Haiti is hard
"Haiti is hard," said FanFan, one of our beloved Haitian hosts at the guesthouse of Grace Village, as he saw me alone on the patio partially praying and partially crying. Hard isn't even close to what it has been like to see mile after mile of cobbled together huts of any material their inhabitants can find...even cardboard. Hard can't describe the filth and utter lack of sanitation everywhere. Hard can't possibly describe the masses of people of all ages sitting idly by with apparently nothing to do. Hard doesn't describe the incredible absence of any kind of reasonable infrastructure. And hard DEFINITELY cannot describe the pain of seeing how Izna, an elderly woman, whose "home" needed some new tarps, was living:
As we approached Izna’s "home" we quickly saw the extremely inhumane conditions under which she was living. There was a square (maybe 6x6) makeshift shack with a patchwork of various old tarps and canvas as walls--most of which were worn to threads from the weather. Then as we walked up to the shack from the truck, a young boy (maybe 6 years old) walked up and greeted us with a smile which surprised us given that we had been asked to go help an elderly woman. We thought maybe he was from a neighboring shack. Then, as we came to the front of the shack, we saw Izna–the worn, elderly woman, barefoot and hunched over her fire in a nearby shanty. She came out to greet us but when she did, her back only slightly straightened from her 90 degree angled stance. She wore a worn out dress and carried a filthy rag in her hand which she used alternatively to wipe the sweat from her face and to pat her mouth from the drool which inevitably fell from her wrinkled mouth as she was so hunched over. She clearly didn't understand why we were there at first, but when our young interpreter told her we were there to replace her tarps she groaned a barely audible "merci- merci."
No, "hard" does not describe this painful experience.
My eyes immediately welled up with tears of frustration and anger that an elderly woman would be allowed to live this way. But the worst was when we peered inside to figure out how we would secure the tarps to the dilapidated structure. What we saw inside made us shudder: a dirt floor, a pile of junk in a corner, a purse strung from the "roof" full of who knows what, a covered 5 gallon bucket of water with a single cup on top, and worst of all a small 2' x 4' metal frame with rags on it as a bed. And on top of that "bed" an approximately 4 year old child sound asleep; bare naked on the bottom with a tattered shirt on the top. So these kids are under the care of this woman! "How can it be?" we wondered. Asking the 6 year old where his mama is, he points to the elderly woman. How about Dad? "He's gone." Nowhere did we see any food in this shack.
No, "hard" does not describe the depth of pain. So where is the hope? Where is the beauty? Where is the goodness? God, who is not deaf or blind to these awful conditions feels her pain and has sent the Healing Haiti organization to help her (which is why we are there to replace the tarps). In His mercy, he demonstrated to those of us who were there to help, that he can connect us through His spirit to anyone....no matter how different they are from us or how different their circumstances are from ours. We are bound together through the spirit of Christ. As I embraced Izna, I could sense the Holy Spirit connecting us. Then we all placed our hands on her shoulders and Trent prayed for her, while Sue (our team leader) held her hands. At the end she didn't want to let go of Sue's hand and she bowed low with tears flowing. Sue began to sing a simple song in Creole speaking of the love of Christ and Izna repeated the words herself. That is beauty. That is goodness. And that brings hope.
Izna is only one in a sea of Haitians living under these circumstances. The Healing Haiti organization is performing Herculean efforts to help and is making significant progress in correcting the injustice for those who suffer: both young and old. A well-run orphanage with dormitories, a new school where 350 children attend (only approximately 55% of Haitian children go to school), a feeding program for the elderly, and a new clinic that will open in the fall.
By bringing all these teams to Haiti, the Healing Haiti organization is awakening the sleeping giant of the church (in the collective sense...to use C.S. Lewis' terms) to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
After participating in this mission trip, I'm even more excited about the partnership we have established between Liberty Classical Academy and the Healing Haiti organization. I am overwhelmed by the thought of the influence our students, staff and families will provide for the benefit of the Haitian people! Along with the meeting of their day-to-day personal needs, the Haitians desperately need the gospel and excellence in education. The Liberty community is perfectly equipped to provide that essential help in a humble and loving manner. And while doing so, our Liberty students, families and staff will in turn be transformed into a more appreciative and Christ-like community!
Praise God for this partnership and may He bless it immensely for His glory!
Rebekah Hagstrom M.A.