Be sure to read Part 1 first!
As I left off in part one of the story, I had been in Haiti for one month, challenged by my circumstances, ready to quit and go home. As usual, God had a better plan.
Sobbing in my tent, seeking comfort from snacks and social media, I noticed a post on Twitter about a team from Nashville that was in Haiti. I reached out to ask if I could join them in their work and they picked me up at my camp the very next day. The mission of this team of nurses and doctors was to go into tent cities that had not received help from the big aid organizations. I documented their work so they could share with their supporters back home.
On one of our outings, we visited a hospital that suffered a lot of damage during the quake and was basically functioning out of the parking lot with tents strung together as a make shift triage. We were there to check on a young boy named Joshua with cerebral palsy, who had been living on the the streets of Port-au-Prince with his mom. Not a very good life as she would use him to beg for money.
Joshua’s injuries from the quake were too severe for him to leave the same day he came in, so his mother left, but did not return for over three weeks. It was assumed that she had abandoned him, so the Nashville team was contacted to help find him a home.
The mother did end up coming back, only to be told he still wasn’t ready to be released. Word circulated that she was asking around if anyone wanted to buy him, so of course this intensified the efforts of those that had grown to love Joshua to protect him and place him in a good home. Efforts were made to convince UNICEF to release Joshua to the team in order to transfer him to a special needs facility, but there was so much “red tape” during this time, it didn’t happen before they had to return to the United States. I offered to stay in touch in case there was anything I could do to help during my remaining week in Haiti.
Sure enough, a few days later I received a call asking me to go get Joshua. Due to the lack of funds, the hospital was shutting down and all the patients had to leave. With no place to go, UNICEF allowed Joshua to come with me. I didn’t know exactly how I was going to make this work, but I said yes. By the time I arrived, thirty minutes before the hospital was officially shutting down, there was nothing more than an empty lot with a few cinder blocks scattered about. I was greeted with shouts of joy from three nurses that had been caring for Joshua the past two months.
Joshua stayed with me at base camp for a couple of nights until we could arrange a flight to the north of Haiti. He would be given a home at Northwest Haiti Christian Mission which specializes in special needs care. At first I didn’t think I would be able to fly with him as there was limited space on a 6 seater plane, and I was also suppose to fly back to the U.S. three days later. A flight with Mission Aviation opened up for me and all three nurses to go with Joshua, and I didn’t care if I made it back for my flight home. I had to go!
The time with Joshua at his new home was amazing, but incredibly hard. He resisted integrating at first, only wanting to be with us, the family he knew. Thankfully we were able to stay for a couple of nights, watching him get settled and celebrating Easter together! Which by the way became Joshua’s new birthday. There were no records of his actual birth date, so his new life began on April 4, 2010!
We struggled with how to tell him goodbye, as we would be flying back to Port-au-Prince the next morning. Would he understand why we were leaving? If we left without saying goodbye, would he ever notice we were gone? I knew I had to say goodbye, and tell him how much I loved him. Whether he fully comprehended or not, I shared my heart in English, with a Creole translation.
Through many tears, this was my message to Joshua:
“When I came to Haiti, I didn’t exactly know what my purpose was for being here. I later thought it was for an opportunity to build up my own name and gain more exposure to my photography. I now know that none of that matters and the reason I came to Haiti was for you.”
After we left the Mission the next morning, the director gave each of us a gift that she and Joshua had made for us the night before. If leaving wasn’t hard enough already!
What a gift! I never imagined, sitting in my tent two weeks earlier feeling so discouraged, that such a life changing experience was just around the corner!
The Joshua experience is the lens through which I want to view life.When I’m facing a time of uncertainty, wanting to give up or to chase after things the world says will bring success, I have to remember, when I focus on God and the things of His heart, my dreams actually get bigger!
Love that this was actually the verse in my devotional this morning!
“We view our slight, short-lived troubles in the light of eternity. We see our difficulties as the substance that produces for us an eternal, weighty glory far beyond all comparison, because we don’t focus our attention on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but the unseen realm is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Be encouraged. Keep looking to God, and watch the bigger story come into view.
If you’d like to learn more about Northwest Haiti Christian Mission and to support Joshua Emmanuel, go to
Happy Birthday, Joshua!