I mentioned in my last post that Haiti wasn’t what I expected. Keep in mind that I saw a very small part of the earthquake situation. Haiti is still very much in crisis. The rubble in Port-au-Prince will take years to clear away before they can even start to rebuild. Hundreds of thousands are homeless. Needs far exceed the help available. Haiti very much needs our support for years to come.
But in my small slice of this desperately poor country, I saw hope. On a remote, arid acreage I saw the birthing of a community guided by the loving and capable hands of the American Refugee Committee and specifically one amazing young woman named Leah Elliott. At 28 years old, Leah has seen and done far more than most of us will do in a lifetime.
She flew to Haiti from a camp she ran in Rwanda. She came on a UN flight days after the earthquake and hasn’t left since. She doesn’t go home at night to a comfy bed, running water or cable TV. She sleeps in one of the tents right alongside the refugees (technically they’re internally displaced people or IDPs). Every day Leah works tirelessly to collaborate with other aid agencies, guides the camp community to run smoothly, and looks to build a future for the residents of this camp, Camp Hope.
Today I received an email from Leah and she said they’re looking to rebuild the local school across the road from the camp. Ideally they’ll expand the school to accommodate both the town and camp children. They’re also looking to support teacher fees and materials for the students (uniforms, books, supplies, etc.). She wrote, “I think it is an exciting project that will make a lasting change in the community — both camp and Fonds-Parisien.”
Exciting indeed! How awesome this is. Please lift Leah and this project up to God’s capable hands.
As I wrote last time, there was much I expected to see in Haiti and I didn’t. But what surprised me most was what I didn’t expect. Love.
For me Haiti was about the love between people. Between an army of international volunteers and the residents of a devastated country. Between our Foundation for Peace colleagues. Between our security guards and cooks. Between the eight of us volunteers on our team. And most of all between all of us and the Haitian residents in Camp Hope.
Haiti was about Jude. Junior. Eben. Guyenson. Jessica. Agate. Marcellus. Francoise. Patrick. Lovely. Lucsum. Jean. Ehock. Robinson. Valentin. Nadege. Manite. Paul. Beniel. Dave. It was about the newborn babies, born since the earthquake. And it was about all the others, especially the children, whose names I forget or never knew.
Their faces flash through my mind like an endless slide show. I see their smiles and hear their laughter. I feel the little ones grabbing for my hands as I walked through camp. I see the way their faces light up when I call out greetings in my broken Creole/French. (I’m pretty sure I murdered both languages, but they accepted me nonetheless.)
Haiti cracked open my hardened heart. An earthquake devastated a country but being there crumbled the concrete walls around my heart. In Ezekiel God says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (36:26) In Haiti, God did that for me.
From the Haitians I learned about faith. Even though, by our standards they have nothing, they praise God for what they do have instead of cursing Him for what they don’t. They have an enduring spirit that shines brightly and perseveres. Isn’t it strange we traveled far from the “blessings” of America only to experience blessings far more precious and long-lasting?
At night, in the house we stayed at in Jimani, we’d gather for worship—Americans, Dominicans and some of our new Haitian friends. On our last evening we enthusiastically sang the newly-learned Haitian and Dominican songs. We clapped, prayed and even danced a little. At one point Valentin, a truly remarkable man from Port-au-Prince, started to sing in Creole. Soon the Dominicans started singing in Spanish. Then us Americans joined in and sang in English.
Three languages lifted together in praise to our mighty God. Over and over we sang. While we couldn’t all speak to one another without a translator, the Holy Spirit translated our offering into the sweetest worship I’ve ever experienced. All any of us could say was, “Wow!”
Haiti is in my heart. I am a better person—a changed person—from the experience. I pray for Camp Hope and our Haitian friends daily and hope I see them again this side of heaven. For now I treasure our time together and trust that, while I didn’t accomplish heroic feats, just showing up to love and be loved in the name of Jesus is enough.
As Mother Theresa said, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”
Enjoy the pictures. (I have 1,283 more if you want to stop by and see them!)
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ” (Philippians 1:6)
Be blessed and be a blessing,