It’s June, in Iowa. I am here on a beach, on a little lake, remembering one spring afternoon on a Haiti beach.
It was three months ago. But I can’t forget the faces or the bare legs of 80 orphans. I see them now, all splashing and laughing. I cry, remembering the sheer joy of it all — watching parentless, broken children laugh in utter delight over their moment in the sun.
The rays winked off the ocean like it was a necklace, studded with a million shimmering diamonds. And the children, they swam among the jewels.
I sat down on the beach by one little boy named Job. He had such small hands, pink Crocs and these enormous, pleading eyes. He had a protruding belly and thin, bony arms, having endured his own horrific Job-like plight in just three short years on planet Earth.
And now he was safe, right here on this beach. He now lives in a good orphanage where every child has a pair of jammies and three square meals a day. They each have a bunk, a blanket, a pillow. And occasionally, when visitors come by, they are all given the treat of a visit to the nearby beach.
Job was all boy, wanting to turn that shore inside out, to excavate shells.
He found tiny shells no bigger than a fingernail. He handed them to me and to Renae. He said words, in Haitian Creole, that meant: “One more shell, white person?”
At first, he said it like a question — One more? Can I uncover just one more?
We held out our hands, and soon, his words became a command, an exclamation point on the beauty of this moment he’d found himself in: “Look! Another! Another! One more shell, white person! One more! One more!”
We held out our hands for one more and then another, letting that tiny boy press tiny shells into our hands. It was one small act to let a child know he was loved, that he mattered. This is the gift of open hands. We hold them out, to let a child know he doesn’t have to ask the question, but that he can know the answer and exclaim it unreservedly: “Yes, I am loved! And again, one more time, I am loved! And once more!”
We held shells, cupping bits of glory.
Some people say that Haiti is a sort of hell, with its vast and abject poverty, the voodoo, and political corruption. And it’s true, the horrors make you want to shield your eyes. And run.
But I looked. And I felt. We must.
I touched the swollen bellies. I knelt on their mud-hut floors. One more; one more. Around the corner, one more.
But I saw slices of Heaven, too — a sense that someone had peeled back the sky’s edge, so we could glimpse the holy. That day, my hand and heart utterly brimmed with the extravagant beauty of having spied the face of Christ — of having looked and felt glory in the open hand.
It was the Bible’s Job who said it long ago: “My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You.”
I feel that Scripture beating in my chest today, here on an Iowa beach. I think of the Job boy who begged the gift of a person’s time, and an open hand, and one more and one more, and just another, please?
And I pray for him now to know it, once more and again, and again, and for always, that he is unreservedly loved by a Father, and by his fellow man.
Pray for Job? That he finds a home? It’s a long process, but friends here in our community are working toward adopting this child.
“I know that my Redeemer lives.”
— Job 19:25