Saturday, July 21, 2012

Final Haiti Thoughts

Just a few more thoughts that I need to write down about Haiti, and then we will get back to regularly scheduled programming around here, I promise!

We left Haiti on July 7 at 4:00 am and we arrived home on July 8 at 1:00 am.  I had 21 hours to sit and talk with our team and reflect on the trip...but I was so exhausted, I'm not sure that I had too many cohesive thoughts on that day.  Since we've been back, I have been trying to figure out all my thoughts.  Writing on this blog has been helpful in this process, but there is one question that I still haven't quite figured out:  Now that I've been to Haiti, what is going to change in my life?

One thing I kept pondering while in Haiti was just the sheer number of people in need in this world.  We saw countless numbers of people in Haiti in need both physically and spiritually, and Haiti is just a tiny country!  I started to think about all the people I saw in China, such a huge country.  Jody and Julie have both spent time in Africa, and they were frequently talking about all the people in Africa.  Then I started to think of all the people in my city, state, and country.  Not to mention all the other countries of the world!  So many people, so many is just overwhelming.  It feels hopeless, and I think it's easy to develop an attitude of "since I can't do everything, I will just do nothing."

Enter the NWHCM Neighbors Project...a practical way for local churches to help Haitian communities.  We were able to learn more about this idea during our trip, and I just love it.  It makes sense!  NWHCM has been working in Haiti for a long time, and a big part of their ministry is facilitating short term mission trips.  The problem with short term mission trips is that they are short!  On our trip, we did a lot of different things, but we didn't make many real connections with any people in Haiti.  There just wasn't time.

The Neighbors Project addresses this problem by creating connections between American churches and Haitian communites.  Churches in America (or other places in the world) are partnered with a community in Haiti.  The American churches commit to providing financial support and sending teams to work with the Haitian community.  They work together to build churches, schools, provide clean water sources, and so much more.  You can learn much more about this on their website, as well as see a list of needs for each community and what has already been accomplished.

I love the idea of having a sister church, where the churches in both countries are in communication with each other and develop real relationships with each other.  I also love the idea that the Americans are not just barging in and trying to take over.  It is designed that the Americans work to support local Haitian leaders and help provide them with the means and manpower to change their Haitian community from the inside.   I love the idea of everyone in our congregation being a part of working together to change the world.  I love the idea of being able to make a tangible difference in the lives of people in need.  

I am hoping that our church will be willing to become a part of this project or a similar project in another country (we have a group in Africa right now looking at a similar opportunity there).   As opposed to a more traditional approach of just writing checks and sending them to missionaries around the world, this project provides a chance for us to do so much more than just send our money.  It helps us to learn that the world is much bigger than our front yard.  It helps the people of Haiti to get what they need to live and survive and find God's love and grace.  It seems like a win-win situation on both sides.

Almost everyone I talk to about Haiti says the same thing to me:  "Seeing how little they have in Haiti just makes you really grateful for what we have here in America."    That is true.  We do have everything and they have nothing.  And visiting Haiti did cause me to be more grateful for what I have.  However, if all I learned from this trip was to be more grateful for what I have, I feel like I missed something important.  My gratefulness does nothing to help those people who are living with nothing. 

NWHCM gave us all a devotional book to read before, during and after our trip.  One of the final devotions summed up my feelings and thoughts almost exactly.  Here is what it said:
"I may not meet all of Western Civilization's criteria for being rich, but compared to Haiti, the luxuries and comforts I enjoy each day place me firmly in the lifestyle of the rich.  Recognizing that I am rich is a start but only a start.  Figuring out why I've been so abundantly blessed and what God is calling me to do with my resources is much more challenging.    God could ask me to sell all I have and give it to the poor, and if He does, I had sure better be ready to do it.  But for the vast majority of us, that is not at all what He wants us to do.  As pastor Andy Stanley describes in one of his sermon series, God is simply asking us to do a better job of being rich."
The above thoughts don't necessarily give me an answer as to what I should do now, but they do summarize the way I have been thinking lately.  I am grateful for the blessings and the comforts in my life.  I recognize that I do have more than the majority of people in this world. Rather than hoarding all these blessings for myself, I want to find ways to practically share what I have with people in need.


Elisabeth said...

i like devotion! it is very fitting.

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