by Kayla Raymond
Have you ever had one of those moments where everything seems to come full-circle? Life passes by so quickly, seasons come and go and then you come into a very specific moment and all you can find yourself saying is, “holy shit, this is really my life.”
These moments may be really beautiful…like the moment when I looked at my pregnancy test and it read positive. Or the moment when my daughter falls so soundly asleep next to me. These beautiful moments may happen only once in a lifetime or they may occur in our mundane daily activities, but they leave you short of breath, making you remember how life is in-fact beautiful.
These moments may be really overwhelming…like the other morning when I opened my gate and four women were sitting outside waiting to explain all their problems to me, expecting me to fix them all. Or the moment when my husband calls and tells me the news of our son’s passport being “lost” in the immigration system and we have to start all over again. Or the moment in the middle of the night, when I lay wide awake, thinking yet again to myself, “shit, this is really my life.”
I had this really crazy full-circle moment last week…it was beautiful and overwhelming. It took my breath away but I couldn’t tell if it was from its overwhelming beauty or the picture it painted telling the story of how overwhelming and chaotic my life really is.
A lot of chaos led to this specific moment. I suppose the first thing that happened to lead to this moment happened six years ago:
We were painting our family house and I ended the afternoon by cleaning all of the paintbrushes in the ocean. A saw a man at the beach next door and thought nothing of it, but the man next door saw much more than just a girl in the ocean washing paint brushes. The next day, when he saw we were back to paint again, he made his way over to our house to see if he could help. The man at the beach next door goes by Webert and we’ve been on quite the journey since the day he saw me cleaning paintbrushes in the ocean.
Another significant moment happened a few weeks after meeting Webert:
My dad and I were coming through the village on our four-wheeler and saw Mr. Webert all dressed up. We asked him what he was up to and that was when he told us about his school for the first time. At the time, he was teaching 70-some students in a construction made of palettes and tarp.
The following spring we founded Touch of Hope in hopes to build Webert ONE new school building.
Lots and lots of life-changing moments have happened since that initial scene of washing paintbrushes in the ocean.
This past January I traveled to New York City for a tradeshow with my job. After the tradeshow, I traveled to Iowa to surprise my sister for her birthday. I called a friend as I was traveling home and told her how I was “late” and was slightly concerned. Well this concerned friend bought me a pregnancy test as a joke and after a night out full of surprises for my sister, I took my first pregnancy test in a hotel bathroom with my sister and three best friends waiting outside the door. The first one read positive and all I remember yelling was, “OH shit!” The second one read positive, so there I sat in the middle of a hotel room in the middle of the night having a very big and very real full-circle moment.
Before even knowing I was pregnant, Webert and I made the commitment in the beginning of January to work towards full guardianship of our three children and visas, which would allow them to travel to the States with us. I knew when we made this commitment to focus on attaining these documents there would be roadblocks, but I had no idea how hard and intense those roadblocks would be.
The home study for our guardianship papers took close to three months to receive, which took us to the middle of April. Mid-April we brought over thirty documents combined to social services, which would prove us to be legal guardians of our children.
(Why aren’t you trying to become their parents and fully adopting them, you may be thinking…In Haiti, you need to be married for over 5 years and also be over the age of 30 to legally adopt. Webert and I are coming up on our three-year anniversary and I will not be 30 for another three years. We have been told we will be able to start taking action to legally adopt after another 2 years, but they may also make an exception and allow us to start the process next year.)
Our biggest roadblocks happened at social services. One of the main directors literally accused us of child trafficking because we brought Chedline to the States on a medical visa and never brought her back to Haiti. We had doctors in the States and her host family write letters to prove to him how she was still receiving proper treatment in the States. This certain director told us we had to meet with the head director of all of social services before he would sign our papers. We went into social services office three times before finally being able to meet with her. Also note that getting to social services is over an hour’s drive to get there, as the office is located in the heart of Port-au-Prince. These trips aren’t just a quick trip to the local courthouse; we would spend at least half of our work day making these trips, depending on how long we had to wait to meet with the person at the office and on the city’s traffic. We made 13 trips (if I counted correctly) to social services before receiving all of the proper documents making us legal guardians.
Why are these guardianship papers so important? They are the only document that will prove to the U.S. government that we have rights for the children and the only document that make us qualified to travel with them.
We received the guardianship documents at the beginning of July.
