Luke 18.

Twitter wisdom again.

I recently retweeted “Never give up on anybody. Miracles happen every day.” (@JarridWilson)

While I won’t go into each story of how true this is, I know that I’ve written on two special girls in the past that haven’t been updated on in a while.

Stefan (you’ve seen his picture before, he’s a pre-teen who loves to take my phone) talked me into coming to the CPR-3 Haiti partner church in Labourderie yesterday. I hopped off the moto and two-year-old Hope is RUNNING towards me, talking (I’m not sure about what), with the biggest grin the whole way!

Backtrack: I’m six months in. It wasn’t until August that I saw her laugh for the first time, and that was playing with others while I observed. Jordan, Amanda, and the entire CPR-3 team has poured into Hope and Jessica and Hope has been the one who is much slower to warm up. I last told you about Jessica, who I’m happy to write has had a quick change following stories of asking about the beach. Now, it is normal for her to be a chatterbox and play games with me while she responds to everything and laughs with the CUTEST petite giggle to match her tiny body. Since around late June, it has been RARE to see her shut down – there has been a reverse from the past where this was the natural state Jessica would sit in.

Both girls used to avoid eye contact, act as if we weren’t talking, refuse to respond or Jessica might have rarely responded (usually with barely there whispers), and smiles were rare jewels we had to work for.

Back to yesterday: Hope runs to me smiling. I sit with Linda as she makes food and the children play for a few minutes before heading into church (Without Stefan, ironically he slept late). I start walking and Hope takes me hand to walk with me. This happens all the time….with every child BUT Hope. I think I was shocked at first, and just kept walking towards the church steps and asking her if she wanted to come in with me. Before I know it, Jessica’s giggle is loud and coming up behind me as she runs up to take my other hand, telling me they want to come to church with me.

This. Is. Huge. Yes, these sound like normal playful kid conversations – but that’s the thing – we’ve been PRAYING for this! These are NOT the same reactions from a few months ago, or even weeks ago for Hope!

There are cultural differences in going to church and I asked Jessica if she really wanted to come, because if so she’d have to bathe and change. She said yes and then we ran back and she acted like this tiny “big girl” as she picked outfits – SO excited when I said yes about us all going. Hope has the most darling grin, it’s huge and will sit there on her face as she’s just content and going with things happily and on the quiet side while her sister energetically chooses outfits. And we got dressed and went to church together.

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Hair a mess and all – Jessica’s outfit choices. She was especially excited for her flower flip flops.

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That smile! I can’t explain how this smile shines after six months of Hope “in her own world”.

Especially in the past month, I’ve seen it come to life all over the place. Never give up on people. I read this parable in Luke once, about a woman who basically nagged a judge day and night, over and over, to give her justice – finally he gave in more because of her persistence than because he actually cared about it. Jesus then said, how much MORE will your Father, who cares and is right there beside you, answer?

I read this passage when I was broken, heart sore. There was someone in my life that I could do nothing with except for come to my Father with my heartbreak for them, for THEIR heart. But this passage, this woman, has stuck out to me ever since. I have people I have prayed for over and over…and over again. There are times where I ask why repeat it – especially to a God who “knows what we’ll say before we pray it”. I mean….why even pray at all, let alone repeatedly? But this story stuck with me, this lesson given to us. And here it is, right in front of me. The prayers and love poured into these two girls has been constant since the day they were dropped with CPR-3, over a year ago now. And the prayers won’t stop.

I love the way this whispers other promises. “Stephanie, I’m listening.” “I know there are others you’ve prayed for much longer, I have a plan.” “I’m always working.” “They’re my children.” “I love talking to you, I love answering back.”

And I’m always astounded when I praise and reflect on Jessica and Hope, how they reflect the gospel. Not responding, not even really wanting us there, we keep going back. We keep loving. We get no response, we love anyway. And eventually – they turn around and show us that grin they’ve held in for so long. They start to live a life of joy.

Presence Matters.

Greeting the construction workers on the porch as I search for the key for my room, walking to the neighbor’s house or catching a tap-tap and hearing my name shouted across the street. High fiving and joking with the group of boys making their kites on the corner. Watching as a customer interacts with a bored looking Natcom worker, then the same worker looks up and gives me a big smile and asks how I’ve been, noting “Mwen pa we ou” (I don’t see you, common to say instead of “It’s been awhile” or “I miss you”).

It happened so fast, the realization as greetings, smiles, and kisses on the cheek combined for me to see it in ‘returning’ – the common saying we tell others here at CPR-3 – Your presence matters.

It’s so true, undeniable as I walk around Bercy.  There’s a difference in the way I see it after a three week absence. Shouted to me through the body language of a five minute hug from mama, who lost her son the day before I left. In the “Mwen kontan” of family members while I just sit outside in their best chair visiting for a few hours in the shade of a mango tree on a hot afternoon (Gently saying “I’m happy” sitting here with you). I joke with the boys as they work with sticks and ripped bags about if they’re making one for me – the next day a kite is in the air and they say “this one is the one I made for you”.

Here’s the thing: This isn’t Haitian saying. Yes, it’s true and important to CPR-3, but it’s true wherever you’re reading too.

We forget too easily how important being there for people is in our American culture. Every time I’ve been to a soup kitchen, you know what meant most to people? Conversations after they finished eating. An outreach close to my heart – The Salvation Army Street Outreach for women working at night around Columbus – gives out care bags as the van stops for individuals. Which do you think matters more to the girl waiting for her next john, the bag or the fact that someone came up next to her to stand beside her, to ask her how she’s doing and let her know that someone sees her?

Where are you getting coffee in the morning? Are you improving the baristas day by your presence? Who are you living with – are you really WITH them? Giving them your best self after a long day? When you’re out with your closest friend after a long week, are you with them – or with your followers on Instagram? Your presence matters. Your presence can make a difference. There’s nothing special about me except that I’m here. There’s nothing I’ve done except come back.