 per week I pay her so she can save up to build a house on a small piece of land she has rented. She works at our house two mornings a week doing laundry and sometimes helping with cleaning and shopping. She is free to earn in other ways on other days. She is active in the women’s group at church participating in the Tuesday morning fasting and prayer time and the Thursday women’s Bible study. She attends church regularly and truly appears to be living a life following Jesus. In fact, she has brought friends to church and even Gilenn when she is home.
The needs of this family are huge and the earning potential is small at this time. They need a safe house on the new land she rented and three of her girls need tuition paid so they can go to school. With that they will one baby step forward into a better future. We are convinced of Denise’s heart for the Lord, her commitment to her daughters and her willingness as an employee.
Life in Haiti is hard and complicated. It would be so easy to just pay for some of the things she needs, but we want to see her teach her girls to work for what they want, to see that there is hope for a better life and to become strong women who will mentor other girls and women in their lives. That will not happen if we make it all too easy.
If you compare the St. Juste family story to the Darius family story you see that there are differences and there are similarities. There is always need and outside assistance is not a bad thing as long as it addresses an emergency or propels them toward a better self-sustainable future. Our goal with these families remains to build strong families, whether there is a father in the home or not. We have started with four families who have shown their commitment to Christ and the church, to keeping their families together and to hard work to survive. These four however, are representative of scores more.
We continue to thank you for your partnership in this ministry. If you are already an electronic, monthly partner, you are making it possible for us to help these families.