Haiti Reflections: New Eyes

Haitian coastline

Haitian coastline

It was while I was at the morning prayer time on my last full day in Haiti that it came together for me. What a week I had had! My primary reason for going at this time was to meet my eldest daughter’s boyfriend. Sarah has been working with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) in Saint-Marc, Haiti, since 2009. A couple of months ago, she informed us that she met a Haitian young man, whom she thought was “the one for her.” Almost as soon as I started praying, I felt strongly that I needed to meet him. The end of July provided a window of opportunity for us all. So I went. As it turned out, a lot more happened than the planned personal goals. The details of what I experienced in my week there are documented in my previous Haiti posts on this blog.

If you prefer to read my 2016 Haiti experience in date order first, click here (this post will then be listed at the end).

This was my second time in Haiti. In 2012, my wife, Robin, and I went down, so I could teach at their annual staff conference. I had no idea at the time that the material I covered then – an overview of the entire Bible – would become the core of my teaching ministry that launched a few months later. As it turned out, Sarah wasn’t in Haiti for the staff conference. So, this time was the first time I was able to see it through her eyes. But what I didn’t know is that it would be through God’s eyes that I would see Haiti this time. The transformation in my perspective was so great I had to express it to the staff at the prayer meeting in the form of a confession.

I didn’t want really want to go this time. I went out of love for my daughter and a sense of obligation to God (neither are bad reasons). Haiti is one of the world’s most dangerous countries. Infrastructure is almost non-existent and the society is extremely volatile. Then there’s the mosquito-borne illnesses and the general lack of sanitation. And it’s pretty hot in the summer with very little air conditioning.

The YWAM base is generally safe, however. It’s a really nice, multi-building compound inside high concrete walls with barbed wire and armed guards. Four years ago, I was fine staying on the base most of the time, venturing out as rarely as possible. But with Sarah this time, when she wanted to take me here or there for whatever reason, I went.

My transformation began just prior to my arrival. It started as the beauty of this troubled country hit me as the plane descended. What you need to understand is that I am the kind of person for whom the negative aspects of a thing tend to define it. That came in handy years ago when I worked in Quality Assurance. I was hired to find the clouds, not look for the silver lining. This ability is crucial in many situations, where quality is essential and especially when lives may be at stake. My problem is that I have seen all of life through that lens, including my closest relationships – a challenge indeed in my roles as husband and father.

But during that descent, as I was looking at the mountains from which the name Haiti is derived, I was impacted by how beautiful they were as were the many vistas and views we encountered on the long drive from the airport to the base in Saint-Marc. Then there were the extraordinary trees and flowers, and eventually the people (again, see my blog). To my shame, all this had been eclipsed by the negative aspects of the country, which had blinded me to the bigger picture which is Haiti.

For the last over four years, I have been calling people to see the world and all of life through the lens of the Big Picture of the Bible’s overall story. Essential to that is our need to understand the fundamental goodness of the creation (Genesis 1:31). While evil has tainted every aspect of life, the material world is still of God and is to be valued as the sphere in which we are to serve him. When Yeshua said, “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16), he wasn’t referring only to people and especially not simply to the non-material side of people (their souls in other words). The Greek word for “world” in John 3:16 is “cosmos,” which in this verse’s context is the whole created order, including the physical sphere. The creation is God’s building project and he loves it so much that he sent his Son to rescue it. If we trust in Yeshua, we get to be part of his rescue plan.

Sarah called this "my Haiti face!"

Sarah called this “my Haiti face!”

It looks as if it took me over four years to get my own message, especially as far as Haiti is concerned. Instead of seeing Haiti through my distorted lens of negativity, I saw a Haiti a lot more as God sees it. A Haiti that God so loved he gave his only Son on its behalf.

It took a change of perspective on Haiti to show me how dysfunctional my negativity in general really was. And that is why I felt I needed to confess it to the YWAM staff – they who have been giving their lives for this beautiful country – at the prayer meeting that day. I can’t wait to try out my new eyes on my family and everyone else.

Reminder: You can read my my entire 2016 Haiti experience in date order, by clicking here.

Haiti: Epilogue 

Last night as I was getting ready for bed at my friend’s house in Montreal. Being in familiar surroundings since I have stayed there before, in the moment Haiti felt like a dream. The contrast of between where I had been a few hours earlier to where I was then was striking. 

