What do you think of when you think of a United States Embassy? Before I went to Haiti, I had grand visions of a towering beautiful building with a huge gate out front. In my mind’s eye, there were heavily armed United States Marines stationed there, waiting for any American citizen in need so that they might throw open the gate to safety and freedom.
Imagine my dismay when the driver stopped in the street and motioned to us to get out of the car in front of the embassy in Port-Au-Prince.
“That’s it?” I asked incredulously. “Where?“
He motioned to a nondescript gate right on the side walk and sure enough there was a small sign next to the gate. We clambered out of the van with our girls and bags stuffed with what we hoped would be enough diapers, wipes, and snacks and water to sustain us for the day. Nervously, we stepped around refuse and puddles as Haitians stared openly at us with our light skinned daughters in our arms. A man standing in front of the Embassy began urinating on the sidewalk and when Claudine saw him she laughed out loud. The gate did not open automatically either. As a matter of fact, we were left standing on the sidewalk for several minutes while the guard checked the documentation of the couple who arrived moments before us.
At last, we made it into the building. The waiting room was small and furnished only with a few straight backed chairs. Thankfully, there were bathrooms. A guard sat behind the glass keeping an eye on several monitors as well as the waiting room. After we signed in and turned over our paper work to the officer, Michael left to go with the driver to retrieve the medicals.
I spent my time trying to keep the girls entertained, fed and clean. Regularly, Roseline would soil her diaper with diarhea and the three of us would go into the tiny bathroom where I would sit on the toilet and lay her across my lap to change her.
Michael had been gone for quite a while when I began to hear shouting in the street outside the embassy’s wall. The guard began to look intently at the monitor which showed the activity in the street. The chanting grew louder as the mob began to beat on the gate in rhythm to their demonstration. Something began to burn. The embassy staff filtered outside to gaze through a space in the wall. They were checking to see if their cars had been torched.
I began to pray for Michael’s safety because I realized he was due back any minute. I was very nervous at the idea of him being the only white guy in the middle of an anti-American demonstration.
The chanting faded, and within mere moments, Michael entered the waiting room.
“Did you see the demonstrators?” I asked.
“What demonstrators?” he said.
“The demonstrators! They were chanting and banging the gate just before you came in.”
As I was speaking, the chanting resumed. “There they are now.” I said. “You did not see anything?”
“No.” he replied “When I came in, the street was quiet.”
I knew we had just witnessed a blatant display of God’s mighty hand and strong arm, outstretched in protection over us.
We continued to wait for the promised passport to arrive. Every few minutes, one of us would go to the gate to check to see if the driver had returned with it. We had been there several hours when the officer came out to us and said she had received a call from the orphanage director that she had been unable to secure the passport and we would need to come back the next day. She also told us the driver had been sent for us and we should find him waiting outside.
Wearily, we made our way back to the guest house. Another day without progress. Another day and the passport remained an elusive dream, one moment so close, the next hopelessly far away. The most current information indicated that the director of the immigration office had given the order for the passport to be printed the but the man who was responsible for issuing it was still holding out, claiming he needed the power of attorney. The director informed us he had a reputation for corruption and that was why he was withholding Claudine’s passport. He was hoping to squeeze a little money out of a couple of “rich Americans”. He was hoping in vain. The orphanage was determined to conduct the adoption in an ethical manner and we were in complete agreement. We would commit ourselves to God and wait for his deliverance rather than attempting to manufacture it on our own.
As we spoke to the orphanage director that evening, the mood was tense. She was frustrated and we were too. Exasperated, Michael argued that the only need for the power of attorney was for the orphanage to conduct legal affairs on our behalf. Why, he asked, could we just not go to the office ourselves and get the passport? The director faltered for a moment, then said, “No. This is how we have handled it so far. Just let us finish it.”
After she left, we put the girls to bed and once again retreated to the bathroom floor to talk about the situation and pray. We both agreed that we could not stand the thought of leaving Claudine behind. Her heart was too confused, and wounded. The thought of jerking her around any further was excruciating. Michael looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Baby, we can’t leave her. We can’t.”
We prayed, begging God for deliverance only he could supply. Michael went to bed and I remained on the hard tile floor recording the days events in my journal and praying some more. Finally, exhaustion claimed me and I could neither write nor pray anymore.
“But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand…” Deut. 7:8 (NIV)
“The LORD answered Moses, “Is the LORD’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” Num. 11:23 (NIV)