laying a foundation for the school
life in the street
There is nothing that can prepare you for what you see as you step off the plane and into Haiti. Sharing the journey with you are Haitians coming home to find loved ones and to see what's left of the country they once knew. Relief workers and mission teamers from around the world share information with one another, about where we will be working, what we will be doing. We have high expectations of what can be done and how we will help, which will soon get a jolt of reality.
The doors open and the hot humid air slaps your face and awakens you to a new reality. There is some disorder as people rush off the plane to get through immigration and then find bags in the old hanger adapted for this purpose, as the old terminal is too badly damaged to be used. You are waived through customs and then you are on the street where young men compete to be able to carry your bags for a small tip, and cars jostle with makeshift taxis in the rubble strewn street for a space to park to pick up their charges.
Traffic barely moves around the chaos of the airport whenever the planes arrive. It barely moves most of the rest of the time too. As you slowly make your way down the old streets you see the blur of people trying to move in any way possible, by foot, by car, by bus, dodging the mountains of debris, and each other, against the backdrop of fallen buildings. Everywhere you look, it is the same. Nothing seems to have been left intact; no building is standing straight. Those that haven't fallen into piles are bent and broken, slanted at angles that make no sense. The people are gathered into tent cities of blue and white. They spend their time looking for things in the rubble to sell in the markets along the road.
For the two hours that it took to get to Grand Goave, it was all the same: broken houses, lives on hold.
I thought that I knew what to expect when I arrived in Port au Prince. I had spent four years in Nicaragua and was there when it was so badly devastated by Hurricane Mitch. We had participated in the relief efforts there in the immediate aftermath. The destructive power of that hurricane was so immense, wiping communities completely off the map, yet it was nothing in comparison to what I was seeing everywhere I looked in Haiti.
As American Baptists, we have partners, missionaries and volunteer teams working in many places throughout Haiti. I had the opportunity to spend a week in Grand Goave and the surrounding area which was hit particularly hard by the earthquakes. ABC is working along with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the local Baptist churches to rebuild a school, to put in wells for drinking water, and to begin the task of rebuilding homes. There is a base of operations established to host volunteer teams from the US, to work beside our Haitian brothers and sisters as they rebuild their communities.
It is one small step, but a step that needs to be taken. We hope that we will be able to place a new team from our churches there every week for the next few years, as this rebuilding takes place.
It would be understandable, given the immensity of the problem, to give up hope, and to do nothing at all. The truth is that the situation is overwhelming. But we must not be overwhelmed! We must know that every effort we make will make a difference. I am reminded that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, so small that it can barely be seen, yet it grows into a huge tree. We plant this seed in every person's life that we meet, as we accompany them in the midst of their greatest trials. We plant this seed among our Haitian brothers and sisters, as we work beside them, letting them know that they are not alone.
I was not prepared for the destruction I would see in Haiti, but my biggest surprise was not in the scale of the tragedy, but in the hope that still exists. In the face of a disaster which would have shaken my faith to its core, I found a hope among Haitians that will always be an inspiration to me. As I asked them what they saw for their future, they told me that they saw a country better than it has ever been before. As I asked them where their hope came from, they told me that it came from all those that have come from around the world to be minister to them, to bind up their wounds and to stand together with them as they forged a new beginning. They saw hope in our presence with them
The kingdom is being planted. It may appear as a mustard seed now, but it is there, planted by those faithful servants who were willing to go way beyond their comfort zones, and to share in the lives of those who most needed to know that they were not alone. It will be watered and nurtured by those who keep coming, in the months and years to come.
I will tell you now that this will be difficult. It will require a sacrifice of your time and money. It will be hot and uncomfortable. The work will be hard. You will have no more priviledge or privacy than those you are serving. But you will glimpse a little seed begin to grow into something great. In as much as you are willing to take God's love to the least of these in this world, you will see the kingdom of God take root and grow, and it will grow in you. Nothing could be more worthy than this.
If you or your church is interested in taking part in a mission team to Haiti, please contact Angela Suderman at Angela.Sudermann@abc-usa.org or by phone at 610-768-2164, or 1-800-222-3872 x2164.
Contributions for Haiti relief can be made through “One Great Hour of Sharing” at International Ministries website, www.internationalministries.org . 100% of your donation will go toward the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.
Grace and Peace,