My train to Ottawa didn’t leave until noon, so I headed out for a walk and a time of prayer and reflection. I ended up in a park by the St. Laurence River and had a wonderfully refreshing time in a most peaceful setting. 

Of the many things I thought of while sitting there was how this river played a key role in the history of so many people. How many of us are where we are (and perhaps who we are) because of the European explorers who used this route. That’s not true for everyone, even for all those who live in North America. But it is true for millions. And if your history isn’t tied to this geographical entity, it is tied to one or more others. The Bible says:

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him (Acts 17:26-27).

Whether you are in Canada, Haiti, or somewhere else, God in his providence had been at work to draw you to himself. What a blessing it was to get a glimpse of how God has been and is working in Haiti. That glimpse has transformed my perception of, not only Haiti, but life! 

Over the next few days, I hope to be able to put into words the impact of what I experienced and what it may mean for how I approach life hereon in. 

Thanks to those who have been tracking with and praying for me and my family while I’ve been gone. And thanks be to God for his guidance, protection, and blessings through it all. 

It’s so good to be home!

Haiti: Day 8 (the Voyage Home) 

First, the voyage home will take longer than normal, because I couldn’t get a decent connecting flight from Montreal to Ottawa. So I will be overnighting at a friend’s house this evening and taking the train to Ottawa early afternoon tomorrow (Wednesday). 

As planned, we left the base shortly after 5 this morning. It was still fairly dark and the quietest I have seen the streets of Saint-Marc. By 6, the hustle and bustle on the main route to Port-au-Prince was at full throttle. 

The street in front of the mission base at 5 this morning.

Down the road about an hour later.

I didn’t know how to picture what “hanging out near the airport” for almost five hours would look like. But now I know. Let me share it with you:

Having a lovely buffet breakfast with Sarah and Damas at a nice hotel near the airport in Port-au-Prince.

The dining room where we ate breakfast this morning.

A glimpse of the grounds of the hotel where we hung out this morning.

A most interesting tree on our way into the hotel (if anyone can identify it, let me know).

Close up of the “tassels” growing out of the tree.

One more photo before heading to the airport.

I arrived at the airport just before 12. And besides waiting in various lines, it all went smoothly. But did this mean the wonderful intensity of my trip was subsiding? Absolutely not! I ended up chatting with a mom and her teen daughter from Washington State who were heading home via Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver (cheap flight!) after spending two weeks at a orphanage run by the Mormons. Then after settling in on the plane, I noticed some empty rows behind me. So, as soon as the fasten seat belt sign went off, I asked the flight attendent if I could move, which was fine, so I grabbed my stuff and moved. After getting settled again, a man appeared, saying I was in his seat (but where did he come from)? So I grabbed my stuff again and quickly found two other empty seats next to a Haitian man who has lived in Montreal for many years. The result? Three hours of wonderfully intense theological conversation . Throughout the conversation, we would switch back and forth between English and French. Soon it will no longer be true to say, “Je parle un peu de français seulement (I only speak a little French).” Maybe it’s already not true. 🙂 

Haiti: Day Seven 

​A few days ago, the little son of one of the staff couples here invited me to his birthday party. He turned three yesterday. So I offered his mom to sing some kids songs as I have done at almost every birthday for our own children (until they’re too old) and also did years ago in Montreal for extra money. And perhaps for own grandchildren one day. 

Singing “My God Is So Big” at the birthday party

Today, my last full day here, had no official happenings, but was still really busy. I attended the morning prayer and share time and was able share some insights connected to the transformation of perspective I have experienced here. I hope to write some of that down soon, but my mind is pretty much mush after all the wonderful things that have happened in the past week.

Right after the meeting I managed to get a photo with Marc-George who runs the soccer outreach:

The rest of the day was spent getting ready to leave tomorrow and having one-on-one time with Sarah and later on with her boyfriend, Damas, and after dinner with the two of them together.

They just left. It’s only just after 7:30 in the evening, Haiti time (Central time in North America), but I need to get to bed soon, since we are leaving at 5 a.m. We are going so early, because there are others heading to Port-au-Prince for other reasons. The plan is for Sarah, Damas, and I to hang out together at a restaurant or something near the airport until around noon when I am to check in. Then they’ll get picked up to head back to the base. 

While I am waiting for my flight, I may be able to blog about the morning’s experience. 

Prayers are always appreciated!