In February we also paid a man to make the passports for the three kids. He promised to have them to us by the first of April. Well the first of April came and went and this pregnant mama got very concerned. We eventually were given Jeffte and Wishla’s passport in the middle of May. That was when we were also given the unfortunate news that Loveson’s passport had been made with a mistake and would need to be completely redone. Webert and I left Haiti mid-June to travel to the States for a couple weeks of rest and hoped the passport would be finished by the time we got back to Haiti on July 3rd.
By mid-July I was officially very pregnant and very hot, but I was also very stressed about that damn passport – it was the only document standing in our way to apply for U.S. visas. But, it would just not fall into our hands! Webert eventually went to immigration himself to try and find the passport but had no luck. The week after going, immigration conveniently closed down to re-do their systems and that was when Loveson’s passport was completely lost in the system, not once, but twice! We ended up paying for and re-doing his passport four times by the time we received it in the middle of August – only six months after paying for the original to be done!
There were so many moments in this process that left me so frustrated and overwhelmed. Working in a third-world country, with all of its corruption, is not for the weak or faint of heart. When we were working on the guardianship papers, all of the employees at social services hadn’t been paid in five months. Yes, five entire months. You can imagine how unmotivated these people are. The one office I was in had three people sleeping with their heads on their desks. And, this is the office fighting for the children of Haiti. My blood boils when I am there because my heart and mind cannot even begin to comprehend the amount of corruption that takes place there.
There were so many moments in this process that left me frantic and feeling like a crazy person.
There were also so many moments in this process that left me so lonely and dependent on God. There were times when I couldn’t even pray, because I didn’t even understand how it could be this hard. I would just let the tears stream down my face and think yet again to myself, “shit, how is this my life?”
I began circling all of the promises God gives in his word that he does in fact hear us and answers us.
“Ask and it will be given…everyone who asks, receives” – Matthew 7:7-8
“We can have confidence before God and receive from him everything we have asked because we obey…” – 1 John 3:22
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.” – John 15:7
“Because he loves me…He will call upon me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver and honor him with long life and satisfy him and show my salvataion.” – Psalm 91:14-16
“…the Lord is faithful to all of his promises…” – Psalm 145:13
(also see Lamentations 3:22-26, Psalm 120:1, Genesis 9:13, Nehemiah 1:4, John 9:31)
I cried and begged and pleaded with the Lord to give us Loveson’s passport and on a Friday afternoon Webert finally got it. Loveson and I drove up to the school to see it, because I wasn’t going to believe we really had it until I saw it. As we jumped and celebrated for the passport a beautiful rainbow stretched across the sky over the mountains. I have never felt such sweet peace. It wasn’t in my timing, but God remained faithful and showed off by letting me witness a rainbow just when I needed it most.
I had spent a couple weeks circling and meditating on His promises and on that Friday afternoon it was as if He was making a whole new covenant and promise with me, thousands of years after making His original covenant with Noah.
After we received the passport, we made visa appointments. Wishla’s visa appointment is this Friday, September 9 at 10:00 a.m. The boys’ appointments are scheduled for September 19 at 12:30 a.m. We need this one last miracle of visas to allow our entire family to be together for the arrival of Rubie Jo.
I traveled home last week Wednesday and it was by far the hardest good-bye I’ve ever made. Not knowing if I will see my kids after three weeks or potentially 12 weeks is a really, really hard thing! There’s this peace that my heart has, telling me God has me right where He wants me and my family will be here before I know it, but there’s this human part of me that’s so afraid of the unknown.
Last week was when I had the biggest full-circle moment yet. My kids and I decided to go up to the school for the day to work with Webert. There was this moment when all five of us had paintbrushes in our hands and we were working together, painting the new high school building.
I could hardly believe it, but six years later our story still has paintbrushes in it.
A full-circle, beautiful, overwhelming, holy shit this is my life kind of moment right there on the mountaintop.
There’s a lot of mundane that goes into our lives. A lot of hard work and a lot more sweat. There’s a lot of corruption and brokenness. There’s a lot of unknown and a whole lot of worry and stress. But, there’s hope. And in that hope there lays beauty…the kind of beauty that reminds us of the big picture and brings everything full-circle…the kind of beauty that will bring redemption and fulfilled promises and breaths full of fresh air and lightened loads and salvation and goodness…so much goodness.
I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and take heart
And wait for the Lord.
– Psalm 27:13-14