Thursday, December 15, 2005

“Yes, Emmanual, there is a Santa Claus”:

Emmanual got his visa! Hip! Hip! Hooray! Thanks to the heroic efforts of Chris, who along with her husband Hal, runs the orphanage where Emmanual is staying, this tiny, weak baby has been granted admittance to the most powerful country on earth. Now, he at least has a chance, when before with his bum heart and his frail constitution, he had none.

The rest of this post will be an ode to Chris. Chris sat at the consulate for two full days, skipping cheerfully through the U.S. government’s hoops, as she got visas for Emmanual and two other children. Letters aren’t on letterhead? We’ll get you those letters.

When Haitian minors leave the country without their parents, the Haitian social services department, IBESR, or Bien et Sociale must grant permission. This requires another flurry of paperwork, all which must be translated into French. Smart-thinking Chris approached IBESR before she even began the visa process to enlist their speedy cooperation in this case due to Emmanual’s health.

On her second day at the consulate, rather than waste time waiting, Chris drove to IBESR so that they could begin their paperwork (normally they require three days to do this and will begin only after the visa had been granted, but because Chris had alerted them about Emmanual ahead of time, they were showing more flexibility). As she left the consulate, she asked, “When do you close?” As long as you return by 3:30, you’ll be fine, she was told. She got back at 3:25 and was informed the consulate was closed. “No, no, no, you said 3:30, and I have to pick up Emmanual’s visa,” she persevered. At last, she was given the visa.

I have to tell you that just relating this story to you drives me crazy, and I won’t even tell you what it does to John. Thankfully, Chris combines the perfect temperament and a prodigious work ethic to do the kind of bureaucratic battle she must to run an orphanage in Haiti. She even gives the consulate officials the benefit of the doubt.

I could fill this blog with stories from and about Chris, like when she went over to another orphanage that had collapsed—the American manager had a nervous breakdown, the Haitian staff were on strike, the usual—to rescue 12 disabled and sick kids who hadn’t been fed in several days. While she was there, cleaning up the kids and their beds, she cut her leg and got a severe infection. She was her off her feet and sick for more than a week. Oh, but she still brought the 12 kids to her orphanage.

Chris and Hal are currently caring for 70- some children in two different houses on the same block. Many of these kids are in the process of being adopted by Americans and others are living with them until their parents get back on their feet, as much as they can do that in Haiti. Chris and Hal are heroes to these kids, their parents, and us too. They put their trust in God and work like mad to do His will. They are role models for all of us.

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