Well I’m not even sure how to begin a follow up post like this one. How about this, you never get to choose when your heart will be broken, again, again. Two years ago, on one of my trips to Haiti a little boy with diabetes captured my heart and then promptly broke it. I blogged about it at the time (read the story) and have thought often about that little guy. His name was Jacqulin and he was 10 at the time. When I met him, Dr. Manno had just diagnosed him and had sent him to a specialized pediatric clinic for care as he qualified for treatment there.
On our recent trip to Haiti, I was sitting in the common area of Dr. Manno’s house listening to him tell stories of all the ways he both sees God working and the things that he struggles with. That’s when he said something that caused me to ask a follow up question. To be honest I kind of wish I hadn’t.
Dr. Manno had been talking about he struggles with not being able to help everyone and described sending a little boy and his mother, who could not read, to another clinic. I immediately remembered Jacqulin and without thinking asked, “Manno please tell me you are not talking about the little boy we gave a ride to a few years ago?” He quickly looked away from me and I knew that this story was going to hurt.
Jacqulin and his loving mother had come to Dr. Manno for help a few years ago. They lived very far away and had no money, which was the reason they came to see Dr. Manno at Sante 2000. Dr. Manno did what I believe was the right thing in sending the boy to another clinic specializing in diabetic care for children. However, the combination of the distance from the specialized clinic, the mother’s inability to read, and the clinics lack of follow up resulted in Jacqulin dying of diabetic shock.
As I sat there in front of my team, the reality of his death sunk in every kind of emotion I have ran through my body as if I was being struck by bolt of lightning. To be honest a part of me wanted to run away into the other room and hide my tears. Maybe you’re wondering, “why didn’t you?”
It would have been completely acceptable for me to take this emotion into a private place. I decided to stay because I believe tears and honest, authentic feelings are important. However, I sat quietly with tears in my eyes with my mind racing. In that moment I wasn’t sure anyone, including Dr Manno needed to hear what I was thinking. My emotions quickly moved from sadness to anger. If I had said out loud what I was thinking it would have sounded a little like this, “God what is going on with this world? You created this place and I believe you love it. You love the little children, yet this doesn’t look like love to me. Either you have a very twisted version or I have completely missed what it means for you to ‘delight in what you have created.’ Something that I have even preached and taught over the years. My heart is broken for this mother who loved her son, who was doing everything she was capable of doing and still she lost him. She lost him not from some rare disease, but she lost him to diabetes. God, you have given us the capacity to treat this disease and yet a mother is without her son today because she didn’t have access to it.”
Along with those honest emotions I do think, God was with her and I believe with Jacqulin as he got sicker and sicker. I believe God came near him, comforted him and I am certain when the time came, Jesus himself held him and took him home for a beautiful meal. Maybe even it was a relief to not be in pain, maybe a relief for this mother to entrust in God’s care. But that doesn’t make it right, everything about this story is wrong.
Since that moment in Haiti this story has weighed on me. In response to heart breaking stories like this one, sometimes we try to somehow explain, justify and even use our faith to attempt to lessen the pain. To distance ourselves from the brokenness. When we try to rationalize a story like Jacqulin’s by saying, “it must have been God’s will,” it feels like a complete lie. It is not God’s will that children would die from preventable diseases. Jesus said let the children come unto me for the kingdom of God belongs to them. Jesus demonstrated that he will not keep the needs of the world and children at arm’s length. Jesus embraced, healed, restored everyone he came into contact with.
Do we really believe this is what his heart breaks for? If we do believe that, then what do you suppose is his solution for healing this broken world where little boys die, mothers mourn and we watch and say, ‘it must have been what God wanted.’ God created this little boy to run, play, to grow and learn. God created him to fall in love and contribute to his community.
I think one of the challenges in this world is that too often we come up with theologies about God that make us ok with the fact that we live in a broken world. What if we could sit and wait in the brokenness and thoughtfully find simple ways to respond? I think it is precisely in responding to the things that break the heart of God that we will discover how deeply He loves His creation.