A view from a roof in Port au Prince


When Poverty Consumes Me

I'm going on three months of living here in Haiti. Each day I see this country a little different than the last. Each week I learn a new word in Creole. Each day I have a slightly different perspective on life.

I sat at the airport today and had some time to think. I had just dropped off one medical team and was waiting for the next to arrive. It was one of the few hours here I found myself sitting doing absolutely nothing. I had time to think, to process, to question and to search for answers from what little I know of life. I must mention that while I was having these very deep moments by myself, the driver was fast asleep in the back of the truck, and my thoughts were frequently interrupted by little boys knocking on my window asking for food or money. The first knock was lucky and received the granola bar I had stashed in my pocket to get me through the morning at the airport. After that, I didn't have anything to offer. I wished that their pleas didn't make me feel so uncomfortable. It made me feel guilty for being annoyed. I didn't want to look at them, I wanted them to go away and then I could better ignore the poverty around me. All I could say in return to their plea for a gift of food or money was "Mwen pa gen" translated into English- " I don't have any." Although it may have been true for the moment, it seemed we both knew I was lying. How could I sit in a car, well-dressed, well-fed, shaded from the scorch of the day and possibly say I didn't have anything to give while the little boy in front of me stood in his tattered shirt and shorts, shoes with holes in them, and a shoe-shine box attached to his hip? I looked into his eyes  and the eyes of the many other kids that came after him and wondered what Jesus would do. I knew he would do it better than I could.

Life in Haiti has so twisted my views on what poverty is. I look at Baby Michelet and his family and I want so badly to help them. I am overwhelmed with a list of what they need- a house that doesn't leak, a mattress to sleep on, a crib for the baby, diapers, food, baby formula, clothes for the kids and mom and dad, a job for dad so he can provide for his family, a bathroom... The thing is, that most Haitians do not have these things, so I can't figure out what is a need and what is a luxury.

 This past week I brought some volunteers to see Baby Michelet and his house. On their last night here, they shared with the group the highlights of their trip. One man said his was seeing where Baby Michelet lived. He was amazed at how little the family had and how they were still smiling.

 I had started brainstorming of fundraisers and ideas of how to raise money for his family, and it exhausted me because I couldn't figure out what to help them with first. I made an agreement with God, that what he puts in my hand to give to them, I will give. Last week I was going to visit Michelet and I wanted to bring diapers for him. I asked the Sister that lives here if she had any diapers and she did not. I was planning to buy diapers on the side of the road on my way to his home, but I didn't.  I did my home visit and found the newborn wearing toddler size undies, stuffed with cloths to absorb his pee. The underwear were so big, they went all the way up to his arm-pits. The next day the Sister called me and said she had a bag of clothes, formula and diapers that a medical team had just brought her. I could bring some of these things to Michelet. I guess I've come to the conclusion that I can't figure things out on my own. I can't solve Haiti's problems or fix the poverty the nation suffers from, but I can give what I have and I can do what I've been called to do.  So from now on, I sit in patience and when something is given to me, then I am all the more equipped to give it away, and to be able to bless other people.

I wonder what it would look like if I had this same reliance for my own needs. What if I stopped planning, saving for and predicting my future and instead lived my life for each day. I wonder what treasures would lie in that complete dependence on God and his provision for me. The Haitians have a phrase that they say after every statement they make about the future. That statement is, "Si Bondye vle"- If God wants. Sometimes it almost seems robotic the way that they religiously repeat whether they are talking about the next day, month, or year. I guess life has taught them that God's plans prevail and that tomorrow will be whatever God has planned for them. At first the sentence annoyed me because I love planning and I felt like that statement meant my plans might not happen, then I thought it was kind of funny how they always repeated it, and now I have respect for the statement and I admire the Haitians for their fear of the Lord.

So that's the mental mess that I'm going through in the midst of this awesome life experience. I think that this is my life, that Haiti feels more like home than any place I've known before.For some reason I'm more content with less food options, volunteering instead of having a real job, dirt on my feet, and playing with kids on the street than the luxuries and comfort of life in America.  I don't know how long I'm supposed to be here, or what I'll be doing next and I'm trying hard not to focus on these unknowns. I don't want to be distracted from now- from the babies in the NICU, the Haitian kids of the doctors that live on the same compound as me, from baby Michelet, from the volunteers I'm looking after, from the responsibilities I have here and the chances I have to make a positive impact on the great things happening at this little hospital.

Walking home from church on Sunday

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts, Lisa! They were very inspiring for me and just so insightful as I prepare my own heart. May you continue to be a blessing to those you serve and in return feel the Lord's blessing and provision on your own life!