When Someone Knows Your Name (Dispatch from Haiti)

March 19, 2012 | 21 comments

It was a fluke, but I ended up flying first-class to Haiti.

It was my first time ever in those cushy front-row seats, where flight attendants give you warm hand-towels, and where they tuck a linen napkin under your plate of chicken parmesan. The flight attendants make a person in first-class feel important. They stick close to you, and they always call you by name.

I swallowed hard at the irony. I nibbled on my chicken, and on my pita chips with hummus, just one hour before wheels touched down in the poorest country in the western Hemisphere.

I wanted to crawl right under my cushy seat. But I sat in it, because it made the heartache sting a little more. And isn’t that what I prayed for, for an extra bit of heartache? I chewed slowly, swallowed down another bite of my abundance.

I met the girl in the sundress a few hours later at the orphanage. She found me in the courtyard, where 50 children swirled like silk ribbons around us, and they dangled like Christmas ornaments off of the men in our group. The girls spun shiny circles around the ladies.  I was holding a baby girl wearing a T-shirt screenprinted with two words: Chick Magnet.

But the one girl — I think her name is pronounced Josielyn — she came close to my side while I bounced that baby on my hip. She was about my daughter Lydia’s age.

She slid up by me, pressing into my side like she was mine, like she belonged. We couldn’t understand each other’s words, but I stroked her arm and held her close, and told her how beautiful she was. I wanted her to know how beautiful.

And then I began to sing. I sang Bible-school songs, and she knew all the words, and I rocked that baby, who clapped her hands along.

Josielyn asked my name. And she wouldn’t stop calling me by my name. And we made each other feel important, saying each other’s names over and over again like that, there in a courtyard lit up with love. And it was better than first-class, I tell you. Better than first class. 


Sharing this brief story with you tonight before I head to bed. We left northwest Iowa en route to Haiti at 1:20 a.m. We are tucked in safely just a few blocks from the orphanage tonight.

And friends? Our deepest thanks for your kind prayers. I was overwhelmed when I read your messages this morning. You’re a first-class bunch, you know?

(No photos tonight, but perhaps tomorrow…)

by | March 19, 2012 | 21 comments


  1. Diana Trautwein

    Oh, oh, gorgeous. And take that 1st class seating as a gift from heaven – like all the gifts of this week ahead. Most won’t be ‘cushy’ but this one was…and may just have enabled you to beat the red-eye sleeplessness, too. Go with God, jennifer.

  2. Brandee Shafer

    I don’t think it was a fluke. You’re totally first-class. Glad you’re already making warm little friends.

  3. Linda

    Oh yes – to be known by our very own name. Praying Jennifer.

  4. Dea


  5. Christina

    My eyes are stinging. I know you have brought light to a child’s darkness with your unconditional love. And first class, nice! It’s such a stark contrast to the back of the plane, symbolic for sure. Thanks for sharing the update.

  6. Dan King (@bibledude)

    Oh Jennifer… you know that I’m right there with you… I can still feel the hugs from so many of those kids that cling so closely. I might have a hard time reading these posts, wishing I was back there again already.

  7. Julie

    Can’t wait to hear more, Jennifer! Praying for you! 🙂

  8. Nancy Franson

    You are first class, Miss Jennifer! Love the image of those beautiful children twirling like Christmas ornaments.

  9. Deborahjoy

    glad you arrived safely. Sending blessings and love to you and the kids in Haiti X

  10. Megan Willome

    See? God is with you! From the airplane to the orphanage.

  11. Lisa Auter

    Oh, this dispatch is the best ever, thanks, Jennifer!!! I hope to also wrap my arms around children – for me, in Honduras – and tell them how beautiful they are!!! This post is so inspiring!!! Love you!!!!!

  12. Shelly Miller

    The Chick Magnet t-shirt cracked me up. We saw that in Rwanda. So many kids walking around in American t-shirts with sayings they didn’t even understand. Beautiful story Jennifer, can’t wait to hear more.

  13. Diane bailey

    Please give a child a hug for me. Through you today but one day face to face , arm in arm I will hug them for myself.

  14. joan

    Simply beautiful. I am waiting with bated anticipation to hear and see more. Blessings, Jennifer.

  15. Daune

    Oh, Jennifer…I remember! I feel like I’m there all over again. Their smiles, their contentment, their joy…contagious. And yes, the clothes they wear and are satisfied with…boys wearing pink backpacks to school (and they don’t care!), clean white uniforms with only a river or a stream or maybe just a bucket they hauled on their head to wash them in…it is truly a breaking of unparalleled proportions, but oh, so good and necessary! Thanks so much for writing!

  16. davis

    better than first class… btfc.
    i like it.
    bounce a baby for me.

  17. Sylvia R

    Oh wow. Ha! Really better than first class! Reading the beginning, I thought, yes, I’d want to crawl under my cushy seat, too. But the story took such a beautiful turn, with you (with God) showing what’s really valuable.

  18. Missy

    Interesting how God placed you in first class for your trip.

    I’ve realized that sometimes He has to take us to the highest mountain before He takes us to the lowest valley. Only then will we realize the blessings of what we had.
    It reminds me of David and how hard his fall was.


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