Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Who's fault is it then?

Part of why it's been so hard for me to return home after being in Haiti is because I have to leave kids that I love. When I was at GLA, I cared for Berlancia the whole 9 months I was there. Every day, all day for 9 months. She was failure to thrive and had full blown AIDS when I met her. She was weak and behind developmentally. I loved her more than I have loved anyone in my life and when I left it was h.a.r.d. Then, about 2 months after I left, she died. I can't even describe how difficult that was for me. The guilt I felt for leaving was tearing at me and I hated myself for leaving when I didn't even want to. Everyone and their mother said they were sorry and that it wasn't my fault. That made it worse. If it's not my fault, who's was it? No one's? If I would have stayed, would she have lived? Who knows. If she was meant to die anyway then I just prolonged her suffering. She didn't have a mother to fight for her. I had the privilege of getting to fill that role for 9 months... then I left. I know that it wasn't my fault in the sense that i didn't cause her death or give her HIV or anything. But I did leave. Berlancia had a family waiting. An amazing, loving family. She would have had brothers and sisters and parents who would have taught her to walk with God. She was healthy- walking, laughing, starting to talk.

That family since has adopted another beautiful girl from GLA, who I also worked with. I don't have a single doubt in my mind that God planned for that girl to be in this family- they are a perfect match; but I can't help myself from thinking... what if. What if I had stayed and Berlancia hadn't died, and she had made it to the states and gotten the best medical care available. It kills me. So if there's that chance that I could have prevented that outcome by staying until she got home, then why isn't it my fault for leaving? I don't blame myself. But I think too many of us brought up with no doubt that we will have access to anything and everything we will ever need look at others who don't have that luxury, and overwhelmed by the needs, we justify not going above and beyond in helping and truly giving our lives and hearts and money, and whatever we can away because it really isn't our faults. We didn't choose for these kids/people to be suffering. But we CAN help. And when there is a need presented, if we get scared and turn away and say, well is not like we caused it, right?.... but what if we don't prevent something from happening that didn't have to.

When I left RHFH for Christmas, Nickenson (the little boy I had been caring for for 4 months) had a surgery for an abscess. He died on Christmas day. I wasn't there. I could not have done anything to prevent his death, but the person who he recognized and who loved him the most at that time in his life was not there.

I left Haiti yesterday. A little girl who had been living with me for the past couple weeks, Marie-Rose, died this morning. I don't blame myself but I also know that there was a small chance that if I had stayed she might have lived. Even if that chance was .00000000000000000001 percent, I wasn't there.

I have struggled with leaving Haiti every time and I know that me being there doesn't change the big picture. I am not solving the core of Haiti's problems. I am getting more out of my time there than anyone I am working with. But when I leave, and the kid that had been doing so well dies shortly after, how can I not wonder- what if...

Every time I have talked to anyone about trying to decide whether or not I should finish school, there is always the "you will have so much more to give" comment made. I get that. If I become a doctor I will be able to save people that would have for sure died without my expertise. If I became a Physical Therapist I could enrich the lives of people who otherwise might not reach half the potential they could have. But I have a passion for malnourished kids, and when I have lived with them and seen how much a place like RHFH can do for those kids, and that I can be a part of it, school just doesn't seem that important. Tomorrow, 16,000 children will die from hunger. There is plenty of resources to save their lives, but still, they will die. 90% of those kids would get better if someone fed them 3 meals a day and loved on them. There are the kids who need IVs, and more intense care... but malnutrition, despite the epidemic it is in third world countries, has such an easy solution: food. The work of caring for malnourished kids is never ending in Haiti. With all the amazing organizations and causes in the world working to save malnourished kids, how are there still 16,000 kids dying EVERY DAY.

I don't foresee in my lifetime all of Haiti's children having 3 balanced meals a day. Maybe I have lost hope, I think I am just realistic. I feel like God wants me home this year- I don't regret my decision to come back because if I had stayed, even if Marie-Rose had lived I wouldn't have felt like I was following God's plan for me. But imagine how weird that is for me- could it be that if I hadn't followed God's plan for me that Marie-Rose might have lived? It just doesn't seem right. But thats just it- this world is SO wrong, so full of sin and so unfair that there are people suffering as a result of how others live. I want to give God my all- that may include going to school even if it's not the first place I'd rather be. I don't know why, but I am going to give it a shot. I figure if I am home anyways I might as well go to school. I am hoping God gives me either a passion for a major that will allow me to give more of myself or give me peace in not finishing college. I feel like the world sees school as this enriching, enabling thing, and i just can't get on that bandwagon. I think knowledge is necessary to grow, but if we don't learn through Christ with a passion there's no point. Just like giving to others is something that makes us grow, but there is no point if it's not through Christ.


