Denise Dent has been volunteering with MH4H for over two years now. She has become a regular family member to the Haiti-based staff, flowing in and out of the country every three months for a month-long visit. Her presence is a natural addition to the team and many people, Haitian and American, look forward to Denise’s regular visits. Below, Denise shares, from her unique perspective, observations on how the Haitian and American cultures tend to interact and thoughts addressing how we can all learn from each other. Keep reading to enjoy this light-hearted yet insightful blog from Denise.
Click here to read Denise’s previous blog.
Many well-intentioned people go to Haiti each year with the mindset that they will “save” it. And by “save” it, I mean that they will bring Jesus to a dark and troubled land. For sure there are unsaved people in Haiti, as there are in any place in the world. However, I would contend that Jesus is already in Haiti and they don’t need us to show them that.
Unlike many other places in the world, there are very few Haitians who have not heard the name “Jesus”. God and Jesus are part of the Haitian culture, whether they are a Christian or not. His name can be seen on the sides of tap-taps (public transit) or used in the name of a business (“Jesus Saves Hardware”, for example). His name saturates everyday conversations: “I’ll be there, God willing.” His name is heard on loud speakers at the market by people praising His name. Teachers teach about God in schools. There are churches everywhere.
Being brought up in a more affluent culture, I have learned to depend more upon myself than truly rely on God for everything. However, in Haiti where the average person has very little, they look to God for their every need. I have been humbled many times by Haitians. I have been put to shame by my lack of thinking about God and his glory or giving him the credit he deserves for what he has done in my life. Often, we are too dependent upon ourselves and our own accomplishments that we don’t even acknowledge God or the role he plays in our successes. It’s not like that in Haiti.
Nothing is taken for granted in Haiti. That something will happen just because you plan for it to happen is not guaranteed. It is always within God’s will whether it will happen or not, not ours. Therefore, very few statements in Haiti are made without adding “if God wants/wills” (si Bondye vle) or “God knows” (Bondye konnen) to the end. People know it’s not up to them whether something will happen or not, but up to God himself and His sovereign will. (see James 4:13-16)
Haitians also know how to do church. Church there is not for those who are constantly checking their watch or get a little more than annoyed when church goes over its allotted time limit. Basically, it’s over when it’s over and there are few constraints regarding what it should look like or how long it should last from one week to the next.
It is always different depending on how many worship songs are sung or how many times the song is repeated or how many people decide to stand up on a given Sunday to perform a special or how long the preacher takes to get his message across. The people are in no hurry; they have nowhere else to be on Sunday because they have devoted this time to God. Including Sunday School class, you can easily be in church for 3-4 hours on a Sunday. They love God and go to church to praise Him, not just to check off a box for the week.
Denise visiting her sponsor child and his family
God is a part of every Haitian person’s vocabulary. “How are you?/ “How was your night?” Good, thanks to God.” “Have a good night with Jesus!”. “I’ll see you tomorrow, if God wills.” “I don’t know if I can do it, but God knows.” These are common sayings you’d hear in Haiti on a given day. I am trying my best to remember to say these expressions more in Kreyòl and in English, as well, because God should always get the glory, gratitude and control over my life. Nothing is up to us or of our own doing and the Haitians get that. I have to constantly remember that and retrain my responses to reflect it.
So, you see, Jesus is alive and well and living in Haiti, so there’s no need to come here to educate the people about God. But do go to Haiti and see what God is doing there. Go and worship with your Haitian brothers and sisters. Go and show them God’s love. Go share with them what God has blessed you with. Just don’t go there thinking you’re going to be the one to teach people about Jesus because you may be the one who gets schooled yourself!