If you do not know what you are looking for, you would never see them. They are hidden in plain sight, chained by oblivious eyes. The community knows them by their clothes and by their scars but accept it as the way of things. Poison roots grow deep here, binding the small feet of the innocent and wrapping its rotten vines around the slow beating heart of life. Evil has many names, but in this place, it is called restavek. This is what the child slaves are called. In creole, it means “to stay with”. Bound.
Our eyes were opened to this horror near the end of our first trip to the Dominican Republic. After the immediate shock, we could not believe how naïve we had been. This evil has existed since the beginning of time and still thrives hidden behind the façade of civility. This revelation broke us like no other has before. With shattered hearts, we began to research and found that it affects one in fifteen Haitian children on the island of Hispaniola. We looked in our area, desperate to find awareness or a ministry already helping these children but found no one. No one. Hope is not found in this place. These children feel only pain, hate, ridicule, and death. In an instant, we knew. Everything in our lives had been leading to this. Even with thirteen years of mission experience, the task seemed insurmountable. The evil is too great, the roots too deep. But our roots are deeper.
The Tree of Life, planted next to Living Water, cannot be overtaken. The love of God will tear through these binding vines with ultimate power and set the nation free. If it takes our life, we will rip the poison roots from the ground, stand firm on the soil, and proclaim that the enemy has no power here. He has no name. From the deep earth to the sky, God will lift these children onto treetops like sparrows. They will be free. We stand as ambassadors, as servants, as soldiers. He has woken us to the reality of evil, placed the Sword of Truth in our hands, and equipped us with His unending love. We claim this land in the name of Jesus, through His Mighty Spirit alone. It is time. Rise up and Raíz up.