I have very few memories in Haiti from before the earthquake. We were only here 14 days, so there was not really a lot of time. However, one of the most important conversations I had in Haiti was during that time. Corrigan, the former Bible teacher here, gave us some awesome unsolicited advice about Haiti, saying that the more we tried to love like Christ, the more it would hurt. Friday I got a solid first-hand experience from my students.
One student, often well-behaved, called me a "loser" for the extra effort I had put in researching for class. When he said it, I felt like a fighter who had just taken a strong combo from their opponent- my head was swirling and I couldn't breathe well. I wanted to scream at the class. I wanted to lecture them on respect. Swear at them for being so spoiled. I did none of those things. All I could think was, what?!
I deeply care for these young people because I deeply care about Haiti. I think what I do here is important because I think they are the future leaders of this place, and despite the different opinions people have about Haiti, most would agree it could use better leaders- in business, in the community, in government.
But just because I care does not mean that they care. Few students understand why we are here and fewer still care. Similar to privileged teenagers in other countries, they take many things for granted, including people from other countries that teach them. I do not mean that to sound cynical and jaded. Rather, this is just a reality that I have known for some time and which was reinforced to me this week.
Being unappreciated and unwanted is an interesting aspect of doing mission work. Radical by David Platt is a book that is popular right now in some Christian ciricles, and it should be - it is a wonderful book. But something that book does not talk about, something that few people in missions talk about, is when the people missionaries work with treat them poorly. They rarely talk about the correlation between trying to be Christlike and being hurt. Which is interesting because it was regularly a topic for Christ.
However, being hurt because you are trying to love like Christ is not a reason to stop your work, and I don't plan on changing anything either. My wife (who is awesome) reminded me that our enemy would love it if we were guarded and withdrawn in all our conversations, or, even better, if we just packed it up and went home. That is unlikely to happen. We both continue to live with an abandon that is bound to hurt us a few times, but our hope is that it brings life and newness into countless other relationships.
One closing thought. When I was a sophomore in high school (go Rams) I had an amazing history teacher, Ms. Stacy, one of the best teachers I have ever had. Early in the fall semester I made an careless and critical remark to Ms. Stacy about teaching as a profession. I do not remember what spawned the comment or what the comment was. I just know that I was in detention for a few days (it wouldn't be the first, or last, time my mouth got me there). I am sure the emotion Ms. Stacy felt was similar to what I felt yesterday afternoon, but it did not do long-term damage to our friendship. I would have Ms. Stacy again as a senior, and we grew so close that I was invited to her wedding as a freshman in college. We keep in touch occasionally. In fact, after school on Friday I emailed her. All of that to say, despite the knee-jerk reaction to close myself up to keep myself from getting hurt, these events can be used to grow amazing relationships.