I’ll never forget my first flight into Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Only months after the 2010 earthquake that stole the lives of over 150,000 people and displaced about 1.5 million others, I zig-zagged my way through the dilapidated airport that had been severed by the earth’s unfathomable movement. The baggage claim area had been relocated to a dark and dusty warehouse just off the runway. Airport employees quickly tossed the luggage into a pile in the middle of the room, where travelers fought for position to grab what belonged to them out of fear that they might lose everything. Once you found what rightly belonged to you, you continued on through a gauntlet of chain-linked fences that kept beggars away and led you straight into a bottleneck of taxi drivers, guides, and more beggars. When you got to the van and were able to secure your luggage safely inside the vehicle, you could finally take a breath.
But only a short breath.
Exiting the airport, you were quickly surrounded by makeshift tent cities, peppered with blue tarps and gray USAID tents. People were everywhere because there was nowhere to go . . . people bathing in the city canals with livestock . . . people using the bathroom in the middle of the streets or on the busy sidewalks. Buildings had been reduced to concrete rubble. Tents were assembled in the front yards of homes that suffered no damage from the earthquake. Why? People were afraid to go inside their homes, fearing aftershocks and collapse.
Believe it or not, I fell in love with that Haiti. Her resilience and relentless determination were breathtaking. Her smells? Not so much. I fell in love with her because of the way she fought to survive, despite overflowing morgues that poured over into mass graves and burial sites. I learned so much about her in the short drive from the airport to our guesthouse, lessons that I build on to this day.
Last month, I traveled to Haiti for the 20th time since the earthquake. She welcomes me much different now. The cracked airport has been seamed, the baggage claim is now on a conveyor belt, and the chain-link gauntlet is gone. Driving away from the airport, it’s easy to see that fewer people live in tents, although many have simply been relocated to an “out of sight, out of mind” location to most likely be forgotten. Fewer people are bathing in the city canals, but unfortunately, I can’t say the same about people using the bathroom in the middle of a busy sidewalk. Hey, what can I say, you can’t have everything!
Change is everywhere.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the resiliency of the local church. It’s hard to describe that level of perseverance in the English language. In Hebrew, they call it “Yiyeh beseder,” which means “although there’s very little good that we see now, in the end, it will all work out for good.” That attitude is foreign to my nature, but true to the Gospel. It helps me wrap my head around why some of the greatest worship services I’ve ever been a part of have taken place in an unfathomably hot, worn down church in the middle of Haiti, where the passion for God far exceeds the desperate circumstances of everyday life.
Habakkuk discovers that level of peace and worship when he says, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
Oh, to have the eyes of Habakkuk! And I’ve seen these eyes, though not often enough in the mirror. I’ve seen them in Pastor Yvon, who watched his church double in size after the earthquake (to approximately 5,000 members and who run a school for orphaned and vulnerable children), despite being in one of the poorest areas of Port-au-Prince. I’ve seen them in Pastor Ramil, who started a church out of his modest home and watched it grow to over 2,000 members, including a weekly medical clinic for the community and a school for impoverished families. And I’ve seen them in Pastor Thony, who started a church in a gang-torn alleyway that provides a haven for hundreds of people looking to God despite their circumstances. All three of these men are looking for churches willing to partner with their churches to care for orphaned and vulnerable children.
Would you consider partnering with us today? Currently, we are looking for three churches in the US to partner with these three churches in Haiti to provide education, food, medical care, discipleship, and relationship.