Haiti 2016 – We drove around Haiti piled into a Toyota Hilux – a little truck not available in the US. Standing in the bed, with supplies and our Haitian crew, it was packed. On a ride home, especially full, our ladder caught one of the electrical lines.
Let me explain. Not a line from a power pole. While many Haitians have nothing to plug in, those who do, often tap into the electrical lines. Sometimes directly to the pole. Others connecting with their neighbor’s connection. These lines are running everywhere. They do not use power cable wire, but any wire they can find. One line was even barbed wire.
So the ladder on top of the truck caught one of these lines. It popped loose and came flying into our crowded truck bed. I had a brief slow motion moment, assuming we would all be electrocuted. Of all the ways I pondered dying in Haiti – this was unexpected…
Of course there wasn’t any power in the line. After the hurricane most of the communities around Grand Goave are without power. Even before the hurricane, power was spotty (on and off) and not very strong. So I doubt we were ever in danger. Speaking with one of our translators as we worked to put on a roof – they do not expect any power until late November. More likely December.
No one seemed concerned by this timeline. Possibly because they were not paying for the service. But imagine your house without power – imagine the darkness of night. How would you react after a full day, not to mention weeks or months? This dysfunction is a good description for all the systems and infrastructure in Haiti. The water isn’t safe to drink – not just for our weak stomachs, cholera is a real risk. The dirt roads flood with any rain – there aren’t runoffs. There is not a bank to make loans, so the community is filled with half finished homes – the project stops when they run out of money.
For me the problems are overwhelming.
The next day I noticed one of the Haitian carpenters hand their cell phone and charger to Johnson (the Haitian team leader). I asked why and the answer was simple. Since no one has power at home, Johnson takes their phones and charges them while the guys work.
Back at our compound – well lit because of solar panels and a generator – we talked about ways to fix Haiti. I am sure Jenny Jenkins, the missionary, hears the same things from every group. She told us the obvious answer: there is no secret solution, no easy steps. An instant fix, given the scope of the problems, would be a miracle of God. So she suggested we pray.
While we pray for God to come, it was not what we wanted to hear. Jenny, knowing our thoughts, continued, as American’s we want to fix everything. We believe we can fix anything. Which is not a bad thing, but from the outside we can not fix Haiti.
This does not mean we do not act. Instead she urged us to change the focus toward relationships. Rather than focusing on systems, seek to impact one Haitian. Help one family. These small touch points – won’t change the statistics on Haiti. They won’t instantly fix the power grid or ride the land of cholera. But it can move the course of one family. And if we keep reaching, one by one it becomes electric. Each person empowered, in turn empowering their neighbor. Little by little, working together, Haiti may move out of darkness and into the light.
Back in my own neighborhood, reading today’s politics and troubles. It would be nice to flip a switch and bring healing. But change comes slowly – from the inside out. As we act toward one another, in love or in hate, change occurs. Imperceptible. Which is why we often do not care about many little encounters. Yet these moments build to become ground breaking. So we must choose to love. And in this spread the light of Christ.