Morning Devotion

Since our blog post on Friday, I’ve been wondering if there needs to be some kind of follow-up. As I prayed about it, I settled on, “Let go and let God.” If He opens a door, fine. If He doesn’t, that’s fine too.

Well, He did, so here we are again.

The compound where we live and work begins each work day with a staff devotion. Typically, the Haitian leaders pick a verse to focus on over the course of a week. This week’s verse comes from Revelations 3:20:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

As I read and listened to the verse in Creole, the door reference slapped me in the face. Had I not already said, “OK, God, if you open a door…”?

And then we looked at the verse in context. The message was for the church in Laodicea, an area known for its wealth but lacking spiritual vitality. The people in the church had riches and claimed that they needed nothing, but they were poor on the inside. When a knock came at their door (literally or a figurative knock at the heart), the choice of whether or not to open it belonged to the individual. It’s a truth that continues today. And it’s a choice that has some pretty serious repercussions.

Perhaps it’s just me, but there seem to be some similarities between Laodicea and, well, other places. It also seems to be directly related to Friday’s post.

A few of you read anger in the post, but Tim and I were not angry when we initially wrote it. Annoyed, yes, because it’s incredulous to think that this is where we are as a nation. If you could hear us read it, you would hear passion as we try to adequately describe the beauty that is here and our plea for you to check your own motivation.

We all know people who feign righteous outrage. We all know those whose involvement begins and ends with a facebook post. If you are outraged because of the lack of compassion or empathy, how do you answer the question, “what is compassion without action?”

Admittedly, we used the word (bleep) more than necessary to emphasize the ridiculousness of the statement; we own this. The flip side of this is that we are baffled at those who express greater outrage over the use of this word than the degradation of a nation and her people.

Many of you read the post as it was intended. Thank you for knowing us well enough to receive it that way. If you read anger and reached out to us, thank you for respecting us enough to do so. If you read anger and moved on, is it possible that you are feeling convicted about something? Only you know the answer to that question.

To those who think that we are jumping on or off a particular political bandwagon, we are not. This isn’t about politics. It’s about human kindness and decency. We do not seek validation in the number of likes or comments we receive from one side or the other. When I bothered to finally look at the responses, I was intrigued to see similar responses from both sides. That gives me hope.

I did ask myself why I chose to speak up now when I typically turn the other cheek. And I heard this still small voice say, “because I put you there for such a time as this.” I’ve held my tongue in the past, but this was our turn. We don’t know what it’s like to be Haitian, we do know what it is like to live in this country.

Despite our speaking up in defense of Haiti, living here will be different, at least for a little while. There will be people here who condemn us because of what was reported in the media. Trust me, it was all over the news here. My heart breaks for the thousands of people who are in the adoption process who will see their paperwork delayed because of subtle retaliation. I fear for those who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time when there is blatant retaliation. I’m sad that so many Haitians will always wonder if the “blans” they encounter secretly feel the same way as what was reported. How can anyone be effective in ministry when that barrier exists? This is real life stuff. This is kingdom stuff.

We were asked to soften the language of the original post, which we did out of respect for the people who asked, but you need to know that anger is not what drove our remarks. I am sad that many of you don’t know this beautiful place and aren’t willing to know her, but I can’t force you to open the door when there is a knock.

Back to this morning’s devotion. We had more people than usual, so when we stood and made our circle for the closing prayer, we filled the dining room. It seemed to me that there was the proverbial elephant in the room so I did what I do best. I spoke up. I wanted our colleagues to know exactly where I stand on this issue. After all, there are enough things that divide us; we don’t need more.

It is in these moments, when we can share gratitude and appreciation and respect for one another, that we find relationship, where we find healing, and we find love.

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Why We Choose to Live in Haiti

Writing this blog was not on my to-do list today, but as we see newsfeeds filled with posts and comments, we feel compelled to tell you why we choose to live in a (bleep) country.

It’s our job.

We live here because this is where our work is. It was a calling from God and a step of faith because let’s be honest… up until that point, neither one of us had ever pined to live in Haiti. The country was seldom on our radar screen and when it was, it’s because of something that was devastating or negative. But then we came here and learned more about this place and it will forever be a part of us.

Natural beauty.

This country has so much natural beauty, it could blow you away. The entire land mass is about the size of Maryland, but we have beautiful beaches, desert cacti, pine forests, and banana trees at the base of mountains that look like a scene from the movie Jurassic Park. The way the Artibonite River winds its way through the countryside shows its perseverance. Gorgeous waterfalls and basins, historical landmarks, breathtaking sunsets, terraced hills, and vast mountain views, all wrapped up in a tiny geographic package.

The people.

Haitians are beautiful, strong, resilient, and resourceful. They put up with so much and just keep keeping on. Are some corrupt? Yes. Do some steal? Absolutely. It’s because they are people too, just like you and me. They have families that they love, and they have hopes and dreams. They deal with serious issues as best they can, just like everyone else in the world.

Their level of patience and ability to accept whatever situation comes their way is enviable. Those in the developed world complain when they see a bank line with 4-5 people in it. Imagine walking into a bank and seeing 70-80 people in line. If you have a car that seats four comfortably, could you ride two hours with 7-8 people packed in?

As you read this, some of you may say, “I could never do that; thankfully I don’t have to.” There are many Haitian that don’t have to do that either. But if they did, there wouldn’t be complaining. That, my friends, is where the difference is.

Tim and I have some additional thoughts about the negative comments recently talked about in the media.

