purple shoes and a new life

by Kayla Raymond

Last week I found myself standing in an abandoned building constructed by crumbling cement blocks, a rusty tin roof, and a home to 35 people. You could consider it a homeless shelter, but you won’t find anyone serving them food or providing them with beds. What will you find is a concrete floor that serves as a bed, sheet scraps that hang to provide as a type of divider, piles of dirty old clothing, and a little girl named Magdala.

This place has somehow received the name as the “Grace House.” I have known of it ever since my first trip to Haiti. To get there, you have to walk past the crowds of people in market, up a rocky hill, through a garbage dump and down a little cement path. You enter through a steel gate and it will take your eyes a minute to adjust because it is so dark. You will soon find yourself also dripping with sweat because there is absolutely no movement of air.

We have visited this place on almost every trip and when we get a chance, we bring rice and other ingredients to provide a meal to the people.

The past ten days, I have been blessed to have three ladies come visit me from Sioux Center. When they first arrived, they made a list of all the things they wanted to do and accomplish while they were here. I made sure that a trip to the “Grace House” with a delivery of a full bag of rice was to happen.

So, that’s how I found myself standing in this abandoned building last week Wednesday. We talked and prayed with one particular woman, but the whole time I found my eye to be stuck on a little naked girl.

I knelt down and picked her up. I quickly noticed that her small body was covered in scars. There were burn scars that ran down her back, down the side of her hip and onto one leg. On the same hip, there was also a long narrow scar that appeared to be the result of a whipping or lashing. I ran my fingers along her scars, only trying to imagine what type of hell this young girl had been through. Her hair is short and colored orange (symptom of severe malnutrition) and scabies covered her chest and hands.

What I do know about little Magdala is that she is two-years-old. Her mother has passed away and her father is blind. The only life she has even known is the darkness of this building. She is yet another face, another child, and another young life that burns on my heart.

Last Friday, I went back to visit Magdala. I dragged Esther from Tytoo with, thinking maybe after she saw her conditions I could convince her that she needed to go into the orphanage. I actually had her pretty much convinced before we went, but regardless she had to go. We arrived and found Magdala naked and sleeping on the cement floor. We were told she had diarrhea and wasn’t feeling well. We gave the father the option of admitting her into Tytoo, he seemed all for it. We told gave him the week-end to decide and to make sure he was making the right decision. We told him we would return Monday.

Today is Monday. I returned. I was so excited to give little Magdala a chance at a better life. I went to market and bought her some new clothes, and of course a cute pair of purple sandals to go with.

I walked into the darkness and again found little Magdala asleep and naked on the floor. The father, although he is blind, found her birth certificate and handed it to me with ease.

We were preparing to leave when another man said the “inspector” of the place needed to give us permission first to take her. “Ok, no problem,” I thought to myself. The inspector arrived promptly 15 minutes later, and he seemed impressed by the work we told him we were doing in Simonette. He knew of Tytoo and shook my hand, telling me he appreciated me for coming and working for the people of Haiti.

We seemed to have grace from everyone, but for good measure I wanted to ask the dad one more time if he dako (accepted). All of a sudden, he was quiet. The crowd we had attracted encouraged him that this was what was best for the child. She would have a chance to have an education now. She would finally have a bed to sleep on. He didn’t seem convinced. I became worried.

Although worried and speaking far from perfect Creole, I confidently put my hands on his shoulder, telling him he could trust me. I told him I only wanted to do what was best for the child. I said it had to be his decision.

In the end he said no.

My heart shattered.

I walked away confused and torn.

There are some children that I know God just places right in front of me to make sure they are taken care of. Jeffte was my first, Marantha and her family the next, and now Magdala.

I can’t get her off my mind, hence why I’m writing about her tonight. Those big chocolate eyes. Her small fragile body. The scars that show the life of pain she has endured. The future she could have. The small glimpse of hope I can give. The big and beautiful plan that God already has for her.

So, I made a promise to return. I said, “papa, panse anko, priye anpil, e konnen Bondye renmen ou.” (papa, think about it again, pray a lot and know that God loves you).

So, my prayer request tonight is that you just pray for Magdala and her papa. If God’s plan is for her to come to Tytoo, that that will happen. But, really just pray that no voodoo or evil is cast upon her. We fear that voodoo may have been practiced on her body already, and there are signs that it is still practiced in that place.

Magdala, standing in front of the piles of clothing that line of the back wall of her “home”

Pray that the light of Jesus may shine in the darkness and little Magdala will stay safe. Look at those eyes; they need life brought back into them. Pray that some day I can put on her new purple sandals and have a new life full of joy and hope.

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