by Lauren Pope
Jessi Morris first went to Haiti as a missionary after the devastating 2010 earthquake, then returned to live there full time and work for the children’s school, Respire Haiti. When she first saw the three-year-old Haitian boy named Son-Son, he was no bigger than a 15-month-old child, and was so weak and ill that he couldn’t lift his head off the ground. His twin sister died in the earthquake a couple years earlier, and his single mother Marie provided for her seven children the best she could by selling avocados at the market.
“From the beginning, Marie asked me to adopt him,” Jessi recalled. “But I said no, I’m single, but I will help you take care of him.” Jessi and the team at Respire brought Sonny to doctors all over Haiti over the next several years to try and get a diagnosis, but the poverty-stricken country simply did not have the tools and resources necessary. It was clear that he needed more advanced medical care than they could provide.
By this time, Jessi was back to living in America and had recently married, but she continued to visit Haiti every three months. On one of those visits, it was obvious that Sonny’s health situation had become critical. Jessi knew that they had to act quickly, but wasn’t sure what it would entail to get him to America for treatment. “Just don’t come home without him,” her new husband, Ben, told her. With that in mind, she went to work on obtaining medical guardianship of Sonny which would allow him to come to America.
That process can typically take months, or even years, but for Sonny there was a miraculous clearing of obstacles. “It felt like the Red Sea parted,” explained Jessi. “What happened in those two weeks was nothing but a miracle,” she said. A one week trip turned into two, with Sonny’s papers in place for him to fly back to America with Jessi.
A specialist in Baton Rouge diagnosed Sonny with a kidney condition that would need surgery, but he was too underweight to safely perform it. He was dangerously close to kidney failure and removal. But six months and 10 pounds later, said Jessi, “Sonny was healed. Jesus did that.”
Sonny wouldn’t require surgery at all. However, his health was still tenuous, and traveling back to Haiti could cause a relapse. After speaking with Sonny’s birth family back in Haiti, everyone agreed that it would be best for him to remain with Jessi and her family in Louisiana.
At the time, the plan had been for the entire family to regularly visit Haiti, but first Covid and now the political instability in the country has kept that from happening. They stay in touch through phone calls, and will visit once again when they can safely do so.
Sonny is now 14 years old, a healthy, strong, multi-sport athlete. “I can’t mention this story without Christ being involved. He has written it and is continuing to write Sonny’s story,” Jessi said.
Founded in 2011 as a weekly feeding program in Gressier, Haiti, this program now includes a school, medical clinic, and many community and sports programs.
At Respire Haiti schools, about 60% of the student body are Restaveks, which translates to “child slave.” Through educating community leaders, young adults and children, Respire is changing the mentality of Haitians to stop the practice of Restavek.
Read more Family Features here.