Doug's Blog

Monday, May 31, 2010

Back from Haiti

Well, I'm back from a week in Haiti. Yesterday I was completely exhausted. Today I'm still very tired, but the emotions are starting to set in more. There's one feeling I really didn't expect: I miss it. I don't miss the oppressive heat and humidity, or some of the smells, or sharing one bathroom with 30 people. But I miss the people: both the people that I served with and the Haitian people themselves.

I don't tend to be an outwardly emotional person, but I find that my eyes begin welling up with tears almost immediately as I remember some of the stories that I heard:

-The 16-year-old single mom raising a one month old infant while living by herself. She has dreams of being a doctor someday.

-The multiple mothers that I met who have been separated from their children since the earthquake because the mom's had moved trying to find work (and, of course, hadn't been able to).

-The woman living with eight children in a "house" made of sticks and bed sheets, and smaller than my bedroom.

There are so many many more stories. And you know what? I don't know what to do with them.

As we left, I looked out the plane window over Haiti and had one overwhelming feeling: helplessness. My group had distributed hundreds of tarps to cover people homes for the rainy season. We had prayed with people, played with the kids, and dropped off thousands of dollars worth of food. But as I slept in my comfortable bed last night, having eaten a full dinner, the people that we "helped" were still living out in a dirty field littered with piles of garbage. The week ended for me, but I don't know if their living conditions will ever change. So, what exactly did I accomplish?? I fully believe in my mind that God used us last week to touch those people. But what I feel is completely different. I feel useless.

One of the hardest things for me to comprehend is the joy and hospitality of the Haitian people that we witnessed. While visiting the home of a couple people, one of them got out a machete (which gave me pause for a brief second), climbed up a tree in his bare feet, and cut down two coconuts to share with us. It was quite a sight. But what struck me most was that they only had about 6 coconuts on their tree. And they gave two of them to complete strangers (and did so with smiles). I saw this repeated over and over again.

I watched as people danced and sang, worshiping God. Quite honestly, I don't know that I would be doing that if I were in their place. Their joy and love for God defied my logic. Shouldn't they be cursing God for the conditions that they're living in? This was the joy of the poor that I had heard and read about for so many years. But to see it with my own eyes...I just don't have the words.

I guess one of the things that I'm least looking forward to is the many well-meaning people who will ask me how my trip was. I would probably do the same if I was in their place. But I'm just not sure how to answer that. The people who ask will want a nice, neat 30 second response. But how could I ever convey what I saw and experienced into a few lines? How can I just respond "it was good" when I saw people living in filth? How can I smile and tell them it was "incredible" when I have the image of a mass grave holding 155,000 bodies that is now covered by a tent city where thousands of the relatives of the dead live? I just don't know what to say.

I knew I would be changed by seeing Haiti. But I did not realize it would rip me up inside.

Usually, when I write, I come to some sort of conclusion that relieves the tension of the questions I'm asking. I have no such conclusion today. I don't know that I ever will.