By: Jacklyn Vanderpool, LiveBeyond Evangelism & Discipleship Training Director
Originally published June 9, 2017
Last week I celebrated living in Thomazeau, Haiti for one year. A lot has happened in one year, strongholds have been broken, hundreds have come to know the name of Jesus Christ, new programs have been started, heartache has been felt, but most importantly, the kingdom of God has been expanded. I have always dreamed of spending my life doing missions but I could have never fathomed all the ways in which the Lord would move. I am so humbled to be a part of this work and it has truly been a great adventure.
Last week I was dealt some heartache of my own. While leading the team to Penigo, I was telling everyone about Badi and Gorgi. These sweet brothers both have a disease similar to Cerebral Palsy. For the last several years we have been praying for the healing of Badi, that he would run up and down the village jumping and singing. Our prayer is that all who lay eyes on Badi cannot deny the power of Jesus Christ. Two years ago, Gorgi was born and within six months we realized that Gorgi too had the same disease as Badi. Over the last several months we have been trying to incorporate them into our Johnny’s Kids program hoping that physical therapy could help improve their standard of living. We have had our hurdles to get over in order to get these kiddos in our program but here at LiveBeyond, we have been determined to do whatever necessary to help. The first time I laid eyes on Gorgi was just days after he was born, he was severally jaundiced. But quickly within a day or two, his coloring returned to normal. Since then I would visit frequently to see SenSen and the two brothers. We quickly realized that something was not quite right and we determined that he too had the same disease as his brother, Badi. Several months ago, Gorgi became very sick and when we brought him into the clinic we became fond of the idea of incorporating him into Johnny’s Kids as a possible treatment option. We knew that we didn’t have the staff available to immediately make that idea a reality but we were willing to fight for it. But, as we walked up to the brothers’ house last week, I immediately saw Badi but Gorgi was nowhere to be seen. As I approached their mother asking about Gorgi, she told me that Gorgi had passed away on Saturday. I know for me that so much of my grief is selfish, I adored sweet Gorgi and fought so hard for a hope of making his life better. But while my heart is absolutely broken about his death, I cannot help but rejoice that sweet Gorgi is no longer confined to a body that cannot move or speak. Instead, I am confident that Gorgi is enjoying the rush of what if feels to run and jump and dance. And most of all, Gorgi is resting in the embrace of our loving Father, whole and utterly complete.
In celebration of the power and might of our Lord, I want to share the incredible ways in which the Lord has blessed and healed our Johnny’s Kids. Every time I look at Nadia, I can’t help but see the healing power that is found in the blood of Jesus Christ. When Nadia was young, she was hit in the head by a rock and paralyzed. She came to our program unable to walk or stand at all. Her life was now centered around sitting in a chair and unable to go to school. Every day I would watch Nadia and see her determination. We would say, “let's try this exercise 10 times,” and she would push to do 15. She wanted to get better, stronger, and ultimately be able to walk. Within two months she was walking with assistance. Within 6 months she was walking on her own. She can go from standing to sitting and vice versa without having to hold on to anything and last month we were practicing jumping and balance drills. I was driving through Delman one day and saw Nadia just strolling down the road with a friend with the biggest smile on her face. This 14-year-old girl who is shy, sweet, and quiet, is one of the strongest, most determined, and fiercest girls I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. When I see Nadia, I see the power of Jesus Christ.
Daphne is a little ball of fire. The first year of Daphne being a part of our program I thought she was unable to speak. Now, after several years, she is quite the chatter box. She is making great strides in her physical therapy and though she is the smallest of our Johnny’s Kids, she still sneaks spoonfuls of food from the other kids’ plates.
I guarantee you have never seen a more infectious smile than Larissa’s. Though she cannot walk or talk, she certainly knows how to steal hearts. It is so abundantly clear to me that when we give water to Larissa or kisses and hugs that we are doing that for Jesus. Larissa has been transformed into a happy and playful girl.
And sweet Lancy Belle, who when we first started bringing her to our program was convinced that her mother was giving her to us. The whole way to the base she would cry out for her mother and the whole way back home she would cry because she had so much fun. Thanks to the incredible PTs that have come to LiveBeyond, Lancy is learning to walk. She sings Hallelujah all day, laughs, and has formed a beautiful relationship with Daphne.
And then there are Pierre Richard and Chenyello, these two boys who have very similar physical handicaps have become best friends through this program, even though they live only a quarter of a mile from each other. Our very first day of starting this program my mom and I were coming up with goals for each kid. Our goal for Chenyello was that at the end of the week, he would smile. He was such a stoic and seemingly unhappy child when we first started bringing him to LiveBeyond. Now his giggles fill the entire clinic as he races Pierre Richard around in the wheelchairs. When Pierre Richard first started coming I completely underestimated how far he is in school. For months I had him counting to twenty in Creole, I walked in one day and saw him dividing triple digits. I was humbled, to say the least.
I am so proud of each one of our kids and every day I am reminded of the legacy of my Uncle Johnny. But my absolute favorite part of this program is that every day our kids come to our base they are told how treasured, loved, and adored they are. In Haiti, they are called Cocobai which means worthless. Our desire at LiveBeyond is to show them just how valued they are. We have seen a physical transformation in each one of our kids and look forward to expanding our program to include more kids but we have also seen a transformation with the ways in which the community views children born with special needs. No longer are they viewed as worthless but rather as sons and daughters of the King of Kings!
Plunder hell and populate Heaven,