Haitian Reality

Through the Rubble House Wall

We read it may snow in KC this week, but it has not cooled here. Unfortunately no one knows the day’s temperature – at least not any of the Haitians we work with: “You are in Haiti, it is hot.” We asked one of our leaders how many people live in Grand Goave, Port-a-prince, even Haiti, but he did not know. Walking back with Justin a discussion of height came up (size and Justin is a constant topic, another church’s member called him an “action figure”), but when we asked our leader how tall he was… he did not know. Nor did he know his weight.

On weight: none of us are quite sure how much we weigh now because it has been hot. Plus we are breaking up concrete, filling buckets, and carrying them to a dump truck (on day one – we filled the dump truck 4 times). The rocks were then dumped at the house site, where we filled buckets and carried those buckets into the house and poured them down into the four walls** (on day two – we set up the rebar walls and built wood support frames first). Today we were supposed to do masonry and smooth the walls with concrete… but we were back to rubble carrying. It think this is because we have a action figure on our team.

**By the way. Each house is estimated to have 60,000 lbs of rubble. And it take three dump trucks to fill a house. Which mean on Monday we moved  80,000 lbs.

On rubble: Everywhere there are signs of the earthquake’s destruction – from a quake that happened before I became the pastor of Chandler. But the poverty and dysfunction of the nation slows the recovery. Beyond the tent cities, where the chaos, smell, and danger is appalling, we are staying in a safe area. But here there are buildings in need repair, half standing, on every street. The streets, drainage ditches, the city beach, even backyards are filled with trash – without a trashcan in sight. People pile into the remaining homes or makeshift homes (one of the houses we are working will have 13 people staying in a 15×20 space). We can not even brush our teeth with the water from the tap (Joanie had to tell herself to “close your mouth” while showering… a phrase that brought many jokes!). The situation becomes overwhelming. How can we fix this place?? I spent time reflecting on the problems and the needs… but I grew hopeless.

On reflection: Tim mentioned he had not seen himself since we left the airplane. I realized he is right. There are no mirrors in our cabin (Haitians are not against mirrors, the mission is cost cutting). It is strange to not know how you look. It is weird to be unsure where you stand in the beard growing contest (the guys are not shaving). At the same time, this place demands I take the focus on myself. It is not about the hit and miss wifi or the electric power that randomly puts us in the dark or even my sweat and sore muscles.

When I look at the community here, beyond the material destruction, I see happy faces. They do not know so many things that we take for granted, from my laptop to today’s temperature. It is hard to imagine living joyfully here… and in this I see a glimpse of myself. I know that joy is not dependent on things or knowledge, but I  feel as though I need them.

But this is also a view beyond the helplessness of Haiti. In so many technological ways they are behind us, but the community between neighbors and family is far closer than ours. I struggle fixing Haiti, because I am just one person. A person who has to be taught how to use wire to tie the rebar wall to the wood frame. But I learn in relationship. And Haitians will rise forward little by little. One on one. Family to family. Community to community. Small acts creating ripples toward health.

This week a family will move from a makeshift house with tarps into a solid rubble home. And we will have started another house. These are the ripples to rejuvenate Haiti. But we can not do this alone. It will take reciprocation, one reaching out, the people here pulling up. It will take loving our neighbor…

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

All of the world hangs on these two. 

4 thoughts on “Haitian Reality

  1. As you look around and say to yourself “There is so-o-o much left to do and we have to leave!” Just remember God has placed you there and you were obedient to His call at this moment–you will have completed this piece of “fixing” Haiti. Now His next follower will work on the next piece.
    I hope this makes sense. I have that feeling-so much to do-each time I go to India. Blessings to you all.

    1. Thanks Carole! Through your time in India I know you understand the reality here. And I must often be reminded that it is not all dependent on my efforts!

  2. Good stuff. Takes me back to being in Jamaica a couple summers ago, doing the same kind of work. We should swap stories soon!

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