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Our poverty challenges us to cling to God


Thomazeau, Haiti— I thought I knew exactly what poverty looked like.

I expected to see multitudes of hungry children running around with bald heads and large stomachs, graffiti scattered throughout abandoned buildings, animals lining unpaved streets.

Elise Miller | Inside Story

I expected to meet people frustrated with their quality of life and eager to find opportunities elsewhere.

But from the moment I landed in this Caribbean nation of more than 10 million people, it became obvious that I had taken something out of the picture in my expectations — God.

That became more clear as we drove the streets of Port-au-Prince on our way to Thomazeau, a village just beyond the outskirts of Haiti’s chaotic capital city.

Yes, I did see the images of poverty I had pictured in my mind: trash-lined streets, children desperate for food.

But this one-dimensional perception of Haiti does not account for the clear evidence of God working through every seemingly unfortunate situation.

I came here with members of my campus ministry. We’re on a mission to love on the orphans at a facility sponsored by Hope for Haiti’s Children, a nonprofit supported by Churches of Christ. We want to teach teenagers in the Thomazeau area about how God’s love goes above and beyond the scope of our imagination.

But it has become obvious that each soul I encounter can teach me more about the nature of God than I can possibly teach them.

The people here have absolutely nothing, according to the materialistic standards we use in the United States.

Playing with Haitian children, students on a mission trip gather at their temporary home, the meeting place of the Church of Christ in the remote village of Pageste.

But they hold to their faith as their most treasured possession.

Somehow, without air conditioning, running water or even clothes on their backs, they are sustained. And they fervently praise God for their blessings.

Each time I walk outside, the mountainside scenery of Thomazeau never fails to amaze me. But what amazes me more are the people of a remote village here, Pageste.

Getting there requires us to ride on handmade wooden boats across a river. As soon as we get off the boat, two children from the village greet us with hugs while the adults take our belongings and guide us to what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest places on earth.

Americans — inside and outside the church — focus on insignificant aspects of life while God stares us in the face, waiting for us to notice him. In a place like Haiti, where materialism doesn’t even seem like a possibility, people must rely on the giver of all good things. And they receive the never-ending joy that can only come from God.

The Church of Christ in Pageste embodies what Luke writes about in Acts 2 when he paints a picture of a fellowship that “had all things in common.” The people in the village lead simple lives, but lives with meaning. Like us, they go to school, they work.

And they fellowship.

The church building is more than a house of worship. It functions as an elementary school, as the central hang-out spot for villagers and as our sleeping quarters during our visit.

God’s presence is clear. He moves through the women who lovingly hand their babies to strangers from Oklahoma.

He moves through hymns sung in two languages — Creole and English. He is evidenced in the incredible communication that happens between people of different nationalities and cultures.

We seem to speak to each other without using words.

Americans — inside and outside the church — focus on insignificant aspects of life while God stares us in the face, waiting for us to notice him. In a place like Haiti, where materialism doesn’t even seem like a possibility, people must rely on the giver of all good things. And they receive the never-ending joy that can only come from God.

Life here is simple, and it causes us to love more, to worry less, to live one day at a time.

ELISE MILLER and her family worship with the McDermott Road Church of Christ in Plano, Texas. This fall she begins her sophomore year at Oklahoma Christian University, where she will serve as an intern for The Christian Chronicle. She traveled to Haiti with members of the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.

Filed under: Haiti Inside Story international Missions Oklahoma Christian University Opinion opinon Top Stories

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