If you know me you are most likely aware of my involvement in Haiti through a non-profit organization some friends and I started a few years ago called the Haiti Mission Project. The HMP represents a huge piece of my heart, and the opportunities I’ve had to work alongside my friends in Haiti — both my American friends and my Haitian friends — is probably the closest experience I’ve had to the mission and kingdom of God here on earth.
It’s because of my personal involvement with HMP that I want to request your prayers for the current situation in Haiti, where people have been rioting the past few days in the capital city of Port-au-Prince in response to rising food costs. Violence of many forms is not a new thing in Haiti (it is the only nation with UN peacekeepers permanently in place although they are not at war), but the current situation is of particular interest and concern to me and my friends because we are planning to go to Haiti this Saturday to spend a week in Port-au-Prince visiting and working in orphanages, hospitals and churches as well as hanging out with our Haitian friends who we’ve gotten to know over the years.
Among our good friends in Haiti is a young boy named Jean who I have sponsored through Compassion International for the past four years, and who I will (hopefully) get to see again next week. It’s been an incredible experience to meet and spend time with the child who I have been exchanging letters with, sending money to and praying for since we were randomly paired together four years ago. In the beginning he was just a kid from a country I didn’t know anything about who was in a picture on my fridge, but now I have pictures and memories with him and the country he lives in is in my daily thoughts and prayers.
Here’s a powerful video from our trip to Haiti in 2006 that was made by a talented guy in our group; it includes images of Haiti (the country and its people), a glimpse of some of the typical work we’ve done there (building an orphanage in this case) and footage of the first time I met Jean (you may recognize him from a few of the pictures in the “Witness” video).
Many people don’t know much about Haiti except that it’s often listed as the “poorest country in the Western hemisphere” (which is true), but it’s actually an island nation with a long history of slavery, corruption, violence and injustice. Yet, through our partnership with several individuals and organizations (including a Lutheran church) in Port-au-Prince, we have been able to help fuel the hope that many Haitians have for their nation and its people, a hope they have found through their faith in Jesus. It’s a hope that is often hard to understand and is rarely seen in visible/physical ways, but it’s a future (“eschatological”) hope that is wrapped up in the message of Easter; the death and resurrection of Jesus that gives freedom, life and hope to all people at all times in all places, even especially Haiti.
To be honest, looking at Haiti in the big picture often makes hope seem hopeless, freedom look like oppression and life doesn’t appear like its worth living if it’s filled with so much hunger, suffering and violence. I realize I wrote earlier that my experiences in Haiti have provided me with the closest glimpse of God’s mission and kingdom that I have ever seen, but my time in Haiti has also led to some of the most difficult questions and doubts (of faith) that I have ever faced. It just does not make sense that a world created by a loving God would include the blatant poverty, suffering and injustices that I have seen in Haiti; it’s not fair. Yet I believe that God not only created the world but God loves the world (John 3:16), all of it, and through that love, God is continually active in the world — working in and through people, powers and movements of other forms — but unfortunately this world is contaminated by sin (not just blaming sinful people), and so this means that God is doing as good as God can given the current situation. Just because things aren’t changing for the better doesn’t mean God has abandoned the situation, in fact, I believe that God can be found even in the suffering, since the understanding of God that I have is of a Father who watched his only Son die a painful and innocent death (God knows suffering and God suffers with us).
The discussion we’ve been having about missions in my systematic theology class lately has helped me realize that the group I’m involved with does not bring Christ to Haiti, in fact, we have actually discovered that He is already there in the efforts of others to help the poor and oppressed, to look after the sick and to comfort the forgotten and vulnerable. When we go to Haiti we are meeting God where God is already at work.
We are planning to wait until Friday to make a decision about whether or not it is smart for us to go ahead with our trip. We have already sent several emails and made phone calls to our friends in Haiti asking them if it’s safe for us to come (trust me, we aren’t going to put ourselves in a bad situation intentionally, and our friends there would tell us not to come if it wasn’t safe). Please pray for our team as we face the next couple of days uncertain of where we’ll be and what we’ll be doing next week, and definitely pray for Haiti as they deal with these difficult times.