Note: H.E.L.P. founder Chris Marlow is leading a team on a pilgrimage trip to Haiti the week of February 10-17. Dan King, one of the members of this mission team, is sharing his experiences here on the H.E.L.P. Blog.

My excitement was reaching a bursting point like a balloon being blown up just a little too much. As I scanned the classrooms, I thought I would recognize him from the one picture of him I have hanging on my refrigerator door. At first I thought that maybe he had gotten a different haircut or grown enough that I just didn’t pick up on which one was the child our family chose to sponsor this past Christmas.

I started to get concerned when the pastor who was calling the sponsored children out of their classrooms wasn’t getting Samuel Saul to respond. Then after an exchange between him and one of the teachers in Creole, one thing that became quickly apparent was that the boy wasn’t there.

The pastor reported back to Chris Marlow what was happening. So when Chris looked at me from across the field and started walking in my direction, my heart just sank. I knew what he was coming to tell me, and I didn’t want to hear it. After all, I put my life on hold for a week, traveled to Haiti, and then drove for four hours to come meet this kid and tell him how much our family has prayed for him.

I had high hopes for this meeting, and wanted to find out more about this boy. Like what kinds of things he likes to learn about in school, and what he does for fun when he’s not in school. And I wanted to tell him all about my son, Samuel Paul, who has prayed for him almost every day. After all, when my family decided to do this, we knew that we’d be in it for the long haul. This isn’t a temporary humanitarian donation to make us feel like we did something nice for someone else. No. We’re investing in this boy’s life for the long haul.

“Bad news, Dan.” Chris shared with me, “Samuel Saul isn’t here today. They’re sending someone to his house now to see if everything is okay.”

It’s hard for me to respond because of the lump in my throat.

Instantly, I run through a million worst-case scenarios in my head. Has he dropped out of school? Is he sick? Or worse?

As I begin to pray, I find myself jumping in response to the sound of every motorbike that drives by, wondering if he’s going to be on it. Or will it return with merely a messenger with news about why he can’t be there?

After what seemed like an hour to me, only the messenger returns. Tears well up in my eyes wondering which of the worst-cases it ended up being.

“I’m sorry Dan,” Chris says to me. “His family moved away just last week.”

Phew! While I’m disappointed, I’m at least relieved that he’s okay.

His family moved to Gonaives, a place where people in places like Drouin move when they’re looking for opportunities. It’s kind of like moving from Hudson, Kansas to Chicago because of the abundance of help wanted ads in the bigger city.

The problem is that Drouin is in a struggling rice farming community. When the U.S. (and other nations) sent tons of rice into Haiti after the earthquakes as aid, it actually crippled the rice farming business here in the country. No demand for home-grown rice, means less work forcing families to make decisions like what Samuel Saul’s family recently had to do.

I pray that they are able to find work in Gonaives, but now I’m left without a sponsored child. And my investment isn’t just in the life of one kid, but in the community of Drouin.

That’s why I plan to keep my investment in that community going strong. The (beautiful) children there need education and food and other immediate necessities. Families need a reason to stay and have hope for the future. And child sponsorship helps provide those things, as well as community development programs to make sure that life is different when these kids grow up.

Before our team left Drouin I was able to find a new child to transfer my sponsorship to. I’ll share more about that another time, but I’m excited to be able to continue my investment in the same community. And the hug that Charles Pierre gave me when we talked to him about my decision to sponsor him… priceless.

HELP One Now: If you would like to join me and sponsor a child in Drouin, please visit the HELP One Now site (Drouin, Haiti Kids).