Port au Prince

Port au Prince
"He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure." Psalm 40:2

Thursday, August 19, 2010

From the City in the Sun to the Banana Plantation

Sitting on broken wooden benches in a small, cement block building this morning, I listened as a pastor poured his heart out about the suffering of the people in his church. He described a woman who hadn’t eaten for several days, children who were suffering from trauma from the earthquake, another woman with medical issues but no money for a doctor…and the stories went on and on.  He ended by saying how difficult it is to teach people about love when he, as a pastor, can’t even fully show them love by giving them food, water or a place to live.

Unlike the rest of our team, Tracy and I are not medically trained so we are spending our week representing Park Street Church on a “vision trip” with World Relief. The hope is that over the next several years our church will invest in Haiti through the work of World Relief. The World Relief vision trip this week is made up of pastors, mission’s leaders and lay people from several churches around the United States who are all considering investing in Haiti through World Relief. Throughout the week we’ve visited with numerous pastors and churches spread throughout Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas. We’ve viewed mind-boggling devastation and have simultaneously witnessed remarkable resilience.

The church I describe above is located in the Cite Soleil (“Sun City”), one of the poorest and most dangerous areas in the world. As the pastor spoke and noticably hungry children stared at us through the doors and windows, it became hard to not feel completely overwhelmed by the vastness of the issues facing Cite Soleil and Haiti in general.  From lack of food, to no jobs, to youth prostitution, to lack of sanitation and clean water – I couldn’t help but start to wonder, “Will things ever change for Haiti? If things could change in Haiti, HOW?” – and that was true BEFORE the earthquake, let alone now.

After we drove through Cite Soleil seeing people living in conditions that no human being should ever be expected to live in, World Relief took us to…a banana plantation! Admittedly, I wondered how a tour of a plantation fit into our goals for the week and why we were spending half a day walking through banana trees! When I heard the reason, I felt a sense of hope on a larger scale for one of the first times this week. World Relief showed us the plantations with the idea that this might be one possible way to provide jobs for some of the Haitian people who live in the neighboring area of Cite Soleil.

This micro-enterprise would hopefully provide jobs for hundreds of workers at the banana farm as a way to make a living wage. The church would be involved in making the link between the banana farm that needs workers and the churches that have congregants who need jobs. Pastor after pastor has told us that one of the main issues facing the Haitian people is lack of work – because work provides money, which can buy food, water and shelter.

As I reflected on the day during our ride home (or rather as we sat in traffic!) I couldn’t help but notice the “flow” of the day. We began this morning hearing of the pain and suffering of the people and the basic needs that aren’t met on a day-to-day basis for thousands of Haitians. And then, we ended the day by touring a banana farm that represents the potential for providing hundreds of jobs to some of the people who need them the most. Clearly, it is not as simple as it sounds here…there are major obstacles and issues to be thought through before it’s even clear if this idea is really plausible or viable. But to me, what mattered is what it represented – a bit of hope amidst great suffering. This has been the case all week, for Tracy and I with World Relief; for our PSC team at the hospital; and for our PSC team in Jacmel…signs of hope and resilience in the midst of great loss and suffering.

Earlier this week I sat in a room with my Haitian brothers and sisters, all of whom who have suffered greatly from the earthquake, as they sang one of my favorite hymns, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” I stood there are wept as their voices boldly sang out those promising (yet sometimes hard to hold on to!) words. Imagine, in the face of losing some of your family members, watching your child suffer from losing a limb, or having your house fall down around you…to still be able to believe and sing those precious words…

 “Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see…
All I have needed thy hand hath provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me…”

Thank you all for allowing us the privilege of coming to Haiti, thank you for your support and prayers.


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