I used to always look forward to New Year’s even before I moved to Haiti 18 years ago. For me it was a time of evaluation, setting of goals, adjusting course if need be. A reset button built into the calendar so to speak. Of course, like most living in the developed world, I had the luxury of having time to contemplate. Last New Year’s, my father in law, 80 year old Sidoine, was speaking and telling us we never know what is coming or who will be here next year. Less than two weeks later, the nation was literally rocked on its foundations by the earthquake and all the events that followed. In many ways it has been a hellish year, but also one of awe inspiring provisions that could have only come from God.
Much has been written about the past year in Haiti. Almost laughably, the future (politically speaking) has been put on hold for the holidays. As I write this, members of the OAS and powers that be are meeting to decide who and what will happen next. What tangled webs democracies/republics are nowadays, especially when billions of dollars are available to be spent. I’m glad I don’t travel in those realms, instead being a part of the more mundane. Strangely, it becomes clearer and clearer to me that it is the simplest interventions that make the most difference.
Yesterday I was visiting with a young woman who was home for the holidays from pharmacy school in Port au Prince. She and I had become friends 10 years ago or so working together in the children’s church outreach. She had been in the capital during the earthquake last year and returned to try to continue her studies. She has been rejected by her father but little by little, with the help of various people has managed to finish high school and is now attending professional school. What encouraged me the most about our visit was how she was telling me she had learned how important it was to share whatever she had. Whenever she has any extra change, she’ll buy some candy or bread and share it with neighborhood kids just to encourage them. She is a part of a generation of young Haitians who have embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ and is applying it in real ways in her life. Her generation will be the ones who inherit this nation. She reminds me of another young student from years ago. When he was in school struggling to get by, he would come home every day and put his change in a jar. By the end of the semester it would usually total between $30-$50 which he would return to Haiti to pay for school for some young person. Some of the recipients appreciated it; some didn’t thinking they should have received more. (People are alike world over). My point is we should be trying to give to those who’ll continue to pay it forward. Of course, we can’t know the inner motivations of people’s hearts, only God has that privilege (or horror). But as we have the opportunity, we can invest in faith that God will use it and improve life for others.
But I didn’t start writing today to encourage giving, etc. (believe it or not). I really wanted to write and dispel some of the images of Haiti that are out there right now. Of course, the media and world love drama and scenes of people dying of cholera and burning protests in the street. As we got ready to return to Haiti almost three weeks ago there was some question of when to come due to the airlines halting flights; it was really a matter of the airline staff couldn’t get to the airport. Anyway, long story short, we were on the first flight American had in following the election protests. Returning after a 6 week break, we were greeted by now familiar sites of refugee camps right by the airports and throughout the city. I was actually encouraged because despite reports of lack of progress, I saw students in school, more businesses open, and much more activity. Many folks were out in the streets cleaning up after the protests, after all life goes on even after tires are burned in your front yard. I may be jaded after all these years but it looked better than I expected. That being said, there is a palpable sense of post traumatic shock that pervades all of us who live here. The conditions will take decades to improve and it’s absurd to expect any different. That reality is settling in for us, and it is painful and exhausting to consider. I hope that those who continue to try and help will remember how we are all still grieving. The interest in Haiti will dissipate in the coming years, as it always does. I trust the Haitian people will arise and rebuild the nation as they desire and not just accept what others want to do for them.
But survival means continuing on despite where you find yourself. People are moving on; and whether the big NGO’s, UN, MINUSHTAH, or any other initials are ready or not, things will go on. The Haitian people are masters at survival and managing to live in what appears to be chaos to the world. Looking at the whole situation from a secular view point is pretty discouraging. It seems irreparable. But what a perfect stage for God to reveal Himself through the work of His people. Things will improve in Haiti, and it won’t be always be through the big things, it will be one person at a time that sees that if they share what they have, they can change the world.
My prayer: May you do just that, Father, in the New Year. May you expose the injustice; provide mercy to those in need. May those with the courage to trust You, be fulfilled. Amen.