Confession #117: From Skeptic to Leader
A guest post:
It’s important that you understand my place with Emmaus House. I am a bit of a follower. Thanks to a TED Talk I recently saw about creating movements, I was described as a “first follower”. Basically, I’m the one who does a lot of work but the “lone nut” receives the credit. Tanya Pirtle, visionary & Emmaus House Board member, pulled me in and I was mildly involved during Emmaus House’s infancy. I had known the youth from the Cap-Haitien Children’s Home when I was a part of a short-term mission trip in 2011. It was a positive experience for me and it fundamentally changed me. I fell in love with the younger kids. I mean, who doesn’t? The teens were withdrawn, if they came out it was to sit around and fix each other’s hair. They made communicating with them difficult for many reasons. They didn’t appear grateful, they stayed in their rooms, and overall were just plain lazy. I had to put forth all of the effort and in return felt disrespected. My interaction with them was unsavory.
So when Tanya approached me about this new adventure, I wasn’t completely on-board. Which is where I feel like a lot of you might be. Not all of you, but a skeptic doesn’t really understand the need for Emmaus House. Emmaus House is for the 18+ year old that has aged out of the orphanage system. That right there stops you. You think, “Duh. They’re 18. They need to get a job, be out of their own and support themselves.” It’s what I did. It’s what is expected of them. This is ridiculous!” If you’ve experienced their behavior like I did, you probably didn’t fall all over yourself to help them either.
We expect more of them because that is what we expect of ourselves. What we don’t put together, which should be obvious, is that they aren’t us. They’re not Americans. They’re Haitian; an entirely different culture. Their economy is not up to our standards. Their education system is warped. Most importantly, they are in an orphanage because they lack what I believe is the only thing we should feel entitled to- parents. They are hurt.
The Emmaus House youth were not 100% on board at the beginning. They were scared of the change and didn’t understand accountability, hard work, what a family looks like, and they didn’t know much about God. I had the opportunity to get to know these kids from a different perspective from people that love them. Over time, I was asked to join the Board. I was hesitant because I knew how much time and work it would take away from my family. Tanya had a trip planned for Haiti and with two weeks before she was leaving I decided that I wanted to go to connect with the Emmaus House kids, physically see Emmaus House, meet our Haitian staff, learn more about Haiti, and experience Haiti.
Upon arriving at the house I was floored by the youth coming to me, someone they didn’t really know, and greeting me. It wasn’t just a quick “Hi” and a small wave. They gave me a solid handshake, looked me in the eye, asked me my name, asked me about my trip, and asked me about my family. That was just day one! That right there, has me impressed. This was a complete turn-around. On their own, they were studying, doing chores, cooking, and doing laundry. There was no complaining. They were smiling, laughing, and overall appeared happy to be there. The girls baked with me. We made donuts one day, and cookies another. I got them to loosen up around me and talk with me. The boys walked with me and talked with me. They shared some of their struggles and the shared their dreams too. I know there’s more inside, but I could tell they weren’t as guarded as they were. They knew I cared.
They’ve been living as a family with Jonathan and Vivian as their house parents. It was a struggle to get used to, but they are grateful to be together and have learned to function as a family. They didn’t get that at the orphanage. They had no one to guide them on this personal level their now accustomed to. They are slowly healing from the trauma they’ve experienced. They are growing. They have the opportunity for a bright future and they know it. They are gaining confidence and experience. They are different.
I’m thankful that I was a “follower” to a “lone nut” because my labor and investment in Emmaus House has been returned three times over. It will be exciting to see what the future has in store for Emmaus House and the youth that have been a part of it. Haiti will be blessed by them and I can’t imagine what beautiful fruit they will bear!
~ Susan Bryner