Friday, July 23, 2010
Haiti: the mirror on the wall
The other week I had the opportunity to visit Haiti for a few days. It was my first trip there. I always wanted to go, but never got the chance. I expected what most people expect from a visit to a third world country...My life would be changed, I'd be so thankful for what I have, I would be taken back by the devastation and poverty, I would have an "experience" to talk about. God had other things in mind for me when I stepped off the plane.
Upon our arrival in Haiti, it felt like I had been there before. I felt like I was home. (I did not expect this at all) Our bags were lost, so we began the first few days of our trip simply as we were. I didn't mind that either. My clothes didn't matter. Despite the absence of electricity, the ever present bugs and lizards in our house, I found myself at home. As Haiti began to "expose" itself to me, it made sense. Haiti, in all of it's devastation, poverty, and brokenness beyond repair, was a visual reflection of my life. I was not a stranger among the rubble. I did not have to focus on the poverty, and this was certainly not an "experience." Being present in these people's lives was an honor. I had an urge to respect their sacred stories of pain and suffering. This trip was not about me, it's was about them, their lives, their souls. The poverty is what it is...it will always be there, the city will never be cleaned up completely. As we drove around in the aftermath 6 months after the earthquake...the mess is so massive you want to throw your arms up in the air and give up...it cannot be repaired. This is how I feel some days at home. I look at the mess, the broken lives of my children, our home, our family, and I know that although it will get better, we will never be fully repaired. The buildings of Haiti crumbled. The rubble is everywhere, but the people get up every day and live among it. Each day they press on. It is the same for me. I can't stop living. I just get up and do it, one day at a time.
One day as we drove through the city, my eyes fell upon a woman sitting outside her "tent" caring for a small baby and a little girl. The woman was worn. She obviously gave all she had to care for her children. As I approached her, my mother's heart met hers. She beat her chest telling me she was dry. She couldn't nurse her baby. I saw an empty bottle of milk and the baby looked like it was nourished, but the mother's fear spoke to me...to have nothing left to give her baby. I sat in the doctor's office the other day. Presenting a child with real physical pain, yet the exam was normal. I sat there and in my heart I was pounding on my chest telling the doctor I have nothing left. I need help. I don't know what to do. My heart went back to that Haitian mother as I reflected her pain.
I was amazed that although the poverty is so big in Haiti, I saw past it. Joy and sorrow collided as I played with the children. As we played , the children laughed. But, what is more the parents stood around and watched me play with their children. I saw their souls fill up with laughter as they enjoyed their children's laughter through my play with them. I love to watch my children have fun with other people too! Once again, I connected. These people aren't objects of the news! Haiti is not an experience! The morning devotions where we stayed was more than a blessing. Although the whole service was in Creole, God was ever present and the message was simple but huge. These people look to Jesus first. Their trust in God comes first. They can't supply their own needs. They are physically poor, but they are rich in spirit! They try each day to rise above their suffering to see God. The messages were so simple. It was glory behind their faces that was so powerful!
In the plane, on the way home, I looked out my window. The sky was blue, the sun was shining down. The clouds were brilliant white reflecting the sun. It was then that I looked down below the the beauty to see that the same clouds that beheld the suns reflection were dark and heavy below. If I were to stand below the clouds, all I would see was the storm. I had the privilege to physically rise above the storm and behold the beauty beyond. This kind of beauty is what I saw in the faces of Haiti. The smiles that don't fit into the picture. How can that be? Joy among sorrow. Only though Christ. It is one day at a time. I understand. This trip was not an experience, it was not about me! It was about them! "It is what it is" .... and we might not be able to fix it, but we can make a difference little by little as we focus on them and not ourselves. The side effects of coming home may be life changing, but they are simply side effects...not the main goal in entering the aftermath. Coming home, I realized that the devastation in America is huge as well...we may not be poor physically, but we are poor in spirit. Perhaps this is why we are called to rejoice in our suffering!