Written by Tim Brand, Executive Leader of MH4H. Tim has been in Haiti the past week (June 25 through July 2).
I always have to chuckle at what most people must think of me when I am in country. Like yesterday, I jumped on the back of Leboise’s motorcycle and took off to the field. The 6’4” white guy on the back of the motorcycle, going through the streets of Gonaives, bring driven by a 150 pound Haitian male. Then it started raining… and it rained hard. So, we jumped inside a market area. Which was perfectly okay by me, because now I got to see and meet people I never would have if God didn’t send the rain. In the market, I don’t think they get too many blanc (white) visitors, so of course the chatter was loud. And soon a 60 year old man came up and started talking with me; we communicated in Spanish better than English or Creole. I found out he has a mo-ped taxi business, charges 20 goudes per ride (about $2), lived in the Dominican Republic for a little while (thus he knew Spanish), and was hungry and wanted me to buy him some food! Of course that was coming… it usually does, as all Haitians tend to think white people have money that grows on trees.
That night, we sat out in the cement courtyard and Paulson, one of the locals who is in 12th grade, grabbed a guitar and just stated playing. Toupom, Silentor’s sister and cook for us in Gonaives, had a hymnal and was singing songs, of which Paulson would find the right chords to play (by ear) and everyone would start singing. The little girls, Silentor’s nieces, were singing as well, which reminded me so much of my Abbie, as they are around the same age. I quickly ran, got the computer, and showed them videos of Abbie singing. They laughed and squealed and wanted to see more. I started pulling up more videos and soon became rather ashamed of all I have. Videos of Mall of America, Adventureland, boating, swimming, and just hanging out at our house. They had never seen grass like my backyard, rides like those at Adventureland, a swimming pool, or a speed boat. The adults just couldn’t get over it and talked about ALL the stuff we have. And I quickly realized… we do. Compared to them, money does grow on trees for Americans.
A comment often made by visitors to Haiti is “They are so happy. They have nothing and they are so happy.” And how right they are, as Haitians are joyful people. I have reflected on this contradiction, as well as getting into the Word, and it became very clear as to where this comes from and why many Western societies seem to be lacking this joy. It is that suffering and joy are unusual companions – they go hand-in-hand. As I heard Bill George once say, “Pain and suffering is that which carves out the reservoirs in our souls to retain joy.” One can’t have complete joy without experiencing complete suffering. Take a biblical look at it. Christ HAD to be murdered (complete and total suffering) so we all could experience tremendous JOY with Him. This is the same reason why John makes the statement in Phil 3:10 that He wants to experience the sufferings of Christ, becoming like Him in death. Sufferings bring about more joy.
Now this is in STARK contrast to Western society as it exists today. We will do anything to not suffer. Everyone strives for a pain-free life. Air-conditioning, huge houses, pills, TV, movies, and cushy jobs. The list goes on and on. And if people do suffer, many times they think God is mad at them or doesn’t love them. And all of this just isn’t the truth. More stuff won’t bring more joy. In fact, it does the opposite. It creates more numbness. More lukewarm attitudes. To live life to the fullest and experience complete joy, one HAS to enter into the sufferings of this world. And that is where we REALLY screw up. We will do ANYTHING to avoid having to experience any suffering. And every day, we drift further and further from God’s call on our life, the perfect and full life He wants us to experience with Him.
Just as it is an unusual paring to see me riding on the back of a motorcycle in Haiti, the relationship between joy and suffering goes against our selfish nature. But, I can promise you, if you want to experience life to the fullest and if you want to have a greater reservoir to retain joy in your soul, RUN to the sufferings of the world. You will never be the same.