When Tony and I first moved to Haiti almost six years ago, we didn’t know a lick of Creole, and we only had one good friend we knew in Haiti and he was our translator, Vladimir. We jumped right into hosting teams and building the mission here with many visions in mind of what God was going to do through hundreds of people within these walls and for miles outside. It was exciting, but at times it was lonely too. We quickly realized the importance of getting away for a few minutes to just hold hands and walk and breathe in the mountain breeze that would clear our thoughts and refresh our spirits. We found a pathway that went up a hill behind our house that became our favorite walk. Hand-in-hand, we would set out to climb the hill and take it all in.
After several trips up the hill, a little boy started noticing our path, and he curiously began to follow us. He would approach us on his donkey, then he would jump off, tie up the donkey, and join us on our walk. He didn’t know our language, but his sweet smile spoke volumes. We immediately recognized that he was smart, loving, and eager to get to know the “blans” that had moved into his village. “Mwen rele Bicly,” [pronounced Bickley] he said as he worked hard to make his steps move in unison with ours upon the rocks. We could tell there was so much he wanted to say, but he didn’t have the words to communicate it. The only words he had were in Creole, and clearly we didn’t understand. We would smile at him, nod our heads, and give him our names. “Mwen…rele…Mickie,” “Mwen…rele…Tony,” we would say with stuttered Creole. His beaming smile showed that he was proud that we were trying to speak his language. Then he picked up a rock and said, “Woch!” [pronounced “wosh”] and we realized he was teaching us his language. We repeated, “Woch.” “Kabwit,” he said as he pointed to a goat. Then he said, “Pike” [pikey], and he touched a briar on a bush and moved it away from us so it wouldn’t stick us. He continued on with his language lesson, and when we were ready to head back to Hope Center, he hopped on his donkey and trotted away.
Nearly every afternoon, my walks holding Tony’s hand, included a small, dark hand in the other. The three of us would hold Creole class as we walked. His bright smile would light up my heart. I knew deep down that there was something very special about this little boy. He was so helpful and kind and smart! We didn’t know it at the time, but little Bicly was working his way into another heart in our home….Jacob’s. Although Bicly was only two years younger than our son Jacob, because of his size, he seemed like a child, but somehow he connected with Jacob, and they had become good friends at a time when Jacob needed a good friend.
I’ll never forget the first time we let Bicly spend the night at our house with Jacob. There was a bunk bed in Jacob’s bedroom and Bicly wanted to sleep on the top! I told Tony that I had a feeling that he was going to break the light bulb that was coming out of the wall just above the bed. Within seconds of climbing up, he began to squeal and jump on his knees, and, “Crack!” he broke the bulb. At this point, I realized our little Bicly was also predictable. 🙂
After a while, we had met another young boy in our village by the name of Johnny. He was a little charmer with “street smarts.” He would charm teams into giving him almost anything, and every team that came along, he would steal their hearts and tennis shoes, and soccer balls and sunglasses and…. well, you get the picture. We decided to ask Johnny’s mother if we could give him a little part-time job after school where he would do little odd jobs to earn money so he could buy the things he wanted and needed instead of begging. She said she was fine with that, and speaking of school….. She proceeded to tell us that he was three years behind in school and if we could go with her to talk to his principal. We went with her to the school and helped her get caught up on his tuition. After that, we informed Jacob that Johnny would be coming every day after school to work. Jacob said, “Well, if you are going to give Johnny a job, you need to give Bicly one too!” We decided that was a good idea because they could help one another. We thought perhaps Bicly could even help Johnny with his school! The next day, they both showed up early to work with big smiles on their faces. Little did we know, their first day of work at Hope Center was preceded by disciplinary action at school for getting in a fight. They had been sent home, but instead they came to work. They clearly didn’t like one another, but they agreed to put that aside for the sake of the “bon dolla” [American dollar] they would get later. They worked eagerly every afternoon planting trees and flowers around Hope Center. They took out the trash and burned it in a burn pile each afternoon too. It was hard work, but they were excited to do it. They were becoming not just friends but brothers. Tony helped them learn to save their money by keeping it in a box in our bedroom. Bicly’s would fill quickly and Johnny’s would empty quickly. They eventually saved enough to buy used bicycles in town, but they were clearly robbed by the vendor because the bicycles fell apart quickly. It was another lesson learned…
In time, many, many teams fell in love with them as we had. They would not only help teams, but they would listen to their language and learn words that helped them communicate. In no time, they began to speak English with us and with teams as they worked alongside many Americans and stole their hearts. We decided to see if some of the Americans would like to chip in to buy them new bikes. Within minutes of asking, two brand new bicycles were ordered and shipped to Haiti. The day we gave those boys their bicycles was probably the best day of their lives.
