It is eight o'clock on a warm, humid Haitian evening. A weary group of American missionaries, we finally kick back to relax and watch "Homeward Bound" while the whirring generator is running to power the television and VCR. A welcome, cool breeze is just beginning to gently blow off the bay after an extremely hot, busy Haitian day.
Our short-lived moment of peace is suddenly broken by a rowdy group of excited Haitian youth all rapidly speaking at the same time, in native Creole.
"Vini, vini, (come, come), madam...infimye (nurse)...petit pa bon (baby's not good)...maman pi mal (mother's very bad)...vini, souple.
We finally succeed in calming them enough to find out that a young woman in the village adjacent to the mission is in the midst of delivering her first baby and, either she or the baby, had developed what they considered very serious problems. They need a "blanc" nurse to come immediately and assist the anxious local, Haitian midwife.
I quickly grab a handful of latex gloves, a stethoscope from my room and follow after them down the winding, pitch-black, dirt path leading to the tiny fishing village.
Arriving at the small, crude hut made of woven stick walls and a palm frond roof, they pull back one small section of the wall serving as a doorway and I quickly follow them into a small, cluttered room filled with a bed, a chair, a small table and about ten chattering, anxious people, a few having to leave to allow us entry. The graying midwife sits on the old, rickety chair holding a wailing, beautiful little baby.
The mother stands in one corner of the tiny room, a dazed expression on her face, her dress streaked with the newly shed blood of childbirth. "Kouman ou ye (How are you?)?" I inquire, gently stroking her thin arm.
"OK," she replies softly with a faint smile breaking out on her face.
The midwife places the minute’s old, newborn baby, wrapped in a tattered towel, in my arms. Gently, lovingly I cradle the tiny, wriggling little miracle of God in my arms.
She is beautiful! Her head is a mass of shiny, black ringlets. A thick fringe of jet black eyelashes frames the big brown eyes which flutter at me as if trying to focus on this "blanc". She is very contented, breathing well, and her color is good. I quickly check her umbilical cord which is tied off with a piece of black suture thread about five inches from her little chocolate-hued body then secured with a wide strip of adhesive tape. This accounts for all the "out-y" belly buttons on Haitian children. It also greatly contributes to the often fatal cases of tetanus, "lockjaw", in newborns in Haiti.
After complementing and reassuring the now proud and confident midwife and the happy, new mother, we head for the mission's medical clinic to get some "modern" medical supplies to treat the umbilicus: betadine swabs and an umbilical clamp.
During the search for supplies we find a box of baby clothes, and excitedly pull out a fluffy receiving blanket, a teeny pair of fancy pink booties, several little dresses, gowns, cloth diapers and pins, all generously donated by mission friends in America and Canada. This new little lady will be well dressed!
On the way back to the hut, we stop at the mission office and search for and find a few colorful dresses for the new mother who, visiting from a distant village, has brought nothing with her, having planned to return home this evening.
A warm, friendly chorus of "bonswa" greets us as we return to the little hut. Again we have to shoo a few people out so we can enter.
After removing two, much-too-tightly wrapped belly binders from the tiny infant ("to keep the legs from falling out of the hip joints"), we cleanse the cord with betadine and clamp it with a "very modern" umbilicus clamp. She is probably one of the few children in Haiti who will have an "in-y" belly button!
Dressing her in a tiny pink nightgown, and then wrapping her in the colorful soft blanket, I pass her to another missionary. We all gather in a tight circle, lay hands on this new, little child of God and pray for her.
"AMEN!" joyfully comes forth in a great chorus from Haitian, American and Canadian hearts and mouths, all in one accord. Prayer is certainly the universal language. We all look at each other and smiles spread across each white or black face, richly sharing this special moment when language ceases to be a barrier.
Choruses of "Ouvwa, ouvwa (Bye, bye)", Beniswa Letenel (Praise the Lord)!" ring out across this small, settlement as we leave this primitive, little thatched hut this special night.
Tonight the Lord physically refreshed us, spiritually renewed us, and took away our weariness, with the blessed birth of a beautiful, little baby girl.
As I lay in my bed, thinking about this evening's events, my mind goes back to the miraculous birth of a blessed baby boy, almost two thousand years ago, that radically changed my life, renewed me, and redeemed me. When I finally surrendered my life to Lord in May l988, He immediately picked me up out of physical, emotional and spiritual poverty and I was born again. He called me to a life of submission and service to Him. He brought me to this poverty-stricken, island country to minister to the gentle, loving people of Haiti. I am truly blessed by their rich spirit!
"Mwen rinmin ou, Jezi! I love you, Jesus! Merci, Jezi! Thank you, Jesus! Beniswa Letenel! Praise the Lord! Amen."
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