Bonjour mes amis!
It’s hard for me to stomach what my day brought to me in a land just an hour and a half flight away from the USA. It’s hard to swallow an elephant, as they say, and the only way to do so is one bite after another.
But I feel like I’ve glutted myself. In a good and bad way.
Haiti is itself a study in contrasts. There were times when I experienced visceral flashbacks to France. The countryside and hills echo where we lived. Just look at the scenery.
And to hear French so much brought me way back to that place of mission, to the complications of ministering to people, and the helplessness that comes after that devastating earthquake.
Yet here I stood, and the land beckoned me first. Gardens full of chives and squash and lettuce and beans. Cows tethered. Chickens scampering. Kittens mewing. The great blue sky singing praises. The tilth of the soil bringing so much bounty.
And the people. First I marveled at the people who loved Haiti and wanted to help in ways that didn’t hurt, demean, diminish. Pictured below are men from Pure Charity and Help One Now who think deeply, walk humbly, make mistakes, admit them, then continue to find amazing Haiti leaders to pour into, resource and empower. Watching them love, hearing their wisdom, and listening to their stories blessed me, made me wonder why in the world I’d been asked to take this trip. I felt small.
I felt small amid the Haitian people too. Small because my losses seemed so minor, my heartache less than. To see their joy, doggedness and perseverance humbled me afresh. I felt like I met Jesus on one hundred faces today.
I admit there was a point in the day when my sweat took over, the heat messed with my head, and Haiti’s overwhelming need threatened to silence me. But the conversations we had as a team and the humanity of the people eking out a living kept me facing what needed to be faced.
I am rich.
And they are rich.
And together, as Jesus’ body, we make a pretty cool combination.
Solving the heartache here involves one simple word: relationship. Longterm, sustained relationship. Where each party sees the value in the other. Each is teachable. And each dignifies the other. The best thing Help One Now does? They come back. They return again and again, seeking out leaders, finding what is working and giving local leaders the tools and resources they need to do cool things. Micro-loans. Assistance in building houses in a specific community. Child sponsorship. Orphan care. Water wells.
Pastor St. Syr told us today that “If your heart is not changed, you’ve got to be a rock.” I confess there are many times I get compassion fatigue, and my heart hardens to the needs of this crazy, topsy turvy world. Or I get so caught up in the mundane that to think about others suffering around the world is too much. Put simply, I can be self absorbed. Because it’s so darn comfortable.
I didn’t see Jesus act hard hearted when He walked this earth. He alleviated pain, healed lepers, touched outcasts, validated villains. He would’ve walked the streets of Haiti and stopped to talk, weep alongside, and salve pain.
I don’t want to leave this place hard hearted, folks. So would you pray that God would continue to break my heart? That it would be supple in His hands?
That I would see the face of Jesus on the face of every. single. person I meet? Can you see Him here?
Pastor St. Cyr said to us today, “You can’t experience [the closeness of] Jesus in America. You have too much back-up.” And he’s right. We are the answer to our own prayers. If we’re sick, we go to the doctor. Our first kneejerk reaction is not to pray, not to ask Jesus for wisdom, not to run into His capable arms. We solve our problems, and in doing so, we stiff arm the Lord.
The pastor’s words haunted me as we walked the dusty streets of Tent City, where nearly 20,000 people still live in tents years after the earthquake. I captured two of them below.
I tried to imagine my family living in a tent for that many years. Sewage. Rain. Disease. The elements. And yet, as we stepped into the circus-tent sanctuary to worship Jesus, joy erupted in worship. And I felt in some way I had come home.
People who come to the end of themselves find that kind of fellowship, right? We who finally realize that we are a mess and need God for everything can forge friendship with each other. I had the privilege of sharing my own small story with these folks. And they amened and smiled and knew.
What I really learned today is that the need may be great, but God is greater still. That it’s not the money and our desire to help that changes a community, it’s relationship, and walking in with a learner’s posture, as fellow pilgrims on a journey to the better kingdom.
Haitians understand this cannot be our home. But sometimes in the affluence of the suburbs (I’m speaking to myself here), we forget. We believe this is our home, and we somehow deserve a perfect life. God made us for so much more. Walking the alleyways of poverty, I realized this is not my true home.
What can you do in response? Consider sponsoring a child through Help One Now. Click the image below to find out more. What I know: these people want to bless communities. They are humble and authentic. And they understand that change is slow, but steady. They find local leaders to resource, and they take the long view in mind. Would you pray about helping in some way? If you’re cash strapped, consider hosting a garage sale for orphans alongside some friends or your church.