The Day I was UNPREPARED for…

11 07 2010

“just a note, this entry is long, detailed, and a mind-cleansing…it’s for my detox of the day and for you to read.  Hope you enjoy it.

Today was a day I was completely unprepared for.  It began simple enough; in fact, it began like most days in Haiti do…early.  I was up early, met with the team, and then went to my worksite.  I worked building benches for the school at the top of the hill that meets at Conservative Baptist Church.

Naika the Princess

Shortly after our lunch break the day took a rapid unexpected change.  Today would only go to prove how unprepared I was for the unexpected.  How prepared are you for that out of the blue moment?  Do you roll with the punches?  Do you cringe at the changes that fire at you?  I do both believe it or not, but regardless; today was unlike anything I could have dreamed up.

While working with our incredible bench building team I got a phone call from Katie.  I could tell by her first words the phone call wasn’t going to be pleasant.  You know what I mean, when you speak to someone you know well…someone you love…you can tell almost instantly what the tone of the phone call will be after hearing the first word out of their mouth.

Katie’s first words were quick, to the point, and troubled.  I sensed a twinge of fear even in her voice.  She said, “Where are you?  Can you come back NOW?”  My reply was quick, “I’m at the church up the hill.  No, I can’t come back…I don’t have a vehicle here.”  Thinking back on it, I’m quite sure my tone wasn’t too inviting.  I probably had more than a hint of frustration in my own voice at this point.  She KNEW where I was…she knew I didn’t have a car, a translator, or a way down the mountain to the guesthouse.  She knew the trip was more than a few miles and walking was out of the question.  Why was she so adamant about me getting back?

Naika's Birth Mother

The next statement out of Katie’s mouth stopped me dead in the moment.  I froze when I heard her words.  “Naika’s birth mother is here to meet you,” Katie said with a mixture of fear and panic.  “Missy isn’t here, you’re up the hill, and I’m here all alone with her, Naika’s grandmother, and aunt.  Mike, what am I supposed to do?”  I was speechless.  Words couldn’t even begin to start from my lips…my brain was in instant overload from the words I just heard…HER BIRTH MOTHER!!!

What would this mean?  Why was she here?  Was she coming to meet the Americans who took her daughter to a new country and a new LIFE?  I had only questions and NO answers.  My only words to Katie were, “I don’t know.  Do you know why she’s there?”  Katie’s reply at least began the wheels in my head turning toward coherent speech again, “She’s here to see Rose Michelle…Naika’s half-sister.”  “Wow, what does that mean?” I wondered out loud.

“Go talk to her and see if you can find out what she wants to know about Naika,” was my only offering to Katie.  Truth be told, I was actually glad Katie was there…and I wasn’t.  I never wanted to meet Naika’s birth mother or ANY family for that matter.  Katie works with Rose Michelle at the Crèche and has been here in Haiti for a couple of months.  She hasn’t been around the house lately to hear Missy and I wonder aloud if Naika will EVER be officially our child…will our adoption go through as smoothly with her as it has with Tia???  Funny how even when you KNOW what God has prompted you to do, being completely at peace with it is a difficult and different story.

Katie could do this much better than I could.  I was sure of it.

I went to the team, told my project manager I was going out for a while, and went outside.  I have no clue what I actually did at that moment.  I remember thinking how crazy it was for me to feel so much fear, I remember asking God if this was for real, and I remember the look on Naika’s face when I picked her up in Orlando in January.  I knew God had prepared her and us for our lives together but I also knew in the back of my mind her birth mother was still alive…and that she had given up her parental rights years ago.

I received a few text messages from Katie that helped me relax and then a phone call that actually put me at ease.  “Are they asking about Naika?  What are they saying?  Do they want her back?” were my instant questions.  I immediately (as usual) went for the worst possible (a horrific trait I have carried with me for years).

“No, they aren’t wanting her back at all,” Katie said with a smile in her voice.  “Her grandmother is one of the most awesome women ever; I wish you could come here and meet her.”  I sighed THE sigh of relief and thanked God it was going to be over quickly when I heard, “They’re getting ready to leave now.”  It was only 3:00 and I knew I wouldn’t be leaving for the guesthouse until at least 4:00.  I had avoided the chaos of the unexpected!  VICTORY!!!

our desks!!

The workday ended with a flurry of activity.  We finished over 20 desks, cleaned up, and headed home with excitement in everyone’s faces and exhaustion in their steps.  When I got to the house the group of guys who built shelves were in the sitting area waiting to show me their work.  A group of 18 year olds who busted their tails to get the work done while being  responsible, mature, and GOOD made me completely forget about the fears I had only hours earlier.