Two years passed, the boys grew, and more and more teams fell in love with them. Tony and I fell in love with them even more and had come to see them both as our very own sons. Our own boys had come to think of them as brothers, and our whole But God Ministries family had accepted them into the BGM family. Someone asked us once, “Do you think you could take them to America with you sometime?” My heart leaped at the idea! Oh how I would love to share our home country and friends and family with these boys! We decided to run with the idea. We started a fundraising campaign to get them to the US, and in no time we were able to get them both passports and visas! We just needed to raise a bit more to pay for their flights. We were so excited!! Our hearts would soon be broken, however, as we realized that it was not a good idea for two minor, Haitian boys to travel with missionaries of a big, growing mission organization to the US. The BGM board hated more than anything to break the news to us, but they could not allow us to fundraise to take the boys to the states. It was too risky to the organization and to us personally. The night we broke the news to the boys was devastating. We all cried together and searched desperately for strength and understanding to accept it in our minds and hearts. The boys faced great shame and disappointment at school and in the village as they had to find a way to explain that the good news they had shared with such excitement was not going to happen. We promised them that one day God would make a way…
Then two years later it happened!! The two families that sponsored them in school, the Anthony’s and the Hill’s, went to the same church and were on the same mission team preparing to come to Haiti. One evening while Tony and I were in the states, we met them for dinner and explained how we had not given up hope that the boys would get to come to the US. WE just couldn’t do it ourselves, but maybe THEY could! The families both embraced the idea immediately and we began to make plans. Their GoFundMe account was started, and in no time, funds began to pour in to help Johnny and Bicly come to the states. On our end, we would provide pictures & video updates for the page and social media; we worked on renewing their temporary visas, and we gathered all the paperwork to make it happen. Because there were plenty of funds, we decided it would be best to have their parents sign over temporary guardianship to our translator Vladimir for the trip and he would go along with them to help maneuver their way through immigration and help translate for them. All plans proceeded smoothly. The team came to Hope Center that summer and the boys left with them when they returned to the states. For two weeks they sent fun stories and photos of their adventures. Their mamas and siblings would come over to FaceTime with the boys from their host homes. It was an experience of a lifetime!
When the boys returned to Haiti, I could tell their American experience affected them in two different ways. Their relationship had grown closer, but at the same time it grew in two different directions. Johnny quickly returned to his hard-working schedule of planting, cleaning, raising chickens, building things, etc., but Bicly had become pensive and quiet. One day he sat down on the couch beside me and said, “Mom, I am really sad and I don’t know why.” He explained that although going to the US was fun and he saw many cool things, returning to Haiti from the states had made him sad for his country. He saw the potential and growth a united nation could have, but he didn’t see how his country could rise up to that same potential, and it created a sadness that he just couldn’t shake. We talked about it, and I explained that the key to helping a nation of people grow was with its leadership. His wheels began to turn in his head, and soon he realized that he wanted to turn his experience of visiting the US into something that would eventually help his county. He vowed to become one of those leaders that truly HELPS his people rise up to their potential. He really didn’t know how that would happen, but he would be committed to doing all he could to be a good leader.
Over the next year, several Americans began bringing up the idea of Bicly going to the US to attend school. They recognized his potential and wanted to help in some way. We explored many options, but nothing seemed to work out. It was clear that we were on the path God had designed for Bicly from the beginning, but we just had to trust God to lead us to the right time and opportunity to see it happen. We waited patiently and trusted God would lead. Finally, after several hopeful potential opportunities sparked our vision, God revealed the perfect fit.
