Today is the anniversary of Haiti’s appearance in the news because of the large, horrible earthquake and aftershocks it felt on this date in 2010. But it was just over 4 years ago when Haiti truly walked into my life. Prior to that time, I had only considered going to Haiti that January after the earthquake when my friend Ashley asked me to go with her. Other than that, it was a little island on the map, both dangerous feeling and too close to home.
Yet, in late 2010, when it was time to select the place we’d go for our “outreach” portion of our training with YWAM, Ryan and I, individually and then together, were sure there was no other place we’d rather go. I remember how nervous we were to tell one another that we thought we should consider going to Haiti- were we nuts? But, there she was and we couldn’t look away.
She looked helpless. When you researched Haiti, it was easy to see. Gray. Destroyed. Abandoned. She was screaming for help, wasn’t she?
Haiti, you beautiful place, you. Going and pretending like you needed my help just to woo me into your big, Caribbean arms. Somehow flying in feels like flying home now. Over time, your air grew clearer and I could finally see what was there all along- Creole seasoning, salty air, tropical fruit and a people alive with passion and life. You just lured me right into your gregarious culture with your yummy food and your resilient story. Man, can you tell a story.
You tell a story no website or church or t-shirt campaign can contain- of bloodshed, of struggle, of pain. You tell a story of hopelessness, of doubt, of being abused and taken advantage, even by those who are supposed to be there to help you. You share a story about not believing in yourself, of passing the buck because of it. You have thrown us into the story of reconciliation- with yourselves, with God (who is, turns out, the God also of Haiti and not just of the oppressors). You have weaved a story of hope and a future. I am enthralled by your characters, your struggle, your power, your hope.
Your places are unique- and full of pollution and ocean air. Your streets have trash and also flower markets. Your women are wise and full of knowledge. Your men are loud and struggling to provide for their families. Your children aren’t young- even the babies know so much about survival. You have taught me so much about the family structure. You have shown me that orphanages are not necessarily a Godly answer to a problem of kids needing parents. It is through you that God has shown me that it requires so much more than good intentions to help children at risk and their parents. He has used you to show me so many run down ideas- good intentions-that don’t work.
You have given us struggles. You have made those faces we saw so long ago faces of real people with real stories and real thoughts and real dreams. You have reminded me that the people who belong to you are people who belong to us. You have reminded me that there is a way to turn our backs to the incredible amounts of injustice happening- but that if we persist that we can breakthrough with our friends here and find potential solutions.
Your land is fertile. Your people humble. Your language, honestly, still really difficult for me. But, imagine what it would have been like if I would have stopped making fun of Ryan for trying to learn Kreyol those long 4 years ago? Perhaps then I would speak easier and he more fluently.
4 years ago, I had no idea what kind of nation with which I was dealing. Naively, I thought the story would begin with my entering. I believed the story would stop when I left. Now, I see you threw me into your story, because its all you know to do. To welcome people so deeply that you cannot discern the difference between where our stories start and yours begin is how you work. And, I am so glad I fell, reluctantly, but face first, into your story, Haiti. My life will never be the same again.