Friday, November 25, 2011

A White People Holiday

Teachers cheering on Quisqueya soccer

These are my students. I teach every one of the teenagers in the pics above. If you want to know what I do in Haiti- here are the faces. That's my little flock. I often joke that I actually do teach, I swear- my schedule is not exclusively filled with soccer games and service projects... I guess those are just the days I wind up bringing the camera.


It's a weird couple of days for me. I just read this book, Travesty in Haiti, which is the account of a man who lived here for 15 years and observed just about every kind of fraud, corruption, and sin possibly created by the hands of mankind. He came to research for his dissertation, then stayed and worked with dozens of clinics, NGO's, Christian missions, hospitals, etc. His conclusion in the end- everybody is lying, everybody is stealing, everybody is greedy. He witnessed case after case of intentional, planned harm toward the Haitian poor, by Haitians and foreigners alike, through aid and development projects.

The concluding chapter of his books recounts how only once in his 15 years did he witness the poorest of the poor in Jean Makout county, where he was based, receive any outside help that actually brought them out of material squalor: when the Colombian drug traffickers arrived after the fall of President Aristide, and the locals got involved as middlemen.


I've been feeling kind of hopeless. I want to disciple high schoolers; I don't know how. I want God to bring revival to Haiti in all areas- leadership, government, in the church, in the business community; I don't see it happening. I drive to the grocery store; the streets are filled with rotting trash. I wake up to exhaust floating in my window, I see the haze of smog and petrochemicals and charcoal cooking fires drifting above the city... It's nasty. This city is nasty. Every already ugly wall, topped in razor wire and/or broken bottles, is smeared with graffiti and half-worn posters from last year's election.

The contrasts make me feel despair, and guilt.

I spent the morning yesterday at TeacHaiti and the orphanage next door. I hurried home from that to cook a feast for my 50-person Thanksgiving meal yesterday.

I read A Tale of Two Cities yesterday with two children of very elite Haitian families and four missionary kids. I thought about the plot: wealthy elite attend parties and chill in their chateau while les miserables starve in the fields. I recalled the scene where the Marquis calls the peasants names; it reminded me of the part in Travesty in Haiti where the author hears the Haitian elite calling the peasants "red teeth" and "cracked feet". My heart was so upset.

Then 3:00 hit and we all scampered: the kids to their moms or chauffeurs, me to grab Ben and his sister and jump in a truck to visit the Child Hope feeding program serving tent city kids. This is not me bragging, mind you- we just wanted to show Ben's sister Taylor this great program. Last year my mother was in tears when we brought her there, and this year Taylor was also very emotional. Me? I just stood to the side and socialized with my friend Brittany's family, who was also visiting for Thanksgiving. My heart is hard and my heart is soft, all at the same time.

I just don't know how to make sense of it. It's so much easier in America, where I only have to think about poverty at convenient times, like the Christmas missions offering, or when the letter arrives from your Compassion sponsored child every few months.

Then yesterday, we were home from school from Thanksgiving when our cleaning lady came. We paid her, kind of randomly, a week early, just because we had the cash and we were there and she was there... just an afterthought. She put the money on the kitchen table and put her arms in the air, closed her eyes, and started whispering. I got awkward real fast. When she heard me move she stopped and looked at me and said, "thank you, thank you." She went on to say that she was thanking God because she had run out of money, and something about her children and eating. She has five kids.

Oh, God.

It was Thanksgiving. Haitians don't celebrate Thanksgiving, so we went to TeacHaiti, because they would all be in class and we like to see the kids. At recess I tried to explain to a 4th grader named Naika why I wasn't working: "Jodi a se vakanse pou di mesi Bondye... pou priye." This translates (sort of) to "Today is a day of vacation to say thank you to God... to pray."

She replies: "O, vakanse blan". "Oh, a white people holiday".

Then she said, "Don't you pray every day?"


Anne Lamott says the two most powerful prayers we pray are, "Help me, help me, help me" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

It was a day for both.



  1. Our pastor says, "We can't do everything, but we have to do something". Take heart, you and Ben are doing way more than just 'something'.

  2. Thank you for this; it is not easy -- even to know what to do or no to do. May the Lord have mercy on us.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...