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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Wednesday 12th February 2014

#TellHisStory: Laying Down Your Isaac

A year has passed since I  sat in the back of a pickup truck in Haiti, while we were parked outside a ramshackle hut without windows.


Somewhere on the dark side of that loosely-hinged door in Haiti, a baby lay limp and naked on the filthy floor.

I balled my skirt in my fists, pulling it up around my knees, and lifted my leg over the back side of the truck. My oldest daughter, Lydia, followed behind me. She stayed close to her mama, like she was afraid the darkness might seep out of the tiny hut and grab her.

I might have been a little scared of that myself.

We leaned against the dusty truck, waiting and praying.

Two of the men in our group slipped into the tiny house to find the baby, to ask the questions that needed asking, and to do a quick examination of the child.

The baby boy had been abandoned by his mother, and had been left with his father.

But the father had been unable to feed or care for his son,
his only son,
his firstborn son.

He had no money, and no choice. Except to give him up.

The baby lolled like a limp rag in the arms of one of our men.

The father asked us if we’d take the baby away, if we’d take his son, his only son, to the orphanage. It’s not that he didn’t want the boy. He only wanted to make sure that his son might live.

Haiti mountainside

One of the women held the baby in the covered cab of the pickup. I sat in the back, in the open bed of a dusty pickup truck, with Lydia. We sat across from the father. All of us bounced along the rocky path, headed for the orphanage. The father clenched his jaw, staring into nowhere, like he might pluck some courage out of thin air. Like maybe he was a bit like Abraham, headed up the mountain with his son.

“Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

~ Genesis 22:2

 A Baby Named Steve

The pickup pulled up to the orphanage’s clinic, and we all piled out, toward an altar — the kind of place where you surrender something at the feet of your God. Orphanages can be like that. They can be like altars, uncomfortable but necessary.

We found out the boy’s name was Steve. And we thought it such an odd name for a baby boy from Haiti. We all knew guys named Steve back in the United States. Steve was the public relations guy at the university, the car-insurance salesman, the usher at church. We giggled, maybe a bit too much, the way nervous people do when they’re scared for the worst, but hoping for the best, and not really sure what to say.

The orphanage director took the baby into his arms. And the baby’s father followed him through the clinic doors.

There would be paperwork to sign. To make it official.

And later, that stoic Daddy held things together when, at last, it was time to go. The orphanage director put a hand on the shoulder of the father and told him he could come back anytime; this was his son.

And none of us knew if he ever would come back again.

That baby named Steve? He was no Isaac. There was no ram in the thicket. Steve stayed on the altar like a sacrifice. And the father left, alone.

Laying Down Our Isaacs

It’s been a year since that day we picked up Steve. His dad never came back for him, and I don’t know the reasons why.

I think about Steve as Lent approaches, and as we consider what we’ll “give up” in the days leading up to Easter.

I’ve given up some things at the altar before–some bad habits, dumb compulsions, lazy behaviors, and so on. But I’ve never had to lay a real Isaac on the altar. Not really.

I’ve never given up something that hurt so bad that I didn’t know if I could breathe.

But I watched a man in Haiti do it. I watched a man give up his son, because he wanted that boy to really live.

And I’ve read about a guy named Abraham, who was willing to give up his son, his only son, because He wanted to to be obedient.

And I know in my heart about another Father, who gave up His son, His only Son, because He loved the rest of enough to do the unthinkable.

To lay a child down.

 

(This is an edited post from the archive, as I’m dealing with some illness in the home this week)

***

DSC_0846 UPDATE ON STEVE

We saw Steve during our recent trip to Haiti, and he took a real shine to the girls. Steve is being cared for at Tytoo Gardens Orphanage, where our family spent about a week over Thanksgiving.

DSC_0567

He’s healthy and happy and will get to attend the Touch of Hope school in a few years.

 

 A VIBELLA PARTY

gracie1

You know by now how I love the ministry of ViBella Jewelry in Haiti. This month, I am helping host a ViBella party as a fundraiser for dear friends who are adopting a little girl named Gracie from Haiti. The money raised with this fundraiser will not only support Gracie’s Adoption but will also support the women who make the jewelry and their families.

You can shop by clicking here, and be sure to include the  code FST09 in the coupon code section. This ensures that credit will go toward the Gracie Adoption fundraiser.

Remember code FST09 at the checkout. 🙂

(Photo: Anna holding Gracie. We were able to meet her during our recent trip to Haiti.)

 

So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.

You’re invited to tell that story right here, in community with us.

Share your narratives, your poems, your Instagrams tagged with #TellHisStory, … your beautiful hearts. You are the chroniclers, the people who help others make sense of the world with your words and your art.

Story is how we know that, no matter what happens, we can get back up again.

