Haiti - 2016
Since returning from Haiti in August of 2016, I've moved my website from one platform to another. Unfortunately, the new platform does not allow for multiple blogs. The article below is an edited reprint of my original post titled, "Haiti 2016 - Day 7 and Beyond."
We are in full-on planning mode for our 2017 trip, scheduled for late July. This year's mission will include a backpack medical ministry and installation of rain water collection systems (including filters from www.filterofhope.org).
If you are a doctor or nurse and would like to join us for an opportunity to serve the community of Marianie (up the trail pictured at left), please contact me as soon as possible so we can discuss!
In my Haiti 2016 - Day 1 blog I noted that, based on my experiences, one of the hurdles to effective ministry in Haiti occurs when the blancs try to get out front. Haiti is a country in need. It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and has been since long before the 2010 earthquake. But that doesn't mean the people aren't capable.
This morning, our church received a six-minute report on our August 2016 mission. Of course, it's impossible to provide a comprehensive update on our mission week in Haiti in six minutes - you can probably figure that out from the rampant verbosity in these blogs!
So what did I talk about for six minutes? I talked about how, after His resurrection, Jesus gave His disciples a mission. And it wasn't a local one.
I talked about how this year's mission to Haiti was a trip of firsts. The first one that did not have a host of activities pre-planned for the team to accomplish. The first for drinking milk straight out of a coconut. And, on Tuesday, it was notable for the delivery of my first "sermon."
I urged the church to consider joining in the next trip to Camatin in January - the village and orphanage we visited on Thursday during our mission. We have one gentleman heading down to lead a team of folks from Indiana and repair/replace roofs, install and adjust water collection systems, and work on other repairs and improvements for the orphanage, as well as the surrounding community.
I pointed out this series of blog posts as a way for our church to learn more about the opportunities we have to impact the people of Haiti in a real and positive way.
But I also spoke of something that isn't mentioned much when the subject of missions comes around: Ministry is not a one-way street. Whether it's serving at a local homeless shelter or going on mission to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
There are two parties (at least) involved in ministry. The one who is serving and the one who is served. Conventional wisdom would indicate that the person being served needs the one who is serving in a much greater sense than the other way round. However, I don't think that is the case.
In 2014, I asked a member of our team about a building I saw from the bus window. It was typical of many buildings in Haiti: rough, gray concrete, steel-frame windows and a tin roof. This particular building stood alone on a hillside above the highway. Even from my vantage point, it looked desolate; empty. I learned that a couple of years before, a team of Methodists had showed up in the village and announced that they were going to build a church for the people there.
Excited to be serving, the Methodists set off and, with materials brought along for the purpose, they spent a few weeks building the church. From the simple houses scattered across the hillside, the villagers watched as the church went up.
When they finished, the Methodists returned to the village and (perhaps) brimming with accomplishment, announced to the people that their new church was completed. The villagers turned away. They wanted no part of it.
The builders had not engaged the village. They did not ask the Haitians to help them build it. They did not purchase local materials to use in the construction. In fact, they didn't talk with the village people at all - they just built it and assumed the people would receive it with joy and thanksgiving.
The church sits empty to this day. I saw it again this year as we drove to Casale on Monday. A few sheep grazed on the hillside, and one or two farmers worked the land nearby, raising ragged plumes of dust with their hand tools.
Haitians are capable, hard-working people. For the most part, they don't want outsiders to just come and give them handouts. They want the same thing we all want: to work for what they have and to enjoy the fruits of their labors. To have a home and raise families; have food to eat and clean water. Do Haitians have need? Absolutely.
Does our church have need? If we are going to serve in Haiti, doesn't it follow that we need someone to serve? It's pointless to just go, see a need and throw money (food, water, materials, etc.) at it. If that's all Jesus wants us to do, He might have said, "Go and drop off supplies to people in the remotest parts of the earth."
Jesus' example is more than just a few verses in Acts or Matthew. Over and over again, Jesus demonstrated that for real change to occur, a relationship - a partnership - needs to exist. This, I think, is the lesson of the abandoned Methodist church. The thing they did was a great idea, but they did it without any relationship at all. Through their actions, the builders demonstrated that they didn't really need the people in the village to accomplish anything.
Perhaps you can begin to see how that would have made the people feel and why, ultimately, they refused the "gift" of the new church.
So, what is God's plan for Haiti, and what part does Wall Highway Baptist Church have to play?
We're still working on the answer to that question - the question that drove us to Haiti this summer. What we do know is that it will include letting the Haitian people know that we need them, perhaps more than they need us. And that together, working under God's guidance, we can make a meaningful difference for - and with - the people of Haiti.
If you have read this blog series, thank you. Thank you not just for reading, but for thinking about Haiti. If you would like to help make a difference in the lives of Haitians, please don't hesitate to leave a comment and let me know what you have in mind.
For everyone, please stay tuned. The ending of this particular story has yet to be written!