I saw the smile on her face before I saw the rest of her—a broad, beautiful smile with frequently used laugh lines on either side. She held her head high as she laughed. She moved with ease, seemingly dancing into the room before sitting down across from me and expanding her personality into every crevice of the space. Her joy was infectious.
We talked for a few minutes before she told me—with that broad smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye like we shared a secret—“We feel alive and comfortable in our own skin.” After everything she had been through—the death of her husband, the loss of her job, the struggles to provide for her son—she felt comfortable in her own skin. She was not walking in shame.
This is what emotional health looks like. At World Orphans, we believe in partnering with local churches to care for vulnerable families wholistically. Wholistic care takes physical health, education, emotional health, and spiritual well being into consideration.
Emotional health is often more difficult to gauge than physical health or education. And it doesn’t always strike us as important, especially when we’re talking about families getting food on the table. But, without emotional health, these families aren’t able to dream about the future, have the energy to get up every morning to persevere again, or even have the ability to recognize their divine worth.
Madame Marie Yves, a mother, was one of the many mothers we met at Pastor Carlos’ church. When I sat with each of these families, I noticed something striking. They confidently held their heads up when they walked into the room. Many of them made intentional eye contact despite the language barrier. They laughed—loudly, freely, frequently. They moved and talked as people who were fully aware of their God-given dignity, and it was breathtaking.
Many of these mothers have lost their husbands. Some have lost their jobs or their homes, and they are trying to pick themselves up again. Some have faced debilitating life circumstances. These families have faced the trauma that accompanies a life of poverty. As we seek to care well for these families, we find the need to recognize, address, and minister to their emotional health increasingly important. In addition to receiving support from Pastor Carlos, these families are regularly visited by appointed members of the church congregation that sit with them, listen to their struggles, and offer them encouragement. Additionally, the families in Haiti are visited by Cassandre Matthieu, our Haiti social worker who intentionally listens to each family’s trials, triumphs, and requests for other assistance, while monitoring the overall well-being of the child within the family.
We’re overjoyed to see families like those at Pastor Carlos’ church—families that don’t carry shame. Instead, they carry the feather-light weight of hope. Many of the women talk about how they want to grow their businesses and how they intend to equip their families in the future. They speak endlessly about the love that Pastor Carlos has shown to their children.
Do you know what it takes to be able to speak with confidence, hope, and wisdom despite being beat up by life’s struggles? You have to be emotionally healthy. You have to know that your worth is not determined by the amount of money in your bank account, the size of your home, or any other earthly thing. These families know that they are loved by the local church, their Heavenly Father, and their pastor. They have an awareness of the infinite worth they possess, and day by day, they are growing healthier as they continue to heal.