Visit someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Then, Tweet about your posts, and the posts you visit, with the #TellHisStory hashtag. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.

A final note: This is a safe place to tell your stories. You don’t have to be a professional writer or a grammarian to join us. Story is built into every single one of us. Your story matters, because it’s part of God’s story down through history, not because you punctuated everything correctly. Deal?

#TellHisStory

For more details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here.


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  • Laura Risser Moss

    Wishes and prayers for wellness and health at your house, Jennifer.
    Thank you for this beautifully challenging post.
    In helping our two middle girls move 1650 miles away from home this fall, I was able to put feet to the truth I’ve been speaking for years: these kiddos are really His, not mine. He loaned them to me – and what an act of trust on HIS part! – for a glorious, shining time…and now, the time has come for me to walk in what I know in my head in the hopes it will infiltrate my heart: He is much more capable than I am to take care of them. And when I run to Him on their behalf (instead of running after them), He can work in their lives AND in mine. It is a ‘laying down my Isaac’ for me.

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  • We should have exchanged stories, friend. We must have another chance. I love you. <3 Praying. <3

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  • I was thinking about the story of Isaac just this morning, how after all these years of knowing God, I’m still so uncomfortable with the premise of God’s request of Abraham. I don’t think I’m capable of understanding this side of heaven.

    This story of Steve–it’s a hard one to read. I’m glad God placed you there as part of it though. Thanks, Jennifer, for sharing your heart, your love, our God.

  • Alyssa Santos

    Oh, my friend. When I was in Ethiopia, I fed and dressed an infant boy whose teenaged mommy, ill and feverish, gave him up at the orphanage. I will never forget watching her expression harden because the pain was too great to suffer through the intake process without anger to protect her. I rode with her to the hospital after she left her perfect, beautiful boy behind. And all I wanted was the language and the gift of hope to offer her. But I had neither. So I held her hand. It would nearly kill me to do what she did.

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  • I remember this story, It broke me then and it splits me now. I cant imagine giving up a child–my child. Thank you for challenging me to think about what this means… what it looks like to love hard. Praying for you!!!

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  • saltshakmk@msn.com

    Blessings, Jennifer! I was right there with you on that truck – anger at the darkness that steals so much from so many people across the world. But – GOD. Intervening through His people. Such a happy ending for Steve – HOPE! May he see the fulfillment of it eternally.
    Joy!
    Kathy

  • pastordt

    So sorry you’re sick over there in snowbound Iowa! Praying for wellness and relief.

  • Such a beautiful story of great, heartbreaking sacrifice. It makes me wonder of the plans God has for this little one. Praying prayers for healing for your family!

    • I am not sure how it happened but my link shows the picture of the person who linked up before me rather than the picture I added. I am not sure how to fix this. You could certainly feel free to delete my link and let me know and I will re-add it. I commented to the blogger before me so she doesn’t think I have stolen her picture : ) Thank you for any advise or help…

  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    I’m thinking their is wealth in your archives, Jennifer. I’m so glad that you posted, b/c I had not read this. To give up a child? To knowingly do it for the baby’s good.?I can’t fathom it. And God didn’t give up Jesus for His good, but for ours. God knew about a ramless thicket, so He gave His Son. There was no other way, and I bow at the truth, bow on my face in utter humilty and gratitude. I was glad to see beautiful STeve……yet still can’t help but think of his stoic dad, and if he has been able to smile again. Praying!
    Love
    Lynn
    ps will pray for the Lee household health.

  • Elizabeth Stewart

    What a heart wrenching thing to witness. So thankful though, for the chances for a future his dad gave Steve.

  • Heart-wrenching. I am so glad Steve lived. I am new to this, I got on the list but I cannot figure out how to get the badge?

  • Lisha Epperson

    I love the hopeful promise of life…even as we lay down the hard things. Saying a prayer for Steve and his biological father and for restoration of health in your home Jennifer.

  • Beth

    It’s so hard to even imagine giving up a child. How emotional is must have been to even watch this man make this choice. I was so happy to see a picture of Steve and to see that he is doing well. You have such a beautiful heart. I hope you and your household feel better soon. Much love. xoxoxo

  • JViola79

    Thank you for including the update on Steve. What a precious little face! Praying today for his continued growth and for his dad. Praying for the fatherless today that they would each come to know & rely on the love of The Father.

    And may you all get to feeling better quickly too!

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  • Nancy Ruegg

    My husband’s name is Steve, so this little Steve in Haiti already has an inroad to my heart. I’m going to start praying for him and his father, that they might be reunited and God would miraculously redeem their situation!

  • Laurie Collett

    Praying for this situation. God bless you.

  • Jennifer, have you read Carol Kent’s book (has the same title as your post)? I love her — she’s one of my favorite writers.

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  • Megan Willome

    Steve’s dad and I should talk.

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