Reflections From Haiti
I sit here in my suburban home mulling over our recent trip to Haiti and two things continue to come to mind.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. … Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25-26
Haitians eat twice a day. Breakfast and late afternoon when kids get home from school. Most Americans cannot imagine this. We have pantries full of safe food ready at a moments notice. We have microwaves, freezers, refrigeration, pre packaged foods. Haitians have two giant kettle pots that cook over propane flame- so you can boil something or fry something.
At first, as a mother, it was difficult to work through the emotion that not only did these children- this country, have no parents to give affection easily and readily when needed or desired, but that they also felt hungry most of the time. But do you know what? Jesus lives there. He walks there, every day, all the time. Every orphanage that I put my foot in had fruit trees. Mango trees and banana trees grow wild there, even in the most desolate of places like downtown Port-au-Prince. (yes, the city is definitely more desolate that any countryside I saw). There were vegetable gardens and a
chicken farm. Children could easily eat fruit whenever they were hungry as the trees were heavy with fruit- even in January.
Psalm 22:26 “The poor shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD.
The other thought that continues to swirl around in my head- mostly as I look at my cluttered house after being gone for 5 days, is Matthew 19:23-24 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Now obviously, this one crawls under my skin the most; everyday, not just on return of visiting the poorest country in the western hemisphere, God is good. He showed me, not once or twice but almost constantly (I’m pretty sure He wanted me to understand, absorb and internalize) the truth of this very verse. These people who live in what we consider the most abject poverty joyfully and joyously call His name and praise Him. Daily. Not just Sunday. In church. Amen lets go eat lunch. Our group was in Haiti on the third anniversary of the earthquake that killed 220,000 people, injured 300,000 and caused 600,000 people in Port-au-Prince alone to seek shelter outside the city. We were witness to a small group of people singing and praising God at the site of their church that was a roof with one wall and posts and the pews were cinderblock and rocks stacked up. They wore colorful clothes, raised their voices up to the heavens and danced around the large cross that stood just down from their “church”. It was powerful. They are grateful. They are loved. They FEEL it. I knew it, even in French creole, I knew it. Jesus danced with them. Jesus wants to dance with me. He wants to dance with you. He stands and waits, eager for us to dance, to sing, to praise, to be grateful for the great bounty He has provided. But I have trouble seeing. I have abundance and sometimes abundance blinds us to the gifts of God. At church on Sunday, the pastor spoke of the treasures of heaven that await. I did not hear prayers for more. More here on earth. The congregation rejoiced for heaven and what is waiting. The poorest country in the Western hemisphere, devastated by a massive earthquake that is still evident 3 years later, a country without trash pickup, without reliable electricity, without a sewage system, without readily accessible water and they were praising Jesus! They were thankful for all that He provides. Each day, Jesus provides for that day their needs. He provides mine. He provides. If I don’t have it, perhaps I don’t need it. I realize that mostly what I pray for are earthly treasures that moths and rust destroy. Thank you Lord, for showing me true treasure and help me to hold it close for the rest of my earthly walk until I see you face to face.
Looking with New Eyes
- “One of our Haiti team members sat next to a nun from Haiti on the plane to Port-au-Prince. This nun gave her the best advice for experiencing Haiti. She said, “When looking at Haiti, try to look with your heart, and not your eyes.” Right and wise she was! When looking with our eyes, we saw hopelessness, filth, poverty, and rotting things. However, when we looked with our hearts, we saw compassion, grace, sacrifice, hard work, provision. I am definitely going to jockey to sit next to nuns on plane flights more often”
- “Jehovah Jirah in Haiti. God provides for Haiti. I remember going to Africa to the see McReynolds (our church partners) and weeping over a desolate, sparse and forsaken land. God showed me His provision, but Africa left me feeling more hopeless than I had ever felt. How the Lord has chosen to change me over the past three years to see His provision! Haiti was smellier, dirtier, more crowded, way more polluted, more dangerous than Africa…and yet…I left feeling that the Lord has so very much blessed this place…there is food, there is some water, there is rebuilding, there are joyful and God loving people running orphanages, there is hope“
Some Pleasant Surprises Along the Way
- “I was expecting to leave Haiti with a longing to bring an orphan or two back home with us. But to my surprise, they don’t want to leave. They just want to play “duck, duck, goose” or color together or braid your hair or just be picked up and held. They have joy and hope of a Savior in their eyes.”
- “Many of us know that Alison Acton has a heavenly voice, a voice that would make a pure white angel turn green with envy. However, did you know that Josh and Robin Eby are hiding vocal talents behind their California smiles? Yes, as a congregation should expect–no, demand a couple’s duet at the Easter service or our next church picnic”
- “I prefer warm showers and cold beer, but the warm beers and cold showers of Haiti are surprisingly refreshing.”
- ” Pastor Calix’s orphanage, the orphanage that All Saints sponsors, is filled with kids who have better teeth than our own children. Seriously.”
- “I spent two hours playing and singing with one of the mommas (these women live at the orphanage and take care of the kids full time)…I would sing and play guitar…and she would harmonize with me….then she would start singing a song…and I wold play guitar and harmonize to her song…it was magical…we had the sweetest “musical” conversation…teary and laughter and sweet.”
- By definition, “prestige” (n) means: respect and admiration felt for someone or something on the basis of their achievements or quality.
- These two “prestiges” were clearly God-designed! Each night, the eleven of us would gather upstairs on a rooftop overlooking the city of Croix de Bouquet. The group would drink this cold-ish beer and participate in an “official” Global Orphan Project “bead” ceremony (also affectionately known as the “bead down”). Our group took turns encouraging each another by pointing out the acts of service, leadership, compassion and risk that we had seen demonstrated earlier in the day. The recipient of this encouragment received a colored bead corresponding to a color that signified their act. Little did we know that while we sipped our Prestige beers, we were in fact acting out Prestige…we were prestige-ing (if you’ll permit the invention of a verb). Bead Ceremony, Bead Down…Prestige Ceremony…It was a forced way to encourage, definitely not typical of churches like ours, but I really enjoyed the reflection it forced upon the group.
- A person who speaks even a little French can get along quite well in the Creole language. If you know any All Saints folks are looking for a way to put their rusty high school French to good use, I know a Haitian orphanage that could benefit.
If You Go…
If you go back to Calix’s orphanage, they will be singing Isaiah 43 “Do Not Fear,” thanks to Alison Acton teaching a group of teenage girls. Their voices need no instrumental accompaniment. Music was one way that unified us across cultures and taught us that we worship the same God.