Thursday, June 30, 2011

To Haiti, With Love

Last night, Sophia slept on the floor of her bedroom, and I cried myself to sleep.

It's Vacation Bible School at our home church (Mariners Church, Irvine) this week, and Sophia is attending along with her friend Olivia from school (pictured above), and roughly 2,000 other children from our community. In addition to a Bible theme (this year it's the idea that God made each kid for an amazing purpose, based on Ephesians 2:10), they have a VBS missions project. The goal for the kids this week is to raise $20,000 to build an orphanage in partnership with a local church in Carrefour, Haiti.

The project has been breaking my heart. In the literature Mariners sent home on Monday, it said that even before the devastating earthquake, there were 380,000 orphans in Haiti. Our kids have been learning about the poverty, the clean water shortages, and the tents that most Haitians are now living in. Part of the VBS missions project is for the kids to try small aspects of living like the Haitians to drive the message home. Last night, they were supposed to sleep outside in a tent with no air mattress, or on the floor with only a single sheet for covering (we chose option two, since we don't really own any outdoor space).

I put Sophia to bed on the floor, handpicking the thickest sheet I have from my linen closet so she wouldn't be cold: a beautiful white-on-white brocade from Italy, given to me when I used to write a home accents column for a local magazine. Not exactly roughing it.

But when I came upstairs two hours later and checked on her lying on the floor, she looked so small and vulnerable, and for a flash I imagined what it would be like to see her sleeping on hard ground night after night with only a tarp over her head. I imagined what it would feel like to know that was the best I had to give her. And I crawled into my bed and wept.

As Sophia teaches me what it's like for the children and adults in that poor nation, I see these 2,000 Orange County children, most of them well fed, and all of them clean and dressed, running into our sanctuary each day, and think how fortunate I am to be raising my kids here. I love that my church is giving me and my kids the opportunity to make this profound comparison, and even more that they help us do something to help our less fortunate "neighbors." If each parent at VBS donated just $10, they'd reach their $20,000 goal easily, but instead, they encourage our little ones to raise the money on their own, by having car washes, lemonade stands, collecting cans.

Yesterday we had a cupcake, brownie and lemonade stand in our neighborhood and raised $34. Lots of people stopped and gave over and above what we were charging for melting cupcakes. How could they resist, with Sophia and Olivia carefully explaining that they are trying to help build an orphanage, and 3-year-old Livie chirping through their car window, "We made lemonade for Haiti! It's for the orphans!"

It's so, so little, what we've done this week in response to what we've been learning, and words fail me now as I try to wrap up this entry. There's no pithy, applicable lesson. Just the sobering thought of a staggering gap between the poor and the wealthy in this world, and the realization (yet again) that I'm in the second category. I don't deserve it, and I can't make it right.

Lord, let the lessons of this week stay with us, and may they bearfruit in our family, in our church, and in the lives of these precious, privileged 2,000 Orange County kids. And be with the children in Haiti, their parents, and all the people there trying to do them good.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:17-19

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