Wednesday, June 12, 2013

To Love Another Person is to See the Face of God

gla older kids

A few years ago, my husband and I looked into adoption and in our research into international programs, discovered God’s Littlest Angels, an orphanage in the mountains above Petion-Ville in Haiti.  I spent hours on their website, reading everything there and then on their various blogs. We learned that we didn’t qualify to adopt from Haiti (because we had more than one biological child at home) but I was taken in by the passionate writing of the then NICU nurse, Susan Westwood, who served the sickest, smallest children at the orphanage itself and the surrounding areas.

Eventually, our adoption exploration ended, but I’ve kept up with the GLA blogs and followed the experiences of the staff and children.

Last year, on May 31, the orphanage saw a huge influx of extra children (21 of them!) brought over from another orphanage that had been shut down due to abuse and neglect. Reading the blog posts about the impending arrival, the actual arrival, and the initial struggles of trying to assist and settle the new children just crushed us.  The orphanage was already home to 65 children and babies—who now had their world interrupted by the new arrivals AND had to be protected from the illnesses and issues the new kids had.  GLA was in need of financial and spiritual support.

They posted pictures of each of the new children, who all looked angry at best, dead eyed at worst, and severely malnourished.  It was impossible not to be moved by the desperate state the kids were in.  (Side note: go HERE to see how far many of these kids have come in a year’s time under the care of GLA!)

Because we had followed GLA for years—had a “history” with it--via blog posts, e-mails, and photos about the kids, the staff, and the building projects, we knew it was a legitimate place to send aid.  We contacted the sponsorship coordinator and committed to sponsor a child---helping to pay for food, clothing, medication, or other needs specific to that child. The sponsorship program has been in place for years, and I wish now that we had done it years ago instead of waiting for a crisis to move us to action.

We were given the option to choose which child we wanted to sponsor—one of the new kids or one of the established ones—but we didn’t feel that was our decision to make.  How do you look at the photos of so many souls and make that kind of decision? We asked the staff at GLA to choose a child for us.  They know who needs what most.  We waited impatiently for a couple of weeks—checking our e-mail inbox several times a day, speculating which child would be chosen for us.  We started praying for our sponsor child, even though we didn’t know who it would be.  It felt like an eternity before we got the e-mail!

On June 25, 2012, our family fell in love with her:


This is Rosegaelle. She is one of the 65 “established” children at GLA.  She was there before last year’s influx of children.

She is three years old in the photo above, and she speaks Kreyol. At the time this photo was taken (last June) she had been in the orphanage for about eight months.  Her mother was extremely ill and her father couldn’t provide enough for her, so they took her to GLA and relinquished Rosegaelle for adoption.  I cannot even imagine their agony over this.

As her sponsors, we provide 30 dollars per month toward her care.  We are given a monthly update on her growth and development, including her height, weight, a photo, and any anecdotes about her that the staff have to share.  We have been asked by the GLA staff to pray for her, and often the monthly updates ask us to pray for specific needs she has.  We have taken these prayer requests very seriously.

And we don’t just pray for Rosegaelle.  We pray for the staff at GLA, the nannies, and we recently learned that Rosegaelle has been matched with an adoptive family.  (We will remain her sponsors until she is able to go home to them….which could be weeks, months, even years!)  And we pray most fervently for Rosegaelle’s birth family to find comfort, peace, and the resources they need to provide for themselves and their family so they never have to relinquish another child.

Prior to becoming involved with GLA and the sponsorship program, my knowledge about orphans was limited, my compassion for birth families minimal.  But as I have gotten involved with GLA, I have discovered a whole world of information and issues surrounding adoption, orphans, and poverty—especially as it relates to international adoption and the orphan crisis.

I used to think that orphans were kids whose parents were dead. I now understand that poverty creates orphans whose parents are still alive.

I used to think that birth families must not have really wanted their kids if they gave them up for adoption. I now know this is hardly EVER the case. 

I used to be so inspired by stories of folks heading to far off lands to build orphanages. I now know that is like putting a band-aid on a severed limb.

I used to think that poor, third world families were ignorant and irresponsible.  I now know this is untrue.

I used to think that international adoption was ALWAYS the best option for orphaned children. I now know that is only a good and realistic solution for a few, and that taking a child out of his native land, away from his native language and culture is not always in the child’s best interest. A loving family, who has only the resources to provide just the barest of essentials is better than ANY orphanage or adoptive situation.  We do not have a corner on the market of parental love and privilege does not automatically make us “better” to parent someone else’s child.

I also know that there will always be a need for safe havens for orphaned and abandoned children. God’s Littlest Angels is one of these.

This is a big, fat post about issues I have become passionate about.  I am still learning, and I want to say that I am NOT anti-adoption.  I just know that adoption is not the answer for everyone and I am passionate about dispelling the myths and prejudices surrounding adoption, poverty, and finding ways to truly help the most vulnerable people in the world.

We will likely never meet our sponsor child, Rosegaelle, nor her adoptive family, nor her birth family—but we have been so blessed to be a part of her life.  It feels unfair, because through sponsoring her, we have gained so much knowledge, so much more compassion.  People often tell me we are wonderful for sponsoring, but I think I will slug the next person who says that, because it’s SO not about us being awesome.  What we have gained spiritually and intellectually from doing this…it has opened our eyes to a whole world of need and awakened and fueled a desire to respectfully assist and listen to the most vulnerble, most needy people.  We are learning to listen to their needs and work with them and advocate FOR them, rather than swoop down and try to FIX them.

I hope in reading this, you feel moved to DO something. In fact, I’m asking you to please DO something.  Please, please consider assisting and advocating for these children and families:

God’s Littlest Angels: Child Sponsorships Click on the link to learn more about the sponsorship program, and click on the photos below to be taken to that child’s page.  GLA’s hope is to have ten sponsors for each child.  There is also a school sponsorship program through GLA, which helps poverty stricken children attend school—something only 1 in 3 Haitian children have the opportunity to do.  The school sponsorship program is currently undergoing some changes, so I’ll post the updated information as it becomes available.

AbygaelleBeatriceBeny and Chantel (Nanny) - July 2012 Take 3


CarineChristianDavidson The Older


DjenyloveErick MarkensonFaland

FedoGethro Guerson


JackyJeanRismondJohn Love

JudelineJulenord JuniorKendy

LauroreMarie ThereseMario



Osmaika and MakiPetersonRainika




YvensonChristian (ti) - February 2013Elysèe - February 2013-08



  1. This was a very beautiful post, Marissa. Thanks for sharing all you have learned with us.

  2. Thank you...that's all I can say because I can hardly see the screen through all these darn tears. Beautiful post, Marissa! For the record, YOU are awesome and wonderful for doing can't punch me cause you can't see me!!! ;)

    1. Haha, Stacey, I know where you live! (But of course I would never punch you. You're just too good a friend!)

  3. Marissa,

    Oh my gosh... I am crying too... first, the quote from Les Mis. Then your story and these children. What a beautiful beautiful beautiful message. I will be sharing this!

    I am new here, not sure how I stumbled upon you... but wow! I am so glad I did. I love inspirational women... women who serve... women who look for ways to grow and share.

    Thank you, thank you.

    I will be sticking around.

    Much love,


    1. Thank you, Jacy! I'm glad you stumbled upon my little blog and I hope you find inspiration here--and barring that, I hope I can make you laugh!