While talking to the guys I had the chance to talk to Dr. Bernard about his day.  He hasn’t been feeling well so it was good to see him in good spirits.  He was excited about all the things happening and the excitement that wafted through the air in the house.

While planning tomorrow’s activities, Dr. Bernard asked if I had been able to meet Naika’s mother.  I explained that I had been away and wasn’t able to get back.  He then spoke the words that brought fear to my heart…IMMEDIATELY…”Oh, you’ll get to meet her.  She’s spending the night here.”  WHAT??? How could that happen?  They were supposed to leave!!!

While he and I were talking, his wife, Mrs. Claudette, came into the room.  She stated that Naika’s mother was outside and wanted to meet me.  She was getting ready to leave and had stayed much later than she had anticipated…all because she wanted to meet me.

If I could have run away and hidden I would have done just that.  If I could have sprouted wings or become invisible I would have been ecstatic.  Instead of being able to run away I got up out of my chair and followed Mrs. Claudette to the sitting area where I immediately noticed her.  Naika’s mother was standing right in front of me.

There was no denying this was Naika’s birth mother…she looks just like my little girl.  Here was my 7-year-old princess standing in front of me all grown up.  I’m sure my eyes told the story…fear, bewilderment, and more than a little apprehension.  Before I could think of anything else, I stuck my hand out and greeter her with, “Bonswa Madame (Good Afternoon).”  She replied in an almost whisper, “Bonswa.”  Then we exchanged pleasantries through the aid of Mrs. Claudette as our translator.

I asked the only thing I could think of that would get me out of the room at that very moment, “Would you like to see pictures of Naika?”  “Yes, Yes, Yes…most definitely,” she replied.

I told her to wait and I would be right back and turned and ran up the staircase to my room.  I wanted to sit on the bed and pray the day would go away, I wanted to grab my computer and get it over with, and I wanted to cry…all at once.

I grabbed my computer, turned it on, and told my friend, “Pray for me, Naika’s birth mother is downstairs right now.  I’m going to go meet with her.  I have no clue where this is going to end up.”  And with that, I walked back downstairs…much slower than I went up.

I met her downstairs and Mrs. Claudette joined us as we sat in the living room.  I opened my computer and began showing her the pictures of Naika.  The humor of having just taken a ton of pictures recently of Naika was huge.  I had to smile as I looked at the pictures again.  I explained that Naika had gone upstairs just last week and put on her princess dress and asked me to take pictures…something I was more than happy to oblige here in.  I commented on the pictures we just took of her and Tia (her new sister to be) for the upcoming fundraiser, the pictures of her when she first came to our house, the pictures of her in the snow, of her with her new brothers, and of her at her birthday party.  It was then that I realized what a HUGE sacrifice this woman had made and how it had affected my LIFE.  How she wasn’t able to celebrate Naika’s 7th birthday with her because she was with us.  Instantly my fear was gone and I knew our time together wouldn’t be enough

.

Shortly Naika’s grandmother and aunt joined us in the room.  I tried to be as polite as possible but I knew what was happening by their looks.  They were looking at me just as I looked at them.  They were wondering who I was and was I loving their little girl like she deserved…just like I looked at them and wondered how they felt about me being there.  We greeted each other and then Naika’s birth mother had them sit down and pointed out the pictures.  They smiled and grandma’s face lit up as she looked at her granddaughter.  Mrs. Claudette translated for us and I realized how difficult this had to be for them also.  They asked for copies of the pictures.  Naika’s birth mother asked for a picture of our family, for a picture of Naika for grandma and for Naika’s aunt, and then she asked if she could have a BIG picture of Naika for herself.

I couldn’t think of anything other than, “GET HER THOSE PICTURES.”  I knew she needed them as much as I needed to get them to her.

Naika’s grandmother was so amazing.  She said, “It is so good to see these pictures.  She looks so happy.”

When they saw the picture of Naika and Missy from Naika’s birthday party, they remarked about how Naika always loved to braid other people’s hair.  I laughed and said, “She does that to my wife ALL THE TIME!”  They smiled.  They also remembered out loud, “She loved to do the dishes and be busy.”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing…these people KNEW her.  They knew and described my little girl.  They hadn’t forgotten her and they never would.  They didn’t know until just a couple of weeks ago their little girls (Naika and Rose Michelle) were still alive after the earthquake!  They were completely out of communication after the earthquake.  They were too poor to have a cell phone and could only think about what had happened to their little girls in that building in Carrefour on that fateful day.

