Thoughts on Vienna sausages, voodoo and Haiti
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up to accompany a relief team for Manna Global Ministries. In eight years of traveling internationally for The Christian Chronicle, I’ve gotten used to the bizarre mix of anticipation, anxiety and nausea that comes when I click the “purchase” button ordering airline tickets.
But God always shows me what I need to see. That’s what he did in Haiti.
Getting there was a two-day process. I left Oklahoma at 7:30 a.m. Andchanged planes in Dallas and Miami before arriving in the DominicanRepublic.
After a night at Manna’s staging area, I hopped on a supply truck boundfor the border. We drove through without stopping and suddenly were ona dirt road in Haiti.
We pulled into Port-au-Prince at dusk and unloaded the truck at thehome of Roberta Edwards, director of Son Light Children’s home. Reliefworkers had set up a camp next to the pavilion where the Santo Churchof Christ worships. I grabbed a tent and air mattress from my suitcaseand joined them.
A crew of sunburned church members had been there for at least a weekand was headed home the next day. They showed me the supply tent whereI could get water.
I stayed in the camp for two nights before moving to the orphanage’sguest house, where I could recharge my camera batteries off thefacility’s generator. The guest house had cold showers, but I preferredthe bucket and hose the guys at camp had rigged. During the day thewater was nicely heated. Sheer luxury.
The workers spent the days busting and hauling jagged, heavy chunks ofconcrete from the fallen walls. About six feet of one wall had falleninto a neighbor’s yard, flattening a row of banana trees. My heart sankwhen I saw it. How would we ever get this place cleaned up and rebuilt?I imagine that’s what a lot of Haitians think as they looked at theruins of Port-au-Prince.
The volunteers took “the Dave Ramsey approach” to rock busting. Theypicked a small “debt” of rubble, cleared it quickly and took a break,building a sense of accomplishment. By the end of the trip, it wasamazing how much debris they had cleared.
I helped out a little — and tried in vain to hide how out-of-shape Iwas. (That’s difficult when a 9-year-old Haitian kid is racing by youwith a wheelbarrow twice as full as yours.)
I got to know the relief workers as we took lunch breaks under thepavilion, eating the Vienna sausages and tuna we had packed. I alsobagged beans with the Son Light kids. Many came from backgrounds ofabuse and neglect, but their kindness, intelligence and optimismastounded me.
I can’t forget the woman who approached us next to the ruins of theDelmas 28 Church of Christ. She said she was a follower of God and avoodoo practitioner.
“How does voodoo explain this?” I asked, pointing to the rubble.
“This wasn’t voodoo. This was God,” she said.
The emotion of Port-au-Prince didn’t really get to me while I wasthere, but I’ve had several near-breakdowns in front of my computer,looking back at the photos. I hope that our churches continue to givegenerously to Haiti — in dollars and workers. But even if we can helprebuild it to where it was before the earthquake, that’s not enough.
I think Thomas Widlord said it best. He grew up at Son Light.
“I hope that Haiti gets a new start,” he told me. “It’s 200 years afterindependence, and we’re not moving forward. It’s like we’re goingbackward. Maybe we will go forward now.”
What did you learn in Haiti — about yourself or the Haitian people — that you didn’t know before?
Asked of U.S. relief workers in Port-au-Prince by Erik Tryggestad
Kyle H. White, Clarksdale, Mo.
Our God is awesome. I learned that, in a crisis, it does not matter what man-made divisions exist in the church. What matters is that we pull together and show the love of Jesus to all men. And let his love bring them to obedience of the Gospel.
Joshua Wyatt, Memphis, Tenn.
Razor wire bites — literally! I will still jump, even though I know that Haiti has no poisonous snakes. The Haitian people are more resilient than I could have ever imagined. God loves for his people to step out in faith before he shows us how it will all work out.
Ed Perry, Chattanooga, Tenn.
The Haitian people are basically resilient and joyful. I was blessed to speak for a church on Delmas Street. There was not a vibe of gloom and despair, but rather one of praise and determination, though they all had lost much.
Frank Leasure, Searcy, Ark.
Haitians are very strong-willed. They should start a “machete channel.” I never knew you could do so many things with one. Also, be careful how you treat your neighbor, including the homeless. You could be in the street with them tomorrow.
David Gaddy, Savoy, Texas
Loving others is more than just sending a check. Sometimes it takes a comforting touch to let them know they are loved and not alone. When it feels like the world has forsaken them, they need to know that there is a love unlike any other — agape, willing and unconditional.
Dr. Bruce Dennis, Ada, Okla.
I learned that confidence in God as our solid rock becomes more important when your world is shaken. The Haitian worship service we attended began with the reading of Psalm 46 “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble, so we will not fear when earthquakes come and mountains crumble … Be still and know that I am God.” Their entire world was shaking, but I was challenged by their focus on our father who is unchanging and eternal.
Dr. Tommy Paul, Ada, Okla.
What I learned in Haiti is what Paul meant by being content in any situation. To meet and get to know Christians in Haiti shows me how meaningless all the American comforts are when it comes to our faith and spirituality. I am so thankful for all He has blessed me with, but I hope my faith would be unwavered if it were all taken away. I also learned how much in common with our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter where we live or what language we speak.