Happy Valentine's Day! A day I will remember always. Benita came home today…………….. Seven of us hopped in the truck and ventured out today to find her in the small village of Bateycinco which is surrounded by sugar cane fields. The locals work cutting sugar cane and loading it onto the freight cars. It’s dusty and dirty, but we see progress coming, the streets are being prepared for paving. We spoke with people and showed them photos of Benita. After a few minutes we encountered one lady who was sure she’s seen Benita and assured us she was with her father Roberto. The woman quickly instructed some children to show us the way.
Batey Cinco is a poor village of 2nd and 3rd generation Haitians who although being born in the Dominican, have no identification papers and are not recognized as citizens. As we followed the children deeper into the village and through back yard paths I was leary of our circumstances. Here we were in unknown territory trying to find a child that was not legally ours. My thoughts races as we walked, would we find her? Was this another dead-end? Are we being lead into a trap? Could we be robbed or the truck be stolen? I said a silent pray for God’s protection as we continued the walk through backyards, pig stys and latrines. Soon we came to a small block house with a woman standing in the door, we inquired and was told no Roberto was not there, we passed onto the next house and then Esau (Yanet’s son) who had looked on the other side of the house cried “Come Mommy come! Benita! We turned around and went back to the house and there she was! Yanet scooped her up and held her close.
Benita looked like she did when I first saw her, sad, timid, shy, quiet with eyes down cast. She buried her head in Yanet’s neck and we all cried. Then Yanet and I went into the dark, dank house which was actually a duplex. There were two small rooms, the first had only a small table the second room had a table, a child’s chair and a mattress on the floor. There we found Roberto’s girlfriend with a 3-day old baby boy, Wilbur. Small, skinny and frail. As I held Wilbur I marveled at how tiny he was and I wondered if he had been born early. Evidently the Mother had no milk as she was soon feeding him something that looked like oatmeal. As we spoke with the Mother she seemed happy to see us and she just said Roberto was “mallo” which means bad in English. As we left the house and began to walk away with Benita, Roberto showed up. Yanet had to use all her diplomatic skills in speaking with him – he did not want Benita to go with us. Yanet talked and talked and Roberto kept saying “No, she cannot go, she is my child, come back for her on Sunday”. Yanet walked a few feet at a time, as we reached the fence Yanet turned and began talking to a couple of women that were standing there. Explaining the situation, pleading our case, so as to build support for our efforts. Yanet told the story of how Roberto had given the Benita away and left her. She explained she had cared for her for two years and then 3 months ago Roberto took her for a visit and never returned her. Over and over and sometimes angrily Roberto responded “Domingo, Domingo, Sunday, Sunday, come for her on Sunday”. It was a very stressful situation to be in, not knowing if we would leave with her or not and not knowing if the crowd that had gathered would turn on us. I knew our hearts were in the right place and hoped that Yanet would be able to convince him to let Benita go with us. Finally Yanet turned to me and said, Roberto says “no, you talk to him”.
I turned to him, put my hand on his shoulder and told him how well Benita did in school, how intelligent she was and it would be good for her to go back to school. I asked him to please let her come stay at my house for just 3 nights and I promised I would bring her back. I was afraid that if we left without her, Roberto would flee with her again. Then Yanet stepped in and began speaking to him again, taking up where I left off, asking if Benita could stay at my house for 3 nights. Finally, Roberto said yes. “Okay, she can go, stay 3 days and then she can go to Yaneth’s house” I was happily surprised by this turn of events. I told him, he would not be out of my memory, I would not forget him, we would help him with Wilbur. He asked us for formula for the baby. As we walked to the Colmado (store) I held his hand and thanked him. We arrived at the Colmado and purchased, formula, rice, oil, salami, catsup, bread, tomato sauce, coffee and surgar. We said good-bye and walked back towards the truck with Benita safe and sound in Yanet’s arms.
My prayer has been only for God’s will to prevail – I prayed that if it was God’s will for Benita to be with Yanet that he lead us to her. And I prayed that if it was His will for her to be with her Father that He protect her and give her the knowledge of our love for her. Glory be to God either way! He knows best – I consider He answered that prayer today and that Benita’s home is meant to be in Habanero. Oh, yes, and on the way to the truck Roberto did ask for one more thing, a cell phone that played music. I promised to bring him one in a few days. I didn’t mind, I thought I got the better part of the bargin. Benita? Cell phone? Easy choice. Benita's back home.