Many people have been texting, writing, inboxing, and calling over the past few days asking for an update on what is going on in Haiti right now. I honestly don’t know where to begin because so much is happening on both a national and personal level that our heads are spinning and we don’t really know what to say anymore.
When we run into friends and they smile and ask, “How are you?” we just don’t know how to respond. We could just say, “Great!” and that would be a total lie because we are NOT great by any means, and we can’t even feel human and utter those words at the same time. We could be partially honest and say, “Well, we are somewhat ohhhkayyy….” but that really wouldn’t be true. Yes, WE are okay. We are in a house in a safe community with a grocery store less than half a mile away, and running water, and electricity at our fingertips, so yes WE are okay….but we are NOT okay. We can’t say, “We are heartbroken” either because (1) most people really aren’t looking for that response when asked in passing, and (2), it just opens a can of worms that would require a response that could take two hours or more to spell out. There IS no short version. We can’t express our hearts in a few minutes. So to be honest with you, we would just rather stay inside the house with the TV chattering in the background as we sit silently next to one another reading whatever news we can find about the latest events in Haiti. It’s gut wrenching….
Every day it seems to be the same thing over and over again. We often wonder, how in the world can this keep on every, single day? Where does the mob find the energy and money to keep doing this? Well, I guess when you don’t have anything else to do, and you want to be heard, and some even have a way of turning the situation into a lucrative one, you have your answer! Haitians are sick and tired of being sick and tired. They are fed up with being called, “The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere” Bleh (vomit). They are tired of hundreds of thousands not being able to get ahead while the elite rake in money and ignore the poverty, foreign governments offer subsidies and grants to a corrupt government that squanders the money and the cycle just continues on. Many are tired of their country being ransacked by the angry mob, tired of not being able to carry on their lives and be able to go to market and have access to healthcare – even if it is charity healthcare – tired or not being paid for their work, and tired of their country being thought of by the rest of the world as a dirty, dangerous place. So those are the players….the mob, the elite, and the tired and frustrated “everyman” who just wants a bag of rice that doesn’t cost a month’s wages (which they don’t have). Specifically, it seems like the majority of people rioting and shouting are calling for the current president to step down because of alleged corruption and his inability to govern or protect the people. I have no idea if this is the solution to the problems, but I also don’t feel like locking down the country and tearing it apart is the answer either.
Ultimately, JESUS is the answer. I was texting with a young Haitian friend the other day and his wise words gave me chills. He said (and I translate) that “there are many, many Haitians still clinging to old, demonic ways and thoughts of the past. It is because Haiti gained her independence with those practices and her people have continued to rely on the practice of voodoo that we cannot progress. Our people do not think clearly because our ancestors fought with evil practices and evil creates chaos, confusion and hatred. We can’t put our heads together and trust one another to work for the good of all. We can’t seem to recognize that these practices keep us enslaved. We need to get out of this bondage – this system of the past is what continues our suffering. We don’t ever change. We need solidarity or Haiti will perish.” As I read his words, I raised my hand in praise and agreement, and I pray to God that there are many more in Haiti who recognize and believe this too. It is THESE who will bring change to their nation. For God’s word says in Ephesians 2:14-18, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups [Jew and Gentile] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. . . . His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you [Gentiles] who were far away and peace to those [Jews] who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” God’s plan is peace, and the way to that peace is solidarity in Jesus.
….So we have been stuck here in the US now for over 5 weeks, and the nation has escalated to utter and complete chaos and disaster. Many say that “Haiti is on fire,” and that is the truth on so many levels. News outlets are calling it a “humanitarian crisis.” Hospitals are either closing or struggling to stay open. Hotels and businesses are starting to post announcements that they are closing their doors for good. Some humanitarian and Christian organizations have pulled their staff out of the country and are evaluating whether or not they can continue to serve in Haiti. Everyone else there still carrying the torch is exhausted, frustrated, and exasperated. Many forge on working hard to take care of the masses as best they can in spite of the chaos. HERO Client Rescue is one organization that is putting their own lives in danger to transport people in urgent medical crisis from hospital to hospital through dangerous crowds and burning tires in search of medical care. Most of the time, it takes multiple stops and the exhausting, heroic efforts of many to get one patient transported and admitted into a hospital only to find that the hospital doesn’t have the supplies or the staff to handle it. The rest of the humanitarian workers there at various missions do what they can to help those in need around them and pass the time making the best of their situation.
