A change of perspective
Since I returned from Haiti, people have asked me, “How was your trip?” This is a hard question to answer. If I say, “I had a great time!” people look at me funny. If I reply, “It was really good we were there, but it is a hard country to be in,” people nod knowingly and await stories of why it was hard to be there.
On my desk at the church sits a figure that struck a chord with me. It is the symbol of Haitian freedom. It is a man kneeling with his machete resting in his hand on the ground. His face is tuned up to the sky and he is blowing into a conch shell signaling the victory of the slaves over the French. If I look at him long enough I think I can hear the sound of freedom. Haiti is a country that was born from conflict and has remained in conflict for most of its history.
Ten of us from Marion Presbyterian Church went down for nine days. In that time we built one two-room 12-foot by 24-foot house and painted 10 other houses of the same dimensions. These homes have no kitchens and no plumbing, but in the area of Port au Prince that we were building and painting, these were good homes. The people we encountered were wonderful. The adults and children were gracious to us and appreciative of the work that we did.
The facility we stayed in was called the Blanchard Compound and it was one of four compounds that Haiti Outreach Ministries operates. These compounds each have a church and a school; some of them had medical clinics and solar-powered water filtration units. The first night we arrived one of the church choirs was practicing for Sunday’s service. They sounded amazing and they practiced for hours. We were serenaded by them again Saturday night as we drifted off to sleep. Sunday morning was a three-and-a-half hour church service with lots of music and about 2,000 people. To say this was more church than we were used to is an understatement.
Our mode of transportation around Port au Prince was by tap-tap, a truck with a covered bed and benches along each side for people to sit on. After more than a week of traveling by tap-tap, I don’t notice the potholes on some of our roads. After being in a city with 3 million people with no trash pick-up and no sewer system I have to admit I failed to even notice the pictures in the editorial from a couple weeks ago. I guess I was still seeing through my Haiti goggles.
Am I changed by my experience? I hope so. I hope that I have a fuller understanding of what it means to be content with the things with which I have been blessed. I hope that I am more likely to face the problems I realize and do something about them. I hope the story of the difference 10 of us can make in the world inspires us to work together in this community to see the difference we can make here with more than 10 of us. And finally I hope to return to Haiti someday to work alongside my Haitian brothers and sisters who see hope in places most of the world sees darkness.