There’s no mistaking this ache.
It’s the longing of a mother. It’s the dull ache of empty arms. He has been a stranger, this son with a name: Claudel.
I keep a two-inch-tall photo of him on my desk.
I already knew this much of him, but this was all I knew: He is part man, part boy. (I don’t know how old.) His father died two years ago, and his mother has lived in a tent since the earthquake hit Haiti a year ago. Claudel needed an education and one meal a day. We heard of him through friends at the mission.
He lives with three men
— barely men —
in a tin shack,
in a sagging village,
in a broken country.
He needed help, and we signed a check.
But still, he was a stranger.
Now there’s an envelope.
The envelope holds his words, his heart spilled out on a page. A friend brought the envelope tonight.
“He wanted to thank you,” she says, smiling. I look at my beaming friend. I’m about to give birth to a new love, and this friend is my midwife.
And this is the moment when the ache begins — when she pushes the envelope across the table to the mama in labor.
I smooth the envelope against the table with my palm. It’s the same way I smooth my girls’ hair in the morning.
We are not strangers anymore. I just want to hold that child. I hold an envelope.
My question tumbles out. I’m a mama who has to know: “Does he love the Lord?”
Her eyes dance. And she reaches a hand for mine: “They all do, Jennifer. All four of them.” Her words pop like firecrackers. “You should SEE how they love the Lord! Oh, Jennifer…”
I nod, tearful. I’m grateful for a son in the slums who is grace-wealthy. God made my son a rich man.
Wistful, I push my thumb and forefinger into the envelope. I pull out two photographs, and shake my head, and I let out all my breath in one long puff: Why didn’t I send any photographs? I should have known better. What kind of mother …
My friend, she knows. “It’s OK, Jennifer. Later, later …”
I see him standing in the church, holding the Bible. I see him, kneeling in his new school uniform.
He’s beautiful. I’m smitten.
“You will love him,” my friend says. And I know I already do.
It was just a check. We didn’t break the bank. It didn’t hurt. Just $30 a month, and Claudel is going to school and eating one square meal a day.
And my friend just kept saying it over and over again: “They are so grateful. They are so grateful.”
We didn’t even send a picture.
The woman — a part-time missionary, part-time Iowa farm wife — met them while in Haiti last year. She returns to Haiti frequently, most recently over Christmas. The four young men invited her over to their one room a couple weeks ago while she was there, and they set a place at a table for her — as a way to thank us.
She tells me this. I cry.
They borrowed a tablecloth, and plastic lawn chairs, and real china with Christmas trees. They served beet salad and rice. And they wrote letters to me and to the other sponsors to send home to Iowa with my friend. Men used crayons to draw hearts.
The brother writes a letter to us: “We have nothing to give you … but hope.” And I can think of no better gift than this. I think: Perhaps they are richer than I?
My friend says their country needs these men. She calls them future leaders.
“They are going to be fine Haitian men, Jennifer,” she says.
I unfold a small paper rectangle. Claudel has drawn his crayon heart in green. I devour his words.
“I am excited to see you take care of me!” And then my heart sinks. “I feel sad because I wanted to see some picture of you, but I can’t.”
My friend pats my hand again. “Later, later …”
He writes more, and I feel the bottom of the room drop out, and I wish I could sink through the floor and find a tunnel to a broken village in Haiti. I need to hold a boy.
He writes to tell us who we are: “Now I know that you are my mom and dad! I thank you for helping me. I am praying all the time that God can keep you safe in everything you do!”
I am uncorked, undone. And the ache finds its way past the lump in my throat to roll down my cheeks.
“I love you mom and dad. I love you mom and dad.” He writes it twice.
“You are in my heart.”
And you, Claudel, are in ours.
I’m sending pictures. We love you. Son.
We support Claudel monthly through Mission of Hope: Haiti. Their mission statement:
“As an organization following Jesus Christ, Mission of Hope exists to bring life transformation to every man, woman, and child in Haiti. We desire to serve the nation of Haiti, and see lives changed.”
This is a mission that we are closely linked to through many friends who actively serve there. To learn more about Mission of Hope, click here.
Would you consider sponsoring a child? You may click here.
Submitted as part of the adoption/orphan-care series at The High Calling. Check out the series by clicking here.