To Haiti and Back

I had planned to write about the training in Haiti while I was there. That obviously didn’t happen. Now, almost a month has passed. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, I just wasn’t sure what I was going to write. Truthfully, I’m just not sure what I’ve seen. I learned a long time ago that brief looks at a specific location do not create cultural experts. My perspective, even as much as I have studied cultural awareness, is saturated in Western thought.

Turning a fairly short trip into a long one

I’ve always wondered what happens when a person misses a flight. Now I know. Our planned flight from MSP to Miami left very early. Matt Oberg, who taught with me stayed overnight at our place so we could catch the earliest light rail to the airport. The only trouble light rail wasn’t running that day due to some planned maintenance. By the time we got to the airport by bus it was too late. They put us on a later flight to Charlotte, which was delayed by weather. That caused us to miss our connecting flight which resulted in an overnight stay in Ft Lauderdale. But we arrived… eventually.

Where we laid our head

We spent our evenings at a “resort” built by the owner over quite a span of time. They primarily cater to mission teams. There are plenty of stories to tell, but it was a fairly comfortable place in an uncomfortable place. Daily temps of around 100 degrees made the lack of hot water a kinda-good-thing, and I was grateful for the generator powered air conditioning overnight. The roommates I really didn’t enjoy were the bees. The property owner was a beekeeper. They obviously enjoyed my room too. I discovered the first bee with my foot on one of my middle-of-the night trips to bathroom. The encounter that caused a bit more trouble was a sting on my hand. It jus happened to be on my ring finger. It didn’t occur to me that it would have been a good idea to remove my wedding ring. The short version of the episode is, I taught that day with my hand in a cup of ice. Someone tracked down some Benadryl (I’m sure that was no small task). I eventually got my ring off at 2:00 a.m.

The poverty of Haiti

There is no debate among experts that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Some rank Haiti as the fifth poorest country in the world. I’ve been to three of the five poorest countries and from my uneducated observation Haiti appears to face more challenges to economic stability than anyplace I’ve ever seen. I’ve read since my return that Port August Prince is the largest city in the world without a central sewage system. There is also no garbage handling companies in Haiti, which means they get rid of garbage any way they can. There is garbage virtually everywhere. The banks of the Grey River have garbage fires burning nonstop. Perhaps you’ve head about protests in Haiti in the last few weeks. That is the result of a government attempt to remove fuel subsidies which would bring a sharp increase in prices. Last week the Prime Minister resigned after 17 months in office. 

The beauty of Haiti

Haiti means “land of high mountains “. This is a Caribbean island for crying out loud! 

We were in the city, which was clogged with traffic (and garbage) so we could only see the countryside from a distance… but, it’s a Caribbean island for crying out loud!

Hope for Haiti

If future happiness and wellbeing is determined by financial wellbeing, I see little hope. Fortunately that’s not true. The gospel of Jesus is clearly the hope for Haiti (and the US)! During our two weeks in Haiti I got to know twenty godly men who love the Lord and the people of Haiti. They are filled with hope because the are His. 

I taught a class on Marriage and Family. Early in the week I asked about what causes pressure for families in Haiti. Both groups answered the same way, men leaving home to try to make some money. The weakens both the family and the local church. They said many never return. 

Gospel work in Haiti

This is the most confusing/troubling/frustrating part for me. We spent a lot of time (far too much) at the airport in Haiti. It was rare to see anyone who WAS NOT part of a mission team. On the one side I was really encouraged by the volume of people who wanted to do something. On the other side was the concern that so much money is spent in that way, with so little (can I say, with no) coordination. 

The leaders in our training were faithful men, serving well in a hard place. I was so encouraged by the worship Sunday in a block building with a roof which has been under construction for six years. They are a lighthouse of the gospel.

I’ll be pondering this one for a long time, but for now this experience has strengthened my conviction that all mission work should be exercised through a local church, and that the best investment is in training national leaders within the church to teach the Word of God faithfully. 

The gospel at home

I had the joy of filling the pulpit at First Baptist Church, Medford, WI while Pastor Brian Wipf was on a sabbatical leave. July 12 I received a message from my sister that my mom (age 95) had taken a significant turn and was in the hospital. I was scheduled for my first Sunday in Medford and couldn’t get away. Monday I jumped on my motorcycle and headed for Southern Iowa. My mom was as sharp as usual When I saw her Monday afternoon. Tuesday was a gift from God. I had the opportunity to speak with mom for a couple hours. We reviewed the gospel and she affirmed her faith that The death and resurrection of Jesus defeated sin and death for her. My heart danced! By the end of the day Wednesday mom was not responding to visitors. I returned to Minneapolis Thursday. Mom died about midnight Friday night. I will miss this amazing woman!

For those who give to support my efforts to train leaders for Jesus’ Church through Training Leaders International, I say again, thank you. 

I’ve linked a couple of articles I found fascinating if you’re interested.

https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/haiti-most-beautiful-garbage-dump-world

https://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=93238

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