I was the last of our group to enter the construction site. We were led there by the pastor’s wife, Esther, who felt Holy Spirit was telling her to visit this home. Although the owners of the property were not available, there were a couple of men mixing concrete by hand and fashioning them into bricks. They welcomed a brief reprieve from the heat as we asked them if we could talk with them. Our group was in Canaan, Haiti for the express purpose of evangelizing alongside Haitian church members. Today there was myself and three other team members, along with Esther going around the mountain to various homes.
I had been privately frustrated by my lack of opportunity to share. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I had a vital part on this team. I was praying while others spoke, praying over individuals and homes as asked and attempting to encourage others who were sharing. On this particular day I felt that Holy Spirit was leading me to share my personal story of coming to know Christ. I thought I would share it with men, and so this specific stop had piqued my interest tremendously. God had other plans however, (maybe that will be another blog post?), and today He had someone special for me to meet.
As the conversation was ongoing, there were several children milling around (we always attracted a crowd). This particular group consisted of several small boys and a couple young Haitian girls. They were playing noisily and distracting the men from the conversation (one of the children’s fathers was one of the workers). I soon realized that my contribution to the ongoing dialogue would be to occupy the kid’s attentions. I speak no Creole and I thought none of the kids spoke English. They were intrigued by my tattoos, (I guess they really are permanent, Lord knows they tried to rub them off), and also by the hair on my arm. No amount of pulling, rubbing or patting could satiate their curiosity. Soon the older of the two girls took my hand and read my shirt in halting English: “…Love all, Worship One…”. I realized that at the very least she could sound out English and began to try to figure out her name. She took my pen and wrote her name on the palm of my hand, “Stephanie Jasmine”. And with that simple act, God would write her name on my heart.
I wrote my name on a piece of paper, which she quickly read as “Mahk Kell-eee”. With simple introductions finished, we attempted to talk. Neither of us got far, but her smile melted my heart. Soon the “adult” conversation had ended and we walked up the mountain to the church. Stephanie was shy and not too fond of the camera, and so I patiently waited, hoping I could take some pictures so that I could tell my wife and kids about her. Little did I know how we would bond later that week.
On Saturday we arrived in Canaan to take part in the organized Kid’s Club held weekly by the church. Stephanie spotted me in the group and came up and almost whispered, said, “Mahk Kell-eee”. Her smile was big and her eyes twinkled happily. She then joined in the games with the other children. While one of the games was progressing and the kids were becoming very excited, an accident occurred. There are a couple of versions to the story, but all conclude similarly: there was shoving and pushing and then Stephanie was struck in the head by a rock. This quick resort to violence is not an unfamiliar action in many parts of the world. Harsh living conditions (even that doesn’t do it justice) often lead to a harsh way of life. Regardless, Stephanie stood in shock, head down, bleeding profusely from her head. I quickly grabbed my bandana and placed it over the wound, applying pressure, and then led her to sit on a bench under the tent of the church. She barely made a noise but large tears were rolling down her face. One of our translators shared why she was so upset – I ask that you pray for her home life. A neighbor to the church came in the tent and washed Stephanie’s head with my doo-rag and then we bandaged it. Stephanie sat stoically by my side as the games continued outside the tent. She held my hand and smiled weakly as I tried to reassure her that she was “okay”.
The team soon brought the kids into the tent for a coloring activity. Dividing the kids up with “partners”, each group would be given an crayon and they were to color a page that said simply, “God is Love”. Stephanie became my partner. She was still shy about the camera, but I was able to sneak this picture as we worked on her paper:
As Stephanie & I took turns reading, “God is Love” to one another, something resonated in my spirit from my time in Southeast Asia. I took the crayon and wrote, “God loves Stephanie”. These were phrases that we would teach some of the girls we ministered among while in Cambodia. Very simple English phrases that spoke Truth into their lives. Stephanie read the new sentence and smiled broadly. From that moment, she wanted me to take pictures of her paper (and then made sure that no other kids would wiggle their way into my arms for a picture or a look at my iPhone). She was my partner and she wasn’t willing to share.
The following day was Sunday. As our team walked up the mountainside, I saw Stephanie dressed in a beautiful white dress heading down the path. She smiled and grabbed my hand as we got close. I gave her a hug and she continued down the mountain. I was unsure if I would see her again. After the service she showed up and I took the opportunity to take another picture: (I’m not sure who the little guy is, just someone who wanted in the picture I suppose).
Our team had a meeting with the pastor and his wife after the service and it lasted quite a long time. During this time, the kids had left the tent and were wandering around the mountainside. After the meeting was finished, our team began our descent of the mountain. True to form, Stephanie found my hand and communicated that she was going to walk down the mountain with me. We passed her house and she decided to pose for a picture with it.
I am grateful for the minutes that it took to walk down the mountain. I asked one of our translators to communicate some thoughts I had to Stephanie. I communicated how privileged I was to have met her, to know her name and become her friend. I wanted her to know that I would pray for her and that I would remember our time together on the mountain in Canaan. As we neared the base of the mountain, I felt compelled by Holy Spirit to pray over Stephanie. I thought we had one more day to be on the mountain, but decided to follow the impression in my heart. I prayed that Stephanie would grow to be a powerful lady, living for Christ, protected from darkness and a strong influence for the Kingdom on the mountain.
This picture, taken just after that moment, is the last moments I spent with Stephanie. The following day our plans to visit the mountain and say our goodbyes were discarded due to the violent unrest, demonstrations and barricades that were located near our turn-off. I never said “good-bye” to Stephanie. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to. Perhaps I’ll see her again someday – maybe here, maybe There. The ink has worn off my hand, but her memory is still etched deeply in my heart.