Christi Gabhart speaks pointedly into two questions that are on different sides of the same coin. The first is, “How does one manage simply to live in the dire poverty seen across Haiti?” Followed by, “How does anyone working in humanitarian aid cope with poverty fatigue?” As much as we would love to have a list of foolproof steps to follow, there isn’t one. Instead, Christi offers a two word response that will push the reader to seek the Heavenly Father’s wisdom.
The question started out to be, “How do you make a living?” as a Many Hands for Haiti mission team was being introduced to a Haitian woman while sharing a gift of food. Exactly as it happened, a team member began to ask, “How do you…. (pause)…” and the Haitian translator jumped in to finish the question by asking…”How do you LIVE?” Seated in her home with this group of visitors surrounding her, she replied without hesitation, “pa lafwa”….“by faith”.
Just think about that a second. In American culture, people identify themselves often by what one does for a living, as in how you make money to support yourself and your family. A sense of security comes from a steady paycheck, a savings account, several IRA’s, and medical insurance. In contrast, none of those things are in the realm of ‘achievement’ for an overwhelming majority of families in Haiti as well as many other places around the world. It is just not there. You may be thinking, “oh those poor people living in poverty!”
Turn to Matthew 5 and read verses 3 to 10. Start here with the first couple verses quoted from The Message translation of the bible…
3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”
5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are, no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”
(continue reading to verse 10)
Daily we find dire situations at our front door. Recently we met a family: mom, dad, and seven children, who lost their house and everything in it to a fire. No such thing as home owners insurance here. Not long after that, two brothers came to the Many Hands gate to share their concern. Their father is blind and the family has nothing. Especially because it is rainy season, we constantly hear from people who are burdened by living in a stick and mud house with a leaky roof.
This boy needs an operation but is anemic
This baby is nearly one year old and weighs only 10.75 pounds
This man was found just sitting in the yard of the hospital
During church this past Sunday, as it was time for prayer, the pastor beckoned the people…”close your eyes and talk to your father.” As the pastor led the prayer, we prayed “for all the people who don’t have the means to take care of themselves.” Let’s think about this again… if we go back to Matthew 5, WHO are those that are blessed? These very people whom we might feel pity for! Blessed, when you have nothing, so you FULLY rely on God in every moment.
A family doing their best
A personal exchange of text messages between our daughter and I. I begin:
”I have been challenged by some tough things the past several days.”
My daughter shares two pictures of our beautiful granddaughter to “lift your spirits”, along with the invitation, “is it anything you want to share about?”
“Thank you for asking. I think a term I have heard used…’poverty fatigue’ would describe it. I have been doing my normal, caring for people with the various needs that exist, doing several special medical care things…medical help here is always challenging. Seeing malnutrition in babies, visiting people whose needs never end…legitimate needs. Especially notable…anytime I leave MH campus through the gate or return from being out…there is a line up of people waiting to present their needs to see if MH can help. Again, most are legitimate needs. And most often feeling like we have to say, ‘nope, got nothin’, go on home now and have a nice life.’ Just that kind of stuff. But, there are so many rewards in the midst of the challenges. So it is just that time of weathering through. Finding peace and confidence in God’s plan for it all. AND keeping HOPE for tomorrow.”
These words from 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 are what we cling to today.
12) “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 13) But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”
So with all that…how does a person cope with this ‘poverty fatigue’?
Pa lafwa, By faith.
This young woman FOUND a 2.2 pound baby that was abandoned in a latrine
The latrine where the baby was found
Latrine baby at about 2 weeks old
Blessed is the person who has to change this roll
Excited to have water to drink