Written by the Mission Haiti – Lutheran Church of Hope team, currently serving in Pignon, Haiti
This day, our first full day in Haiti, we woke to the crows of roosters and the baying of goats in the yard. After breakfast, we attended a steamy, tri-lingual (French, Creole and English) church service. The parishioners were dressed in their finest clothes, and the children were beautiful and friendly (especially to our blond-haired Lauren, whose hair they can’t stop touching). The words to the songs were different, but the tunes were beloved and familiar to many of us. Later, we talked about experiencing the feeling of community with worshipers across the globe, where praising the Lord is remarkably the same, regardless of language.
As a paramedic, most of the things we do routinely here fly in the face of everything I’ve been taught. I think the conversation I overheard between my daughter and her soccer coach sums it up:
Coach: “You’re going to Haiti? Is that safe?”
Katie: “It’s safe enough.”
Serving the Lord isn’t safe, metaphorically speaking, and sometimes physically as well. Our group of 12 fits in one small pickup truck, and the “roads” are tooth rattling in many places. People do not wear seatbelts or helmets, they ride three or more to a motorcycle, and we’re advised not to drink the water, or leave the group. But we’ve never feared for our safety. Our hosts are remarkably able at caring for us, the people here are beautiful and friendly, and our drivers are skilled beyond belief. Most of all, the protection of the Lord is palpable.
The risk here, I think, is to our hearts. As is the reward. Our journeys today after church included delivery of food to some of the church’s poorest families, living in concrete block houses or grass-covered huts, with no running water, no electricity, and little food. From there, we spent much of the afternoon at an orphanage run by the church. We made friends with the children we met through the universal language of bubbles, and nail polish, and matchbox cars. Everywhere we went, we held babies and held hands and spoke to parents and older children in our best attempts at French and Creole, or English with those who spoke it. The people we met, while shockingly poor in material goods, were joyous and kind and loving, and we were blessed by them. Many in our group have never seen such living conditions: a city of 30,000 people that goes dark at sunset due to weeks-long lack of electricity, the scarcity of clothing and food and medicine, children living in an orphanage because of abuse, or death, or escape from slavery, or surrendered by their parents because they were starving. And that is the real difficulty we face here, not the food or the heat or the roads, but the slap in the face that is the reality of how people live all over the world, outside of our little corner. People who love their children as much as we do, and want the best for them, just as we do. And the knowledge that we can and are called to help them. Now we know, and we cannot un-know. So we are changed. And tomorrow we will wake with the roosters and go out and share God’s love as best we can. We will pray that another person will accept Christ, like we were privileged to witness at a home visit today. And the blessing will most definitely be ours.