When I first met Valencia, I was warned that her nickname was Sassy. She definitely had spunk! She was tough and strong-willed. One minute she was snuggled in my arms pointing to each of the team members and reciting their names, and the next she was prowling around with a sharp blade of grass in her hands, popping the balloons we had given out to the children during VBS.
But Valencia always had a way of edging deeper and deeper into my heart. By the time we left after our week was over, she had become my inseparable shadow. She did not want to let go of me, nor I of her. Putting her down and getting onto the tap-tap to leave was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.
As I turned to look out the window, I could see Valencia trying to hide the tears in her eyes. My tough-as-nails little girl was shedding tears. The other children around her began to tease and make fun of her because she was crying.
I couldn’t watch any longer. I turned and tried to wipe away my tears. When I looked up, Valencia was standing in front of me. Someone had shooed away the children and put her up on the tap-tap to say a final goodbye.
At dinner that evening, the missionary shared the rest of Valencia’s story. Valencia’s mother is no longer involved in her life. She either died, or abandoned the family. Her father practices Vodou, a form of witchcraft commonly practiced in Haiti. With Valencia’s mother gone, he no longer felt that he could take care of her. He kept her older brother and sent her to live with an older woman. This woman can’t keep up with Valencia, so this little girl basically fends for herself. She runs all over that mountain during the day and night, without anyone to love and train her. Despite the fact that she is 8 or 9 years old, she remains in the 1st grade because no one at home helps her with her school work.
Although Valencia’s father lives on the same mountain she does, he has given up his role as her father. In many ways, Valencia is an emotional, mental, and spiritual orphan.
Many children in Haiti—particularly girls—are sold as restaveks: child slaves. The future forValencia is bleak as it stands right now. Without a basic education, she will surely live in poverty as her father does. Without her emotional needs being met by loving caregivers, she will turn to others to fill that need. Without the intervention of God in her life, she is doomed to a life without the hope found through salvation in Jesus Christ.
I want to see an orphanage/academy built to help children like Valencia. She is precious in the eyes of God. She has great potential to bring lasting change to La Montagne, if she inclines her heart to the Lord. But the chances of that happening without intervention are slim. An academy/orphanage would not only provide for the physical needs of children like Valencia, but it would be a place where children could be loved, nurtured, and discipled in the Christian faith. That is my passion: to see these children find their true identity in Christ, grow in Him, and bring change to their communities.
I don’t want Valencia’s story to end here. I want her to become a woman after God’s own heart who will bring permanent change to the people of La Montagne!