His large sad eyes spilled tears that etched crude channels in the dust of his black face. His lips were pulled tight as if struggling to contain the emotion that threatened to spill out.
The large casket loomed above his small, five year old body. Standing on an old bucket and on his tiptoes, he peered over the edge of the open casket. He stared intensely at the still unmoving face of the only person who had ever really cared for him. His emotion finally escaped his tightly compressed lips. Sob after sob convulsed his young body.
As he stared he mentally begged his mother to look at him, to tell him what to do in the world that swirled chaotically about him. He slowly reached out and touched her cold face; begging the silent figure to answer the questions that tumbled through his small, terrified heart. What was he to do?
Several men pushed him aside as they attached the lid to the casket. As the men started to walk away, he stayed as close as he could to the presence in the wooden box. At times he placed a small hand on the moving wooden structure. Walking close to her provided him with some warmth and security. Warmth that was a defense against the cold that threatened to overwhelm him.
No one seemed to notice the little boy walking beside the moving casket, as it weaved its way through the crowd. Several times he was almost stepped on and then someone tied to push him aside, but he was determined. Finally they approached the above ground, concrete tomb that was to become his mother’s final resting place. He watched closely as they rolled his mother over into a sleeping position, inserted her into the small tomb, and sealed it.
The years had transformed the terrified boy into the handsome, trim young Haitian man sitting across from me. Ludget had blossomed into a quiet, sober young man.
The pleasant breeze that had journeyed across the lush Haitian valley below from the distant Caribbean Sea felt refreshing in this mountain top room. The room, attached to the main church area, was made of plain concrete blocks with a bare floor and holes for windows. Plain as it was, it gave us a refuge from the bold Haitian sun.
Ludget stared intently at the floor as his mouth moved, but no words came. He seemed to be unaware of the noise of the people coming and going, the distant singing, and the muffled voice of a teacher instructing his class.
“When I was very young, when Momma die, I thought there is no hope for me,” he finally said, “I ever wonder why, I wonder why I did not die in the same hour, the same minute as my momma.”
The interpreter was doing his best to convey the young man’s message, starting and stopping in his attempts to get the wording just right.
“I ate my food with tears,” he continued. “My grandmother and uncle said I was no good, a no-account. I eat my food with my tears because they curse me because I do not have Mommy and Daddy. They say I will be a good-for-nothing forever because I didn’t have a Momma or Daddy. They want me to be in charge of all the work. I was to do everything. They force me to do work I could not do. I had no one to stand up for me. I didn’t have anywhere to go, so I had to do everything they made me do, with tears. When I wanted to have some free time, to be with some of the little neighbors to play with, they would whip me and say I should not want to have my own time.”
I leaned back in my chair and sighed. It was difficult to understand how a “baby” could be subjected to such brutal treatment after being torn from his mother and cast into slavery. Try as I may, I simply, could not stretch my imagination enough to grasp the impact.
Due to the cultural fabric of the Haitian people, these situations, involving outrageous treatment of orphans, is accepted. The orphans are not alone in their suffering as there are several hundred thousand children who are taken out of homes that are too poor to feed them. These “restivecs” are then placed in more prosperous homes, where many become virtual salves. Some are treated well, but too many are abused.
“I never knew who my father was,” Ludget continued, “but I do remember the man who killed my mother. He yelled at my mama and it wasn’t until I was older that I found out he wanted her to go to bed with him,” Ludget said. “She refused him and he went off yelling and cursing. Several weeks later, Mamma was dead. He killed her.”
“On a morning like this, when I was little, I go to the market with my grandma and there was this guy who smoked, who knew my grandma. He started to explain to her what’s happened to my mom, why she is dead, who killed her. He mentioned to my grandmother that he had driven the killer of my momma to the Voodoo priest. He said if he had known it was her daughter, he would never had helped this guy.”
“After that, she was sick for several weeks,” Ludget continued, “and then she become dead.”
Voodoo, and other types of satanic worship, are boldly overt in Haiti, something that shocks and challenges the North-American mind. I had found Haitians reluctant to talk to white people about these practices. In this mysterious and raw land things happen that Americans have a difficult time understanding and accepting, but that cannot be denied.
Ludget was unable to protect himself as a child but as a teen he was big enough to rebel at the yoke that his grandmother and uncle had placed on him. The rage that he contained over the years broke loose, at times. He carried a lot of emotional and spiritual baggage, but he simply wanted to be loved and accepted.
One day God called to him and his world changed forever.
“It was a crusade for Christ that the pastor did up on this mountain,” Ludget said. “At home I could hear the noise of the crusade. They were saying that we should come to Christ. I did not know what this means, to come to Christ. So, I went to the church on the next Sunday morning. While the pastor was preaching, in a part of the sermon, the pastor say that if anyone is disappointed in his family and if there is nobody to think or care about him, Jesus Christ opens His arms to him. After I hear this, I give my heart to Jesus.”
“This made a big difference, a wide difference in me when I come to Christ. He made a way for me to walk with Him and I find people who care about me. I tried to show my grandma and uncle about my new Christian faith but they rejected it. A pastor who did not know me at all began to treat me like his son. He walked with me, he paid for my schooling.”
“I would never think, never imagine that I would go to school,” he continued. “There are people in my region that have mother and father and never reach the level I reach in school. In two years, I should finish with high school. For now, I cannot pay for my schooling but I know the Lord is still working.”
I could see that Ludget’s Christian faith, and the help of the Christians in this church, had an enormous impact on this young man’s life. Very few Haitians make it through high school and few have a deep Christen faith.
Ludget had come far from the five-year-old, but I couldn’t shake the picture of his young mother, dying from an evil curse, powerless to help the little boy who clung to her, frantic to assure his survival.
I could sense her overwhelming stress and anxiety, her vulnerable, helpless state of mind and I suddenly felt an urge to somehow reach out and take her hand and gently whisper, “Momma, he’s OK, Momma