Haiti 2016 — After a week of work, Sunday was a literal day of rest. We went to church, ate lunch, and then drove to the beach. Since Hurricane Matthew, it has continued to rain so the dirt roads were now mud puddles. It was so sloppy that our truck was sliding and fishtailing, which forced us to pull over and walk the last half mile. We passed cinder block homes (sheds to us), downed power lines, burning trash, but then we walked out onto a sandy beach. With the ocean waves rolling in, it was a beautiful scene.
A pittance bought us fresh lobsters, mangos, pineapples, papaya (they set up tables and chairs for us). I went snorkeling for the first time. Before entering the water we debated cholera threats and decided we shouldn’t drink the water. The snorkel was strange, but the water temperature was perfect. Soon I was easily gliding over the ocean floor. It was empty sand. A cinder block. Other trash. Scott thought he saw a huge zebra fish, only to realize it was a striped plastic sack (he wasn’t wearing his glasses). Then we found a coral mass. Schools of little yellow fish zipped among regular sized zebra fish. There were small Dory fish and anemones where Nemo might live. The coral was teaming with life. For my first time snorkeling, I was overwhelmed by the beauty.
This is a good description of Haiti. We arrive and notice the need. The trash, the squalor of living conditions. The destruction of water on dirt roads. We walk with a certain fear – missing clean restrooms and water. We worry about mosquitos and dengue. A little child wiped one of Tim’s arms and then smelled her hand – to her Americans smell like deet. This defines my first reaction to Haiti – looking around, I am afraid, and I seek protection.
But a child’s simple touch also pulls at our hearts. The Spirit won’t let our first reaction stand. So as the children held our hands and helped carry empty buckets (we moved lots of rocks and sand for a foundation), as the adults called out “bonswa” and we tried broken communication (Kevin mastered Google Translate), as our Haitian co-laborers fixed our translations and shared their own stories (plus theology)… in all these moments our vision became clear. We were surrounded by God’s good creation – by beautiful people.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” – John 14:18
From earthquakes, to hurricanes. From the oppression of colonialism, to today’s dysfunctional government. From disease to trash to hunger. It is easy to be overwhelmed. Easy to be afraid. Easy to see only the bad. Not just in Haiti, but everywhere and in everyone. But on the first day, one of the translators, John Peter, told me, “there is no bad, just bad users”. This led to lots of conversation and questions – drawn out because we weren’t always able to understand one another. In the end John reminded me of the creation story, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” It is not my place to declare bad what God has declared good. Instead, my place is to bring good to God’s creation. To God’s children.
Haiti is filled with God’s children. Christ has not forgotten them. And I was glad for a week to join the Spirit in going to help. I ask you to do the same. Not just for Haiti, but in everything see God’s intended good. In everyone you encounter see a reason Christ came. Then go with the Spirit to rescue God’s orphans. Seek ways to connect and help. Seek to bring good. And pray for Love to arrive and again make all things beautiful.