I read a blog by Anne Jackson called “Unfinishedness” that has opened a floodgate of emotions about Haiti. I still have not had time to fully digest all that I experienced there. My heart and mind are having a hard time lining up. My heart breaks for those I left behind, the ones who are working so hard for a better life. I never met people so strong and resilient. It seems that no matter what they come up against, they fight and move on. Extreme poverty is nothing new to Haiti. They have been poor for as long as anyone knows. Missionaries have been there for decades helping ease the pains of a badly dealt hand of cards. I have had two of my new friends contact me since I have been home and as I think of them and their situation it becomes increasingly difficult to choke back the tears that my heart longs to get out.
If I were asked to put my experience in one word, that word would be pathetic. Not for the Haitian people, but rather for those of us who have lived so close and have done so little. I once read an article about why people of other nations seem to have a hatred for the U.S. and it concluded that it was based on our wealth to giving ratio. In the eyes of other countries we have so much wealth but do so little to change the plight of so many in the world. I won’t say if I agree with this or not, but I will say that perception IS reality for those on the outside, which means we could probably be doing a whole bunch more.
I know some may say, “What about all those in the U.S. that are going hungry and living in poverty? Why don’t you do something about that first, then go help another nation?” My responding question is this, “Why don’t you?” I am no expert, but I have seen a pattern that disturbs me. Most people that I know who complain about any given topic and their dislike of any given situation are DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO CHANGE THE SITUATION! I’m not writing this to start an argument or enrage people, but instead, I write this as a plea for Americans to think outside of our borders. I know that times are difficult. I know that we have our own needs in this country, but what I saw in Haiti is unacceptable. It is unacceptable for me to live so close to a people who are hurting so much without doing everything I can to make a difference.
I talked to people who lost everything. They lost their home, their job, their car, their family, and their sense of stability. I was there when a 4.4 aftershock killed another 200 people. It seemed so slight that I managed to sleep through it. It shows the instability of life in Haiti. It shows the uncertainty of the future of Haiti. Yet, through all of this, I heard people worshiping God in the middle of such destruction. I heard people praising God that He was still with Haiti. I saw a woman who had a stroke praising God, not because she was healed, but because she had less pain than before we came. I saw a man jumping up and down with such joy yelling, “Praise Jesus!” in creole because we brought him some tarps so they could have some protection from the weather. I held the had of little children who had no parents to hold them, and though we couldn’t communicate with words, we did through physical contact. I saw the joy on a kids face when he received a bicycle from an American who saw a need and did something. This same child sat with his right foot bandaged, unable to use the bike at this time because he had to have two of his toes amputated. I saw a child with scabies so bad that he had dozens of open, oozing sores all over his body and all he could do was sit there and cry and scratch because there was no medical treatment. Say what you want about our health care system, but at least a child like this could have a chance at treatment here. I saw things that I never expected to see and it moved my heart to make a difference.
Like Anne Jackson, I too cannot sign off on Haiti as completed in my life. I cannot stop thinking about Haiti, feeling for Haiti, and hurting for Haiti. I will be returning by the end of the month to spend at least four weeks there. I don’t know if this will create the conclusion that I am seeking. I don’t know if I will have a huge impact on Haiti, but I can be assured that I will impact those who God has brought into my path. I can do everything I possibly can to make a small change in a country with seemingly no direction and a people with little hope for a better future.