That Little Splinter
December 11, 2010

I’ve posted several short videos of my time in Haiti, with all of them simply showing some of the things I experienced. Like helping paint a school. Visiting a jungle market. “Suffering” on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. Visiting a nursing home. A sampling of lovely Haitian singing. But until now I just haven’t wanted to wade through my Port au Prince footage.

You’re probably tired of hearing of my trip to Haiti, but this one little part has been holding me back from really continuing with other non-related posts. It just seemed so trite to post my thoughts on what I feel is wrong or right with religion, or what’s hard in my life, when issues of survival plague much of the rest of the world.

And especially since beautiful, precious people just a short flight away are gasping for life amidst a sea of destruction, poverty, and preventable disease. It’s just hard to continue life as usual with my petty philosophical complaints. At least I have a relatively safe, comfortable home in which to ponder such things, and basic resources that make it possible for me to spend time on things other than survival, and technology that keeps me in touch with the rest of the world.

But anyway, I’ve finally managed to put something together that sort of communicates the frustration I still feel with the whole Haitian situation. The sadness, confusion, and anger I felt when returning back to the states. And this video says it far more concisely than I could in text. Enjoy…  (You’ll have to click “Watch on YouTube” because of copyright issues, but it’ll play.)

One of the reasons this issue has held me back in recent months is because my footage from Port au Prince was quite different than the other footage. Port was our welcome sign to Haiti. It was the very first punch in the gut that sent my soul spinning, and it’s been spinning until now.

You see, my time in the remote jungle was in some barely perceptible way (and I say this carefully) cushioned by certain things. Even though the people of the remote parts of Haiti have even less materially in many ways than those in the big city of Port au Prince — at least Port has electricity, for instance, and stores and such, while the villages have absolutely none of that — I experienced an element of friendship that I developed with the locals and the wonderful missionary couple who care so deeply for the people. I was able to share in the joys of language-inhibited conversation, when universal nonverbal messages, like smiles, are perfectly understood. So there was that social element that helped me sink into the life there instead of just reflecting on it.

And then there was the scenery of the jungle. Even though nearly all wildlife is extinct in Haiti, at least there were pretty trees and green mountains to appreciate. They helped soften the hardness of the life there. Seeing people hand-plow a meadow surrounded by banana trees , flanked by a river and guarded by mountains, gave me some sort of relative peace.

But there are no trees in Port au Prince. Not many anyway. There are no emerald mountains or plantations. Almost all have been raped and everything is brown. Or gray. Mostly gray because of the cement everywhere. Crumbled cement. Dust. And smoke from burning trash. Diesel smoke from trucks and bulldozers with their near-futile attempts at cleaning up debris. Gray with spots of blue and white all over the place. The tents. And except for the neon colors of brightly painted walls (the ones that are still standing), which reflect the still-vibrant spirit of indestructible Haitian culture, everything else is gray or brown.

And so it has taken me months to gain the distance I needed to approach my scant Port au Prince footage with some semblance of objectivity. I believe my emotions still come across in the video I created, but believe me, what’s there is FAR more tame than the thoughts I would have expressed earlier.

With that in mind, I hope you’ll forgive me for posting yet another reflection on my time in Haiti. I just had to detour once more from my usual postings to address what has been a splinter under my existential fingernail. I’ve just not had the emotional or intellectual capacity to post on other things, so that’s one reason why my posts have been sparse in recent months. Thank you for understanding.

And if you would, please take a brief pause to send positive vibes toward our brothers and sisters in Haiti. They could use it right now.

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I’m Off to Haiti…
August 8, 2010

By the time you read this (unless you’re up too late or a Kiwi), I’ll be on my way to (or already in) rural Haiti. Been looking forward to this for a long while now. Had a bit of panic today when I realized I misplaced my passport (but found it). Also whacked my nose and thought I broke it (but didn’t). Also mis-stepped and thought I tweaked my ankle (but didn’t). So I’m on my way finally.

While I’ve enjoyed the privilege to visit many nations before, this trip is a bit different. Until recent years, such trips found me over-preparing so I could be the most effective missionary possible. That’s not the case with this one. In fact, my biggest trepidation is that I am completely  unprepared. For instance, I feel like I haven’t practiced the Haitian language enough. Part of the problem is that this is one of the first trips that I don’t have the “plan of salvation” memorized in the language of my host country. In the past, that task gave me a big goal for learning more of the language. This time, however, this will be my first journey with a group that isn’t set on getting people “saved.” We don’t have team t-shirts or slogans or a mime drama to perform. Yes, all of us happen to be from my faith community, but we are simply going there to help and learn. Definitely not a vacation, but also not a “mission.” This is nice.

The main reason for me to learn the language this time is simply so we can listen in order to most effectively understand and  learn the best ways to help while we’re there. This is in significant contrast to multiple past “missions,” when we learned a language so we could talk more than listen, to be heard more than hear.

And so I’m a bit awkward feeling as I leave. I feel like I’m not doing enough. I’m just going there to…help. And watch. And learn. I’m  not going so I can preach in the streets. I’m not going with eyes geared toward seeing a country as a salvation project. I’m seeing it as a chance to be a guest in the homeland of smart, life-experienced individuals who may have a lot to teach me, but who also could use whatever helping hand I can give. But helping involves listening and working together, not just talking. So I’m going to try to listen, and just be aware.

I feel incredibly inadequate to be going for just over a week, thinking that I’ll be able to make a difference. But I’m trying to see it as just putting in my little shift, and working my butt off while I can. (My dad kindly described what I think I’m after by mentioning Isaiah 58:6-9. And even for those of us who don’t take everything in the Bible literally, I think that scripture captures it quite well for me.)

Anyway, I am incredibly grateful for the many of you who have made this trip possible with your donations, thoughts and prayers. Thank you.

As electricity, internet access, and time permit, I’ll post updates here (and possibly also at www.journeytohaiti.com).

Stay tuned.