Sherri Gragg

Writer. Mom. Daydreamer. Dog's Best Friend.

Beauty for Ashes

We arrived in downtown Port-Au-Prince and parked in front of a government office building.  There was a long line of people stretching up to the double doors.  The orphanage director instructed us to follow her as she led us to the front of the line and into the building.  Several employees sat just inside the foyer behind a simple folding table.  The director showed them some paper work and explained her reason for being there.  They issued her a visitor’s badge and then she led us to back out through the door to another section of the building.  It was incredibly crowded to the point that we often found it necessary to turn side ways to squeeze through the sea of people to get where we needed to go.

“Everyone in Haiti is trying to get out of Haiti.” I thought.

The building was a two story, rectangular structure built around a courtyard.  The various offices each had a door that opened to the walkway that surrounded the courtyard.  First we stopped at the office of the immigration director.  This office was crowded and there were not enough seats for everyone.  Thankfully, I had a seat because Roseline was not doing well at all.  The constant diarrhea was taking its toll and she was weak and lethargic.

After a few moments, the orphanage director was called into the immigration director’s office.  We were told to remain in the waiting room unless she needed us.  She met with him for less than 15 minutes.  When she came out she told me he had called the man downstairs who was holding up the passport and told him he would be printing it.  He told him to make copies of our passports if that is what he needed to do.

We walked downstairs and sat to wait in another office that had a row of chairs along the wall opposite a long counter.  Behind this counter were seated several employees but not the man we had come to see and we had to wait for some time.  Finally, he walked into the room and as he did he looked at us warily.  Michael and I agreed later that we both had the strong impression, which we believe was from God, that we were to remain absolutely silent. The orphanage director began to converse with him in Creole that was much too fast and animated for either of us to understand.  He seemed to be resistant still, and she was arguing with him.  At last, she turned to us and said, “Show him your passports.”  Simultaneously, we both reached for the passports hanging around our necks.  At this, he looked exasperated and waved at us to put them away.  He appeared frustrated as he asked us to wait for a moment and left again.  When he returned, he told us the passport would be printed and ready in two hours.  We were thankful but did not feel we could really rejoice until we had it in our hands.

While we were sitting in the office, Roseline had diarrhea again and as we left I told the director I needed a place to change her.  Under the watchful eyes of a couple of hundred Haitians, we made our way to the least populated corner of the walkway.  There, I prepared to lay my frail baby down on the ground and change her diaper.  A man retrieved a chair from somewhere and I lay her across my lap.  I was worried and as I cleaned her I prayed. 

“God, sustain my baby…”

and to her, “Hold on, sweetie.  Just hold on.”

On the way back to the guest house, the director took us by the orphanage so that Claudine could say good-by to her house mother.  As soon as the the truck rolled to a stop, she scrambled out of the vehicle and dashed up the stairs.  She spoke to some of the other house mothers and her friends but went room to room looking for her house mother only to find that she was not there at the moment because she had gone with a group of children to get their shots.  We were instantly surrounded by children, all wanting us to pick them up or take their picture.  We were happy to get photos of the place Claudine called home and the children who were her friends. 

When it was time to leave, she cried and cried.  The director assured her that her house mother would come by the guest house to say good-bye, but she wept still.

After arriving at the guest house, I put Roseline down to nap and then anxiously awaited the arrival of Claudine’s house mother.  A horn sounded at the gate and Claudine rushed outside to find that it was not the house mother but the director passportof the orphanage with the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in her hand……Claudine’s passport.  We shouted, danced a tiny bit and all had our picture taken with it.  Claudine it seemed, would be coming home after all.

