What Surprised Me Most About Haiti

Paul-and-Luigi

 

It’s been over a month since I had the opportunity to spend a week serving at the House of Blessings orphanage in Haiti. Lots of people have asked me…

How was your trip to Haiti?

It’s difficult to sum up an entire week in a couple of minutes. But after stumbling through a lot of conversations and after a lot of reflection, I think I’ve been able to distill it down to two main themes

1) It was awesome!

Yes, “awesome” is an overused word that doesn’t convey a lot of meaning, but I am literally in awe of so many aspects of that week…

  • I’m in awe that God provided financially for the entire team, beyond our needs and expectations so we could bless others in some unexpected ways.
  • I’m in awe that 1,000 pounds of food, shoes, clothes and school supplies were donated and all 20 suitcases made it through the flight and customs.
  • I’m in awe of how beautiful the rugged Haitian landscapes are
  • I’m in awe of the staff of and kids at House of Blessings, how caring they are, how God is at work in their lives.
  • I’m in awe of how well our team bonded and worked together – from 3 different churches, ages 18 to over 60.
  • I’m in awe of what happened when we drove an hour to a desolate ridge where Frankie is being called to plant a church, how people came seemingly out of nowhere, and how they responded.
  • I’m in awe of the glimpse we got of the beautiful bride of Christ (the church) worshiping her Lord each night, Haitians and Americans, singing, talking and praying together.

BTW, if you’d like read more about what happened each day, you can do so here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4,  Day 5, Day 6, Day 7-8. Or if you’re a more visual person, you can watch this slideshow:

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2) It was what?

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear, “Haiti?”

I think poverty, corruption, earthquake, tropical diseases, voodoo & spiritual darkness.

So, one of the most shocking things to me was we experienced very little of that…

  • Haiti seems to have recovered from the 2010 earthquake. We didn’t see any rubble or buildings falling apart.
  • We woke up every morning to a beautiful sunrise, the sounds of farm animals and music, people preparing meals and doing other chores
  • We never heard voodoo drums beating in the distance as past teams have. Instead we saw one church up the ridge and another church down the ridge from where we were staying
  • We slept each night on air mattresses in a comfortable bunk house that has fans and a modern bathroom.

I’ve found myself tell people…

“It was a lot easier than I expected.”

I’ve done some reflecting on why that is. And here’s what I’ve come up with…

  • We were 90 minutes outside of Port au Prince in the mountains where there is very little government presence and very little corruption that I could see.
  • While there have been lots of stories about how little money from the earthquake relief actually made it to people in need, over the last 5 years thousands of small teams of people have come to Haiti to help clear rubble and rebuild houses.
  • We stayed in a Christian orphanage that has a two Christian churches nearby each also has a school, all started by Spirit-led individuals many years ago and through them God has transformed many people’s lives. The culture of area has changed dramatically
  • We stayed in a comfortable bunk house built by teams of people on past missions trips.

Most people want to solve Haiti’s problems from the top down by electing a better government, reducing corruption, providing billions of dollars of aid.  So far that hasn’t seemed to change much.

But what I experienced was a part of Haiti that is being transformed from the bottom up, by individuals being led by God to love and give and serve others. Through them others are coming to know and follow Christ. As God transforms the hearts of individual people, they are less corrupt, less abusive, more giving. As individuals are being changed by God, it is changing the community.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have. – Margaret Mead

4 Responses to “What Surprised Me Most About Haiti”

  1. Thank you Paul for a very good well written expression of the impact the Haiti trip had on you! I’m sure House of Blessings and the community were greatly blessed by the team’s ministry, and retrospection after returning can result in a transformed world view for those who went! Bless you, the team, and all who gave to make the trip possible!

  2. Paul – I ran across your post from a link by Frank Viola. Since I just returned from my 4th trip, I just spent two weeks at our Children’s Home in Port au Prince. (Haiti officially no longer has orphanages.). I have been goIng since 2012. My first trip was to experience the Gospel in Haiti as a seminary practicum. All that to say – Haiti is not better today than after the earthquake. It is much worse in all the ways you supported it was. The capital city is still full of crumbled buildings, starvation, disease, and the millions that entered the country had very little lasting effect on sustainable production, housing, employment, or safety.

    The one area it is better is that many of the tent cities have been closed and the people moved outside the city itself. But they still have nothing. During the time you were there the elections had just occurred. The US citizens I know there are still watching and preparing to evacuate if rioting gets worse, which is very possible the last week of this month after the runoff elections.

    Please do go back and spend time in the communities, in PaP. I can recommend a good taxi driver to take you around to see the real Haiti.

    • Thanks Mike! I appreciate hearing your observations of Haiti. It’s disappointing to hear you’re seeing things worse off than before in the areas where you have spent time, but I’m not surprised. Just to be clear, I wasn’t saying Haiti as a whole has gotten better. I said the area where our team went (Calebasse) seems to have changed a lot for the better.

      If anything your observations support what I wrote in the original post that things are only improving in small pockets where… as individuals are being changed by God, it is changing the community.

      I hope you’ll stay engaged in Haiti despite the discouraging circumstances. And I pray that you’ll begin to see glimpses of God’s transforming power at work where you’re serving even if Haiti as a whole continues to struggle.

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