Tony and I were in the states when a new team from McLaurin Heights Baptist Church in Pearl, MS, came to Hope Center to serve. Although this team had never been to Haiti to serve with us before, many of them had been on the journey with us from the very beginning when I first announced to my colleagues at Pearl High School that I was leaving PHS to become a missionary in Haiti! Their team leaders, Brad and Beth Hayes, had known us for a long time and had watched our mission grow over the years through social media. They were so excited to get the opportunity to actually come here and serve! Little did they know, God would put an idea into their hearts that would interweave with our vision for the future God had for Bicly, and He would seal that plan through a relationship between Bicly and their son Dillon, just like He had done through Bicly and our son Jacob. Bicly and Dillon immediately hit it off.
After the team left Haiti and returned to Pearl, God began to speak to Beth’s heart that she might have something to do with Bicly’s plan to go to the US for school. She shared that idea with me, and it all became crystal clear to me. Before I moved to Haiti, I taught at Pearl High School for seven years. My colleagues there were not just fellow teachers and administrators, but they were family. The principal at the time was Ray Morgigno, and he hesitantly but graciously accepted my news that I would not be renewing my contract that next year. He said, “I understand, and I want you to know that I am going to put this contract in my drawer. If all of this doesn’t work out, your contract is still here for you.” That touched my heart. It was my first experience of telling family goodbye and it was really hard. All of it sounded so crazy at the time, but now, six years later, it’s beginning to come full circle.
This week, Dr. Ray Morgigno, now Superintendent of Pearl Public Schools, is writing a letter accepting Bicly as a student at Pearl High School!! The school I loved so dearly as a teacher for seven years, and Tony’s alma mater, is now accepting our Haitian son Bicly as a student and welcoming him into the Pearl Pirate family! I am overjoyed and overwhelmed that this is actually happening! At the same time, I am ashamed to admit that I am cautious too. There have been so many times when we got our hopes up that something like this was going to work out, but it didn’t and the disappointment cut so deep. But this time, it feels different. I can see the beautiful irony in it all and I realize that my Heavenly Father planned this union long before we ever even came to Haiti. It was in his plan when he placed me at Pearl High School. It was in His plan when He moved us to Haiti. It was in His plan when He brought a little boy on a donkey to a hill to be our first Creole teacher. It was in His plan when He bloomed a friendship between Bicly and Jacob. And it was in His plan when He bloomed a friendship between Bicly and Dillon. It is becoming real now.
Dr. Brad Hayes and his wife Beth are currently writing some letters themselves. They are writing letters to the US Embassy explaining that they are accepting the responsibility of taking Bicly in and being his host family as he enters school in the US at Pearl High School. I am overwhelmed to think of what a huge step they are taking for a young man they have only met once. I do know what it feels like, however, as a mother, to see a special bond form between her son and this young Haitian boy named Bicly, and it is a blessing beyond words. There are many others joining in on the efforts now, including our dear friends Dale and Kent Banks, who have known Bicly almost as long as we have and who believe in his desire to get an American education so that he can return to his country to become a leader among his people. We are all working on the various facets of the plan, and I am trusting our God to move us along as we continue to seek direction from Him.
Beth will be using this story (a condensed version of course) and pictures to create a GoFundMe account to raise money to help them make this happen. We will have to renew Bicly’s passport, apply for his visa appointment, register him with SEVIS, and book his flight to Mississippi within the next few months. These things will be very expensive, but we know that God will move in people’s hearts and provide the funding to do so. Once Beth gets this account set up, I will share it on my Facebook page and you can check it out and get involved if God so moves.
I cannot wait to share the rest of this story one day! God is going to raise up a leader in Bicly in his community and maybe even his nation. He is ready for the challenge and knows that he has a huge family of both Haitians and Americans who will be praying for him as he continues on this journey. Please be praying for him as well as us and the Hayes family as we seek to honor the Lord and accept the call to be used in Bicly’s future. It will be another beautiful story to tell of God’s love, provision, and vision for this village and for Haiti. I am super-excited!! To God be the GLORY!!