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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

the poor are not a project

Last week, I had the privilege and blessing of being ministered to by brothers and sisters in Haiti.  For years, I have been aware of the fact that works of justice involves a give/take phenomenon.  But this.... But this?... no words. 

As you might expect, the situation in Haiti is beyond compare. I have seen the slums of Nairobi and Guatemala City, the colonias of the US/Mexico border region, ghettos of Eastern Europe, and the devastation of post-Katrina New Orleans, but nothing... nothing like Port au Prince. The city/country is completely destroyed.  No government, no leadership, no plan of action. It is literally every person for himself, with crowd control and security provided by murderous gangs. Seriously, the most community leadership that we witnessed in Port au Prince was from an infamous mob boss (whom we had the great pleasure of meeting).
The suffering of the people is immeasurable. NO building is still standing in the capital. 300,000 deaths, 240,000 injured, (50% of them seriously injured) and 2,000 amputees. Children everywhere. All of whom are physically and emotionally wounded. Schools are closed, most of them are completely destroyed. 3 out of 4 medical schools and 3 out of 4 seminaries, destroyed.  All government offices and their records totally destroyed. 1.2 million people displaced and living in tents-everywhere. Tents are simply everywhere, soccer fields, town squares, backyards, dry river beds, and on every street and on every corner in between trash and rubble. The situation in the tent camps, that house anywhere from 1,500 to 40,000, is seriously like nothing I have every experienced.  Well below any poverty I have ever seen or even heard of.  Trash, mud, and human excrement make up the floor.  Plastic sheeting, poles, and whatever materials people can find make up the roofs and walls. Simply inhumane, dangerous, and fertile grounds for sickness and epidemics.  Not to mention the 4,600 dangerous criminals that were released from the prison during the earthquake.

Amidst the intense suffering, amidst the extreme tragedy, there is an overwhelming sense of trust.  I wouldn't call it a full blown mature hope yet, because most of the conversations we had with locals, were heated, emotional, and definitely had a great hopeless character. But there was, however, this trust in God, that even if the situation never got an ounce better, there was trust that God knew what He was doing. In the mind of the Haitian people, God is limitless and nothing was greater than He.  Like Job, the people have come to a realization of their role in the universe.  We are child, He is Father. He has a plan, and it's not about us. He's God and He knows what He is doing.  Within this reality, we are free. Free to work, free to give, free to love.

We had great meetings with government officials, local leaders (gang bosses), businessman, ministers, orders of priests and nuns, and average Haitians.  We will respond.  We will form partnerships, and we will not forget. We will send money and aid, and we will work to restructure and rebuild Haiti, because that is what our Lord asks of us.  But, if that was the extent of our action, we've completely missed the point of our immersion there. God desires for us, for the Haitian people, and for all mankind, complete fulfillment in Him.  That no matter the situation, we understand who He is and what He desires for us. 

The poor are not a project. They are a situation, a vehicle, by which we meet the living God.  Thank God for Haiti. 

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