Well our trip to Haiti has come and gone, yet my mind has only begun to process what I witnessed and experienced. I am finding it difficult to answer the question that I often get asked,“did you have fun in Haiti”? I’m not sure if that is just a way of getting a conversation started or if people think that I went there for vacation. Anyway, I would not define the trip by the word “fun”. Fun is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think back upon that week in early June. Eye-opening, awestruck, speechless, chaotic, moved to tears, overwhelming, heartbreaking are a few of the ways that I would describe it. Yet, in the same sentence I would include beautiful, joyous, humbling and downright amazing. Before we left on our journey, because I am coming to the realization that is exactly what we were on and continue to be on, (more on that later)I was told by a friend that has been to Haiti on numerous occasions that you will have a very difficult time sharing your experience with others. You see, words, although extremely powerful…well there are just times, times like this, when words simply are inadequate. With that in mind, I will do my best to give you small glimpse into the world of northwest Haiti.
First off, travel is not a quick process. Why you may ask? Let’s just say that paved roads are few and very far between. Cars do not exist on the roads of northwest Haiti, only trucks, busses, motorcycles and a vast array of donkeys. Imagine the worst pothole- strewn street you know and multiply it times ten. When in Haiti, if someone describes a pothole that could swallow a car, that is not figurative since I thought on numerous occasions that the busses we rode on were going to disappear once we entered into such holes on the road.
The poverty and lack of infrastructure are glaringly obvious. From the trash and open sewers that flow throughout the region to the nakedness of young Haitian children and absence of clean drinking water, life in Haiti, from a physical standpoint is worlds apart from life here in the U.S. I could go on and on about the physical living conditions and I could easily allow myself to be consumed by it, yet this is only a small part of the bigger story, the journey. You see, I went to Haiti not only to experience what the living conditions were like,I also went to see how God is using his people in a land that truly has to rely on him for survival. Despite the common assumption, not all Haitians are lazy, nor do they all rely on handouts and donations. If all Haitians are lumped into this category then the man I worked with digging a massive hole for a water tank ( if we were in the U.S. we would have used a backhoe), who by the way was a good twenty years older than me, is a rarity in this region. Or maybe it was the man pushing a wheelbarrow overflowing with cinderblocks up a hill that most people would find difficult to climb without the added load. Or maybe it was the numerous Haitian women we would cross paths with each day that balanced tremendous loaded baskets upon their heads traversing the busy roads and streets of northwest Haiti. Lazy? Freeloaders? Not exactly.
Haiti is alive. From the outside looking in all we see is the devastation and we want to fix it and fix it right now. Many things have to change in Haiti, but due to the lack of infrastructure, much of this is out of the control of the Haitian people. At the same time, God is certainly at work in northwest Haiti and at a pace only He can explain. He has laid it upon the hearts of many, Americans and Haitians alike, to share His love with a part of the world that knows poverty and destruction intimately. He has given us the opportunity to help meet not only the physical needs of a hurting people, but their deeper emotional and spiritual needs as well. On one such occasion while delivering a week’s worth of food to a family I had the opportunity to talk with the mother of the home (via our translator Karmon). Through our short time together I found out that she was a Christian, yet she did not own a copy of the old or new testament Bible. We were able to give her a copy of the NT in Creole for her to share with her family and neighbors. How will this addition of Gods written word in her native language change her world and those around her? I am not quite sure, yet I can imagine her and her family gathered together reading from that Bible and God piercing their hearts with the message and story that goes far beyond anything I could offer. As we departed I held her hands in mine and we prayed and thanked God for allowing us to cross paths.
It was the moments like that, when God allowed me to take a glimpse into the real work that is taking place in His world. You see, the physical changes and advancements in Haitian society are valuable. Clean water, shelter, employment, safety…all of these things are truly important. Yet it is the foundation built upon God that will truly create lasting change for the better in Haiti. When the story of Jesus is shared with people and their lives are forever transformed by His message of hope and redemption…that is where the real change will begin. Because of Jesus Northwest Haitian Christian Mission and other missions like it are thriving. I have so many more stories to tell of delivering meals to the elderly, visiting the missions large orphanage out in an extremely remote part of the country, walking through a voodoo temple in the town of Ansefaleur, holding, playing and dancing with special needs children, painting the faces of children while at the beach, being carried through the water to a sailboat on the shoulders of a Haitian man, feeding kids peanut butter sandwiches, sharing stories with other missionaries, laughing, crying, praying…the list goes on and on.
Please know I am forever grateful that you chose to support me and the work God is doing in Haiti. I honestly could have not done it without you. Again, thank you for allowing God to use you and me in order to share His message. If you have any questions or would like to just sit down and talk about the trip please let me know. I would love to share more with you.