(LaGanove, Haiti. Photo by Rachel Fears)
I have a confession: I suck at “wrapping up”.
How do you begin to wrap up a trip? Especially when the trip represents the bigger chunk which has become your way of life?
I feel like we’ve been playing the most giant game of twister ever: left foot Haiti; right foot Dominican Republic; left hand Alabama; right hand Kona. With this type of lifestyle, we get to experience so much. With that though, it also presents different challenges than we’d face living in the ‘burbs. Different, not more or less difficult.
There’s this pressure that has sat upon us as we journey, about the action. What we do requires great action. There’s an action that responds (or acts proactively) to the water crisis. Build catchment tanks. Build RUS pumps. Teach communities. Play with kids and show them how to wash their hands. Its easy for all of us to get wrapped up in one of the largest problems of our generation: people’s lack of access to clean water. Must. Fix. Must. Help. It’s almost robotic.
This trip, our third journey into Haiti and first into the Dominican Republic, was no different. With such a specific focus, you can have people lined up around the block to tell you about their need for clean water. You can walk outside and see the wells being pumped. You can look at the water sources and know its not sufficient to sustain life and health. During this especially rainy season, you can think to yourself how one rain can fill up an entire tank and how you can think of a couple dozen places to do this in communities you’ve seen.
How do you wrap up the problems you’ve seen?
How do you wrap it up nice enough to tell people about, yet sharp enough to pierce them with? How do you plead your cause without being offensive? How do you tell people about the things you’ve seen?
As I continue to ponder these things in my “wrapping-up-ness”, I have slowly realized that I am being taught how to become an advocate. The people I know and the villages I walk into and the orphanages I play in…they are all stories. Often, I try to poetically scribble down their struggles, heartaches and culture. I want to be able to tell their stories with the dignity and grace they deserve. I want to be able to share with both the excitement of doing a new project or discovering a new community to teach while conveying the pain of knowing there is so much more to be done.
What I am coming to realize is that these stories really tell themselves.
The problem is, more often than not, I want to put things in neat little packages. The process. The wrapping up. The orphanage in Montrious. The old women on the side of the road in Port-Au-Prince with whom I spoke Creole. The new forms Ryan created which Haitians in Hinche caught onto so well. Just what it means to have a tropical storm like the one that just hit this island… how the rampant disease is spread throughout because of a lack of basic sanitation. I want to be able to wrap these things up, package them, tell their stories and just know I will do a good job. I want to know I can convey their situations and stories without the thought or concern of getting too emotional (no one likes that, right?)
I am discovering that God, the God we serve, is all about the story. Because of this, I can’t separate much. I don’t know how to package the idea that “Children and women have the right to an education and how providing clean water can give them time to do this” without thinking about those long rocky roads in Laby, watching people collect water daily. I can’t tell people why they should CARE if people have access to sanitation teaching and empowerment without thinking about Philipson, who was already a great man and leader…but now knows how to provide clean water for his country, sharing God’s love in a practical way.
So, to wrap this up, the island of Hispaniola is not just another place I have been. It’s not just some place that needs water. I think about it a lot and the stories of the people there have infiltrated my heart and have effected the way I look at the world. JusticeWater is not just another water organization, it’s an organization that seeks to first love like Jesus and empower people THROUGH providing for the physical. More importantly, it’s family. The stories I have collected throughout our time here will stay in my heart. They won’t always come out neat. There won’t always be a way to wrap it up. And, I am starting to think I am ok with that.