To our friends who express such righteous outrage, we can’t help but wonder what it is that bothers you most. You can criticize the president for being insensitive and crass, but what is your motivation for defending a country you’ve never been to and/or a culture you don’t understand? If it is rooted in compassion, is there a related action? Some of you are on this journey with us in various ways and for that we thank you. For those who are outraged at the comment, we hope that you will consider visiting/vacationing here.

For the man who made the insensitive remark in the first place, do you realize that parts of America are hurting? I’m not talking about slums in big cities and those with insecurities (please don’t get me started on the whole “food insecurity” thing), but do you really think that those living in Appalachia or on Indian reservations feel that they’ve got it good? The lack of basic resources such as running water and flushing toilets still exists in America.

Have you given any thought to why so many people came to America in the first place? What made it such a melting pot? My heritage is Irish and Tim’s is Norwegian. From what we know about history, those countries were also (bleep) at some point in time.

To our knowledge, President Trump has never visited Haiti. His limited viewpoint is what has been portrayed for decades by the American media and how they present Haiti to Americans. If that was all the information you had then yes, it is a (bleep). It is a country that has seen centuries of oppression followed by corruption and neglect. However, when you live here, when you experience Haiti, it doesn’t take long to recognize the beauty and resilience of her people.

We consider ourselves lucky that we get to live in Haiti.

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Hard to say goodbye

Tim and I have been in Haiti nearly five years, yet today we are witness to something that ranks in the top five (top three?) events on the sadness scale.

It may surprise some of you, especially with so much poverty, corruption, and death, but my heart is breaking as I type this.

You see, one of our technicians is leaving to start a new life in Chile. Most people might think this is a good thing – to get out of Haiti. Those with wanderlust might even be a bit jealous. But we know that K doesn’t want to go. We know that he is scared to go. If I had a dollar for every time he came to the house just so we could sit and talk about the possibility of him going, and then the reality of him going, I could buy a ticket and go with him.

You see, K’s family decided for him that he needs to go. Normally, the oldest son would bear the responsibility of providing support to the family, but this family knows that the oldest son doesn’t have a good track record. If he went, they would likely never hear from him again.

K is a family man. As is expected in the culture, the money he earns at work benefits everyone in his family. If he is lucky enough to find a decent job in Chili, he is honorable and trustworthy enough to send money back to family in Haiti.

His leaving has been a lengthy process. I can no longer remember when he first mentioned the possibility of going, but it’s probably been close to a year. The passport took a while to secure, and when it arrived, it had a typo. Fixing it cost more time and money. Truth-be-told, I relished every obstacle because it meant him staying here longer, but his family accused him of dragging his feet and wasting valuable resources. He was kicked out of his house for a while until everything was resolved.

Eventually, everything was resolved, and now travel day is here. When this blog posts online, Tim and I will be driving him to Port-au-Prince, along with the rest of our staff.

Yes, I’m sad that K is leaving because we are losing a kind, conscientious, hard-working employee. More than that, I’m sad because I know that he doesn’t want to go. I’m sad because he is scared. I’m sad because I know that he will miss his nephew, who he treats as a son, like crazy. I’m sad that his family put him in such an undesirable position. I’m sad because he has no choice. Better said, he has no good choice. He can choose to do what his family wants or he can do what he wants. Either way, he winds up separated from his family – by distance if he chooses to put family first, or he will be ostracized for putting his own desires first. I’m sad because I know that K will have to learn some very hard life lessons as he navigates a new world. I’m sad because the chances of us ever seeing him again are slim to none.

I’m sad because so many people here think that other countries are the promised land. We can explain all day long about unemployment rates and cost of living indexes in other countries, but they mean nothing. From what we’ve heard, jobs in Chile are scarce, especially for 24-year old men who don’t speak Spanish and have no college degree.

(People won’t try a new fertilizer on their crops because the risk is too great, but they’ll spend thousands of dollars to send someone off to another country. Desperation makes people do funny things.)

I’m sad because we are seeing our other technicians say goodbye to a friend… again. We went through this last year when Jucado emigrated to Brooklyn, though that goodbye was a lot more celebratory.

I’m sad because this country seems to be OK with superficial relationships. In reality, I know it’s a survival technique. After all, goodbyes are inevitable and frequent. Why would you want to get close to someone who is just going to leave? We can handle the pain of separation from time to time, but when separation happens as often as it does here – either by travel or death – you have to find a way to cope in order to survive.

I realize that this post is kind of a downer. Normally, I would be excited for someone who gets to try something new, but this goodbye is tougher than usual because the circumstances surrounding it are tough.

In a few hours, Tim and I will accompany K to the ticket counter at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, help him get checked in, and go as far as we can with him. We will hug goodbye one last time before returning to our truck for what I suspect will be a very quiet ride home with the rest of our staff.

We know that as much as we love K, God loves him even more. Just this past Monday, K and I sat in the living room discussing the various challenges and obstacles that life had brought and will continue to bring. We spent some time reading Ephesians 6:10-18 together. After all, it’s hard to do battle without the proper equipment. Thankfully, we have the instructions and tools, even in our sadness and uncertainty.

Those of you who believe in the power of prayer, please join us in praying for this young man. He’s going to need it.

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K and me during one of our “about life” chats.

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We took our guys to the beach for the day – combination celebration of the past year and farewell party

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Friends and colleagues

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Special treat – we rented a jet ski for 1/2 hour

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Best $40 we’ve spent in a long time

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The night before traveling

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I asked for a picture with this suitcase. I bought it in 1998 to use to travel back and forth to AL when my brother was sick. It’s been to a lot of places and is loaded with memories. Now, it is going to Chile.

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Smiling while holding back the tears

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