Saturday, October 30, 2010

When Teaching Hurts

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 My wife (who is awesome) reminded me that our enemy would love it if we were guarded and withdrawn in all our conversations, or, even better, if we just packed it up and went home.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.



  1. It's sad to read that people like you and Katie are treated disrespectfully when you pour your lives into these students. I'm encouraged that despite the treatment you received, you're able to keep that in perspective, even recalling your own missteps as a student. Let's pray that this student, like you, will soon understand where his thinking was flawed and God uses you to help mold him into one of the next-generation leaders that Haiti so desperately needs.


  2. Hi, Ben and Katie! You don't know me, but I've been following your work since my husband, Josh Holden, went down to Haiti and filmed an interview with you there. I wanted to send you the brief encouragement that when you love like Christ, the hurts you experience can themselves plant seeds of faith in those to whom you minister. Having taught for 10 years, I know very well the wounds careless words can create--and I remember having a little card on my desk that said, "HE must increase, and I must decrease." It was a prayer I prayed daily. I've been out of teaching for 4 years now, but have had the opportunity to see seeds I planted take root and grow...And I know God is faithful when those kids who said, "Don't pray for me! I don't want anything to do with you or God!" find me again and say, "Thank you for praying! Your prayers and your love made all the difference!" I trust it will be the same for you--May God continue to bless you and use you for his glory and the specific purpose He has in mind for you.

  3. What you're doing for the students matters, and what you and Katie are trying to accomplish in Haiti matters. Try to remember your comments this summer about planting trees that you'll never sit in the shade of. You might not see it during the time you teach these kiddos, but it will make a lasting impression in their lives. I'm just sorry that you have to accomplish it while dealing with earthquakes, bedbugs, malaria, lack of electricity, lack of water and (this week) hurricanes. Stay safe. Susan

  4. Ben,
    You don't know me, but I have been following you and Katie through your blog (recommended by a friend) since two days after the quake. A close friend and co-youth minister of mine, who died unexpectedly last December had a deep, deep love for Haiti and would have most likely retired there. I am also a Baylor grad. So, multiple circumstances have led me to fall in step with your work and ministry there and pray for you daily.
    You have wisdom beyond your years, my friend... But I know that doesn't numb the pain of harsh words. May the great, big, loving arms of God hold and hug you tightly!!!
    Hang in there,



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