As we wound up our time together I walked them outside and asked if I could take a picture of them.  They instantly agreed with only one condition…Naika MUST get one.  I smiled and gladly agreed but wondered to myself how she would react…in fact, I’m STILL wondering how she will react to seeing these people she knew so well.  I understand her grandmother and aunt took care of her.  How would she react to seeing their faces again?  The uncertainty and fear are immense.  I try to cover it with, “I’ll do what’s right for Naika,” but I know whether it happens the moment we get home, a week from now, or years from now; Naika will NEVER forget these incredible ladies.

We talked a few more minutes and then the fear crept back in…this time though because they were leaving.  Grandma told me through Mrs. Claudette, “I will probably die before she ever comes back here to visit.  It was good to see the pictures of her.”  This moment was full of emotion…EVERY emotion.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

Before too long Dr. Bernard came out to tell the family goodbye and to pay for their tap tap ride back to town.  They would be staying in Port au Prince tonight…only a couple of blocks from where our team had been that very day putting on a Vacation Bible School at a church…only a few hundred yards from where Missy was that very day!  As Naika’s birth mother and aunt walked away, Dr. Bernard chatted with Naika’s grandmother.  He shared with me a little of her story.

Grandma

It seems Naika’s grandmother is an incredible woman of faith and prayer.  She knew Naika’s mother couldn’t take care of Naika on her own for quite a few reasons.  She had been the one to help her daughter find a safe place for Naika.  I finally mustered the courage to have Dr. Bernard ask Grandma a question for me.  “Is she ok (or even happy) Naika is with us?”  There it was…my fear-loaded question was finally out.  Grandma’s answer could provide closure or open up a wound I could never close.  How she answered this question was paramount for me.  I HAD to know how she felt…how the family felt about us—this white American family—adopting Naika.

Grandma’s reply brought tears and joy to my eyes immediately.  “Oh very VERY happy she is there,” were Grandma’s words.   She continued, “You rescued her from here.  She has a chance now to grow up and do whatever God wants her to do.  She will be a great woman.  I go away often and fast and pray for you, your family, and for her.  I want you to raise her to be a Godly woman…a woman of prayer and of faith.”

“Yes ma’am.  That’s exactly what we want,” I assured her.

Somewhere in my heart I know this moment is a defining one.  I know one day I will be able to share this moment and this conversation with my princess.  She will know her family loves her still…regardless of where she lives.  She will know God allowed her to be a part of our family in order to help her bigger family…her Haitian family and her global family!

Naika...my little girl

Thank you God for sabotaging this day.  I would NEVER have chosen to do it this way but I wouldn’t change it at all.  I hate Missy didn’t get to be here, but I know You had this planned.  If you would have let me have my way, I wouldn’t be prepared to share this with Naika and this portion of her LIFE would NEVER have closure.  THANK YOU for knowing what’s best and keeping me safe from myself in moments like this.

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8 responses

11 07 2010
Andy Depuy

Mike & Missy
I haven’t stopped praying for you,the boys & the girls. I know in my heart that God has something amazing planned for your entire family. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I sometimes after to go out to John Tune airport & pick up a client. I still remember when I came out that early morning to see you & Tia come fling in. If ever I can do anything for you let me know. I will continue to pray & support BGM ministries & mylife ministries has well. God Bless you all. I Love you. Andy Depuy

11 07 2010
Cassi Howard

Wow. I haven’t cried like this since the weeks following the earthquake. I am so happy for you and Missy. I’m proud of you for being the people God asked you to be. I’m proud to know you both and feel priviledged to serve with you. Once again, you have taken Brent’s place as my favorite person on earth! 🙂

11 07 2010
Katherine Jones

Mike,
Thanks for this. We likely will be meeting birth family in Ethiopia in about 3 weeks and I really didn’t want to but what an encouragement! Thanks for being the “pioneer” on this one. I think maybe I can be a little less afraid of it now.

11 07 2010
John Smith

Mike, I generally avoid using the word “amazing” Anymore because it almost become trite. But after reading your story of your encounter with Naika’s family, amazing is the word that seems most appropriate. When we make decisions in life, such as your decision to adopt Naika, we sometimes are uncertain if what we are doing is the right thing. But often, in hindsight almost, God has a way of affirming our decision. It sounds like today was your affirmation! Your brother on Christ, John Smith

11 07 2010
Valerie

Wow Mike! What an incredible story! Thank you for sharing.

15 07 2010
Lilia Cano

Thank you so much for sharing. This is such a touching story. I know God has great plans for you and your family. I keep you in my prayers constantly. May God continue to bless you and use you

15 07 2010
Ed

WOW, Don sent this story in an email to me…..I read and cried and prayed.

18 07 2010
tauna marie

Mike, it took a while to read this because tears kept blurred my glasses. Thank you for sharing your insecurities. It’s nice to know that Superman is fragile too. LoL! I am blessed to know you and Missy. I’m so happy for you two and your new daughters.

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