  1. Anna~ I'm sure you have heard it all...But God bless your heart for Him. You are so encouraging to me and I pray God gives you a passion for the path He has called you to. Live alive in Christ.
    Love, Melanie from Haiti

  2. Don't ever let rules, social expectations, responsibilities of pressure beat that passion out of you. Ever

  3. I am sorry to hear about Marie.
    To look at it from another perspective, God has put you in the last days and months in their lives for a reason. You are a gift from God to them, Anna.

    And you are right about college and learning. It's not a ticket to privilege - at least it shouldn't be. And it's so much more than just learning a skill for living. I believe God will mold you and shape you though your time in school. At least that's what my time in seminary has taught me. I have no doubt that He is more concern about who we are than what we can do.

    "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:23-24

    God be with you. =)

  4. Anna,

    My heart aches for you right now. The only thing I feel certain about is your faith in Jesus Christ and that won't stop you from experiencing this pain and confusion but will bring you to a place of peace.

    You are an incredible young woman and I hope you keep sharing your thoughts and feelings during this transition. I'm praying for you and thinking about you daily. Just keep listening and God WILL put you in the place you belong.


  5. Anna-
    I am sad with you. I watched you love children so well while I was at RHFH. I am sorry for your struggle in coming back to the states and I understand it in a way that I never expected to. I am praying for you in this time you are away from Haiti. May you have peace and let the Father mold you however He sees fit.

    Sarah (from the Indiana team)

  6. I hope you find going back to school opens new doors for you and leads you in the path God has in mind for you, if not, remember Jesus didn't recruit his disciples at the best universities, he found them at the seashore. Praying for you

  7. Hi, Anna.

    I have been thinking about you since I read your post. For the longest time, I couldn't think of what to say that might help. Now I'm writing to give you my best shot.

    First of all, everyone is right: it really isn't your fault, not even because you left and Berlancia died. She will always be in your heart, and the deep love you had for her will guide you in the rest of your life. I believe that she is now with God and is joyful, and she is continually praying for you in ways we can't understand or imagine. But they are wonderful.

    You left, and you wonder if she and other children might have lived if you'd stayed. Well, some of them might have. But others would have died despite your care. Your sense of responsibility would continue to cause you to wonder, "What if I'd stayed up later that night? What if I hadn't gone into town on my day off? What if I just slept a little less so I could stay with the children more?"

    There is always more to be done that we can do, and if you gave up all of your free time, and all of your other possibilities and commitments, sooner or later another child would still die, and you would have the same questions and torment about what you could have done.

    But, in addition, giving up all the rest of your life would exhaust and deplete you until you were a stranger to yourself and probably less effective in your work. You could not keep up the effort forever -- no human being can.

    So, how can you do such work knowing that sooner or later something will happen that maybe you could have prevented if you'd been there?

    I think the best possible model for you is the doctors and nurses you have probably met. They do what they can for people who are sometimes suffering terribly. Sometimes the doctor or nurse can bring that person to full health, but sometimes they can't. And, sometimes the doctor or nurse has to leave, and leave the patient to the care of the next person, and the patient dies. They need a belief that can help them go on with their work and not give in to despair or overwhelming guilt.

    I believe that the answer they have found is based on compassion, humility, and trust in God. These qualities can develop into a kind of compassionate detachment. "Detachment" sounds cold, but it isn't when it is based in humility. They know they can't always be there to prevent the worst. They *have* to sleep, to take a vacation, to go away for more professional training, and so on.

    I think some of these people can tell you about their philosophy of their work, and how they deal with their inability to take care of everyone. I'm sure that they still feel their work deeply -- detachment doesn't mean they don't care or aren't affected. But it gives them a way to be caring and emotionally present for each patient, while not being personally destroyed when a patient dies or something goes horribly wrong. (Deeply affected, yes. Personally destroyed, no.) They can carry on, doing the work they are called to do, which helps many, many people. I believe this is what you can do, too.

    I am praying for you and I am awed by the depth of your questioning and your devotion to these children.



  8. Hi Anna,

    I came across your blog by accident and was drawn to it. It has me in tears and I thank God for people like you. Whatever it is you decide to do, it will be the right thing.

    All the best


Blog Archive