Not long after the director left, the house mother came.  Claudine was thrilled.  She brought with her some of the things I had sent Claudine over the years and we communicated in Creole as best we could.  Soon it was time for her to go.  I strained to see if there was some sign it was difficult for her but her face was unreadable to me.  How could one not struggle to say good bye to a child who had been in her care day and night for two years?  I still don’t know.  Claudine began crying which turned to wailing and screaming.  She tried to run after her but we held on tight.  Then, as the van left the gate, she was consumed with grief.  We carried her to our room and she lay in the floor mournfully wailing.   We tried to hold her and comfort her but she would not allow it.  So, we sat near her and softly sang praises and prayed over her as our own tears flowed for her loss and pain.  We also claimed scripture over her.  One in particular I remember praying for her that day was from Isaiah:

“provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”  Isaiah 61:3

Beauty for ashes.

That is my prayer for my daughters still. 

And God is able.  I believe with every fiber of my being that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. (Romans 8:39)  There are so many times I read doom and gloom about adopted children.  There have been a plethora of books written by people so much smarter than I am who spell out the details for adoptive families of how a baby’s brain is formed and what happens when they are traumatized.  There is so much talk about attachment disorders, and the repercussions of past abuse and neglect.  I know that those issues are real and it is always good to be educated.  But to be fearful…..to be fearful is not the mindset of a child of God.

Claudine did some serious grieving when she came home but one thing that always brought her comfort was the truth of Romans 8:28. 

“Baby,” I would tell her “God is so strong.  He is so strong that he can take anything that happens to you, no matter how bad it is, and turn it around for your good.”

After she had grieved for about an hour that day, she quieted and about that time, Emmanuel called us for dinner.  She rose and we wiped her tears.  Then, she took her Daddy by the hand and went to eat.

Beauty for ashes. 

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

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6 comments on “Beauty for Ashes

  1. John Hall
    April 5, 2007

    Dang, Sherri, I’ve had to go buy extra boxes of kleenex to soak up all the tears when I read here. But it’s worth it b/c they’re tears of joy, and of sharing God’s heart. There’s something supernatural about your writing…

  2. Candis
    April 5, 2007

    Amen and amen.

  3. totaltransformation
    April 5, 2007

    “Everyone in Haiti is trying to get out of Haiti.”

    It always amazes me how odd the course of history runs. In the 1800s Haiti seemed like a great place to go for free blacks in the American South. Some even took up the American Colonization Society on its offer of a free one way trip. To them it must have seemed like a real no brainer- leave the oppression, racism, and lack of opportunity in the American South for the only country in the Western Hemisphere run by Blacks.

    But look only one hundred or so years in the future and the decision wasn’t quite so simple. Look at the conditions faced by the bulk of the population in Haiti versus even the poorest among the African American population of the Southern United States.

    The passage of time plays out some odd twists on us all.

  4. everydaymiracle
    April 6, 2007

    T-
    Well, if I ever write a thesis, perhaps I will do it on the African diaspora, and the propsperity (or lack of it) of their descendants today.

    The enslavement, abuse and oppression of an entire people group has long term consequences.

    Now that I think of it, why don’t YOU research that topic and write the paper? You would be great at it! (After all, I have FIVE kids and I am exhausted which is why this is the one thing I will be writing today.)

    You really need to get that book I suggested. I promise that you would find it fascinating. It is right up your alley.

    Here is another idea for you…Why don’t you begin a history based blog of some sort? I would really enjoy that. (Isn’t it strange how I have so many good ideas for you on the day I’m not doing any writing of my own? Oh, and what is the deal with that one guy that keeps commenting on your blog? I hope he does not notice me….)

    Sherri

  5. totaltransformation
    April 6, 2007

    “what is the deal with that one guy that keeps commenting on your blog? I hope he does not notice me”

    You mean xxxxxxxxx? He is undoubtedly an odd one. Now that I mentioned his name, he will undoubtedly show up.

    BTW I tried writing a history only blog once, and no one read it.
    “history”. I haven’t made many recently though, since religious and personal issues have kept me fairly busy.

    *editorial liberties were taken with this comment 🙂
    but I know “T” understands.

  6. everydaymiracle
    April 6, 2007

    T-

    Ahhhhhh! That’s the guy. Now I am going to go edit out his name.

    Sherri

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This entry was posted on April 5, 2007 by in adoption, Christianity, family, God, hope.
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