Bahamas: “I Love You Too”

 

Peaks of a golden sun glowed through the palm tree leaves as the glistening aqua water gently greeted the shore. Meanwhile, the house was as quiet as a church during prayer. I crept down the ladder from the loft and wandered into the kitchen to make my initial cup of coffee. Easing the door open, I stealthily slipped out and sauntered down to the shore. I sat down on a cement wall letting my toes tenderly brush the smooth white sand. A smile crossed my mouth as a light breeze tousled my hair, and I inhaled deeply allowing the salty air to flood my nasal passages. In just a bit, the sweet sun would become viciously hot, and I desperately wished to enjoy the view before this transformation took place. Faintly behind me, I heard the playing of a soft hymn alerting the house that the day’s activities would soon commence. I took a moment to mentally prepare myself for what today would hold, and then raced up the stairs before anyone would notice my absence.    

            The group stumbled down the stairs of our beach house after a long night spent packing, and loaded into the two golf carts. After a short ride through the colorful streets of the half-mile wide island, we arrived at the ferry dock. Per usual, the ferry was late, so we talked fishing with the locals and wandered in the nearby gift store. At last, we heard the familiar crunching of cement wall against fiberglass as the ferry came to a halt. Freshly made banana rounds and sugary Goombay juice was already loaded into coolers and for sale on the run-down boat. After about a twenty-minute ride, the sluggish ferry pulled up to a dock on North Eleuthera. We disembarked and were immediately greeted by smiling faces. The Haitian children tugged on our hands to speed up our walking towards Blackwood. We trekked through the rugged terrain until finally arriving in the Haitian village for the last time.

            I had traveled with Broughton’s FCA down to the Bahamas for a week. Our mission was to teach Haitian children residing in the Bahamas about Christ through sports. These children and their families escaped from Haiti in hopes of a better life on Eleuthera; however, they live in constant fear of being sent back home. This past Christmas, a large government raid forced many of these refugees to return. Some made their way back to the Bahamas on illegal ships, but most had no choice but to remain in Haiti. Their lifestyle on Eleuthera is in no way desirable, but it does not even compare to the horrors they endured back home. They live in one or two-room houses with a piece of cloth serving as a door. Of course they have no electricity, air conditioning, or running water. One member of each family is forced to walk many miles every day to retrieve clean drinking water, and once a week or so, the whole family will make the trip to bathe. Without the ability to work and generate income, these immigrants are forced to rely on the generosity of the missionaries for much of their food supply. Even with the help of the evangelists, there isn’t nearly enough food for everyone in Blackwood; therefore, lack of proper nutrition greatly lowers their immune systems. Hygiene is another serious issue in the Haitian community, causing illness to spread rapidly, like wild fires. Many of the Haitians suffer from life-threatening diseases; however, seeking adequate medical attention could lead to their deportation for non-citizenship. Our mission team brought food, toys, hygiene supplies, and other necessities for the Haitians, but it was clear our team of ten hadn’t brought nearly enough.

Sweet Luna and her little brother Lewis bounded towards me with open arms as I stepped onto the arid playfield in the middle of the village. I knelt down to hug them, and Luna began to cry in my shirt while Lewis nestled his head into the crook of my arm. I remained still for a while, comforting them while they caught their breath.

“Momma hasn’t fed us this week. She doesn’t care about us. I hate her,” said Luna, still sobbing.

My heart ached, and I fought back tears thinking about my departure the very next day. “How could I continue to help them when I returned home?” I thought.

I was genuinely concerned for the well being of Luna and Lewis, and I wished I could bring the two of them home with me. These precious children don’t deserve to face the many hardships each day holds in store for them, just as I don’t deserve the many blessings God puts in my life.

I had packed a small lunch for myself, but decided these two needed it more than me. Their faces lit up as I pulled out a smashed PB&J, two little packs of goldfish, and my water bottle. They crunched the goldfish noisily, and I cringed hoping it would not attract the other children, as I didn’t have any more to share. After devouring every morsel, Luna and Lewis were ready to resume playing in the field. My already burnt face and shoulders roasted to a ruby-red under the unforgiving sun for the fifth day in a row, but I wasn’t about to let that small obstacle spoil my last few fours on the island. We chased stray dogs and goats through the unpaved streets, tossed a rubber ball, and made bracelets out of coarse strands of rope with a few beads. The simplest of activities brightened their day, and their jubilant smiles brightened mine.

When it was time to say goodbye, I could not hold back the tears any longer. The thought of leaving these children not knowing if I would ever see them again was devastating. I took Luna by the hand, and we sat down under one of the few trees on the outskirts of the field. I had been wearing a silver cross necklace the whole week that my parents gave me for my sixteenth birthday. I unhooked the delicate chain from around my neck and let it fall into my palm. I grasped the necklace tightly and watched as tiny tears splattered her cheeks when she realized it was time to say our goodbyes.

“I will never forget you, Luna. You are such a strong girl, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for you. I want you to have this necklace to remind you of Christ’s everlasting love for us, His children. I love you, and I promise I will be back as soon as I can.”

I clasped the necklace around her small neck, and she reached up to touch the cross in the middle.

“I love it, Abbie. Thank you. I wish you didn’t have to leave now.”

I stood up from the bench, and she outstretched her arms for me, so I carried her to the entrance of the field. We stood there for a moment hugging, but I knew I had to hurry to catch the ferry. I set her down, mustered one last sad smile, and waved as I began walking back down the dirt road. She called after me,

“Abbie!”

I turned around and saw her small shoulders heaving as she stood crying in the middle of the street.

 

“I love you too,” she yelled.

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