This past week I had the privilege to travel to Saint Louis du Nord, Haiti with a team of 42 service-hearted individuals. In a few words, the trip was mighty hot, incredibly chaotic, undeniably Christ-orchestrated, and inexplicably beautiful. The memories I have collected are priceless, and the lessons learned: invaluable.
After a week sans computer, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a keyboard and share!
Though we had several projects we intended to accomplish while overseas, there was an unspoken consensus among the team members that we all held a single, overarching goal: Love on the Haitians.
This charge was in the forefront of every team member’s mind, and throughout the week we were given plenty of opportunities to act upon it. Haitian children gathered in the courtyard below our compound at all hours of the day and beckoned us to come down and play with eager smiles.
The minute I closed the iron gate to the courtyard behind me, the kids would waste little time in quickly taking my hands and whisking me away to their friends. From there, we would introduce ourselves (using the only Creole phrase I know, “Koman ou rele?” to ask their names) and simply play.
The little girls were eager to braid American hair and teach us their complex handclaps, and the ornery boys wanted to challenge us in their favorite hand slapping game—a competition that often resulted in sore American hands and victorious Haitian smirks.
Regardless of age or gender, our encounters with Haitians were often marked with one telltale commonality. A little boy might point to my water bottle and make a drinking motion, indicating that he wanted a drink. A little girl might tug at the rubber band around my wrist, and point at herself, indicating that she wanted me to give it to her. Kids would motion to my camera emphatically and shout ‘Foto! Foto!,’ begging me to take a picture.
In short, the Haitians recognized that we had things that they wanted and needed, and would stop at nothing to try to get them. Handing out one silly band would cause a riot, in the same way that giving away a toy or personal possession immediately merited a fist-fight for its ownership.
To be completely candid, towards the end of the week I became increasingly frustrated with the begging; at times, I avoided going down to the courtyard and longed for the moment when I could walk outside without being asked to give up my sunglasses or water bottle. It wasn’t until our last day in Haiti that I was struck with a humbling realization:
Isn’t this how Jesus felt when He walked the Earth?
People around Jesus, like the Haitians, recognized that He had the power, influence, and capability to save them. They knew that He could help them, pull them out of their misery, so they were desperate to get to him. Jesus, and His heavenly authority, was always in demand.
To be clear, the Haitians didn’t believe that we held the same power as Jesus Christ, but they recognized that we had simple things to offer that they couldn’t get anywhere else—clean water, sunglasses, hats, headbands, love, and attention. For this reason, they approached us unabashedly and asked for what they desired.
What was most humbling for me to consider was the example of Jesus’s response when He was mobbed with people. Not once did he express frustration or annoyance, and He certainly didn’t try to avoid these people or situations. Time and time again, Jesus said, “Let them come to me,” and loved and healed and cared for those who seemed desperate in the eyes of the world.
This realization brought a whole new meaning to the phrase, “being Jesus” to the Haitians. I knew that I had come to be the hands and feet of Christ, but I did not fully comprehend that I would have to also embody the same patience, kindness, selflessness, and understanding that he exhibited in the situations He faced.
The moral of the story here? There is more to the Kingdom than just doing His work. We must also show His love, and His grace, and further understand that it is our job to embody Jesus beyond His hands and feet. For it is not by works alone, that we are saved, but by grace through faith. And it was that same grace and faith that challenged me to be not only a servant, but a loving friend to the Haitians. We cannot simply do; we must also be.
The lesson I have learned and my advice to you is this: When you face circumstances that frustrate you, take a step back and look through Heaven’s eyes. Sometimes, a fresh perspective can serve as the final puzzle piece, illuminating a greater picture than you ever could have imagined.