Tony and I are members of a WhatsApp group made up of hundreds of expats all over Haiti, most of whom live there like us. Some are still there, others are in the US like us and are watching in order to update our staff or followers here in the states. This week there was a rather large yet peaceful march sponsored by the Catholic church in Haiti. One member of the group explained that it was organized by a subset in the Catholic community called the Conférence Haitienne de Religieux. This word “Religious” in this sense is used in a more restrictive sense unlike the common usage which refers to any group practicing any religion. In this more restricted sense, it refers to members of communities or groups that take the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Basically, it refers to the nuns and sisters and brothers associated with the Catholic churches in Haiti (Fr. Louis) It was a positive and peaceful gathering that I believe offered hope to those who watched and participated. This was a good sign of progress. Their voices singing in unison praising God was very comforting to hear (see video below).
As far as BGM is concerned, there is no question in our minds right now about whether or not we will carry on. We have a very capable staff at Hope Center that is doing the best they can in difficult circumstances to carry on ministry in our village. A few weeks ago, the Ministry of Education issued a statement that all schools in Haiti needed to close for the safety and well being of their students and employees. I received the text from Moliere, our Superintendent, stating that our schools would have to close and my heart sank. If the mob feels like it has to rip the country apart, so be it, but the children must be able to go to school. For so many, education is their hope for a better future. But the protestors want to make a point by shutting down everything in the country, and that includes schools. So we went along with it for a couple of weeks until I started getting reports of many of our school children being hungry. I just couldn’t stand it. Moliere was upset about it too, and we made the decision to open the schools, if for nothing else, to feed the children. Our village is out in a rural area where there are no roads. The children walk down goat paths to get to school, and all you see for miles is thorny bushes and farm land. There IS no rioting, protesting, rock throwing, or tire burning going on in our village. So Moliere opened the schools, the teachers showed up, the cooks started cooking, and within a few days, all of the kids were back in the classroom! That sure made my heart glad.
BGM High school students with Superintendent Moliere
Today we also started something special for the kids at Children of Christ Home. Their school has been closed too because of the danger on the roads, so today we brought in tutors to help them with school lessons while they are not able to go to their school. It isn’t the best situation, but it is making the best of a bad situation. Five teachers will be coming to Hope Center every afternoon to give the kids lessons, and then the kids will do their homework in the afternoons. This keeps the kids focused on their education and gives them something to do during the day that is organized and beneficial. Some of the professors made a video call for me before lessons started today to tell me they are excited about teaching the kids. I’m so proud of our team for organizing this!!
We are also making plans to start two painting projects soon as well. Joel will organize and effort to paint BGM on all of our desks and benches and other furniture and supplies so that all of our inventory is clearly marked as BGM property. We were advised to do this as preparation for possibly continued difficulty in the future. He will also organize the effort to paint the school soon! I am super excited about this because it will put more people in the community to work as well as encourage people to see that the blessings in the community are not going to stop just because the city is in flames.
Hope Center clinic waiting area
Nurse Johanne working triage in Hope Center clinic
Patients waiting in clinic
Soon the clinic will open as well once we get organized and purchase medicines. When all of the riots started, it was about time for us to purchase lab supplies and medicines. Our doctor was not able to get money or safe transportation to go into Port au Prince to purchase supplies, so our pharmacy and lab are practically empty. Because there has been no electricity, the vaccines and lab supplies that are supposed to remain refrigerated have ruined. Our staff has to clean all of that and properly dispose of it, and then we have to see what we can replace that does not need refrigeration. Once all of this preparation is done, we will get the word out that the clinic is open again to minister to the sick of our community. Please join me in praying that this happens soon!
I look forward to hearing the beautiful sound of these precious voices floating through the air as I prepare to face each day of ministry at Hope Center. I look forward to seeing all of the faces of school children and staff members and neighbors coming in and out of our doors and out in the community. I have no doubt that one day it is all going to be better, and perhaps through this difficulty, God will shape Haiti into an even more beautiful place than it was before. I know that He is shaping all of us! I don’t know about the rest of the country, but I believe God is creating an atmosphere of “solidarity” in our village, and that is a recipe for Hope!!
Philippians 1:4-6 says, “Always, in every prayer of mine, making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” We are all counting on this!!
Thank you all so much for your prayers!!
Facebook: Well written post by Jonathan Harold LaMare about what it is like “When Haiti is Hot”
Washington Post Article: “There is No Hope”: Crisis Pushes Haiti to Brink of Collapse