You don’t want to read this, and I don’t want to write it. But parents are choosing which days to feed their kids, and that demands 7 minutes of our grief. No one wants to hear about Haiti. The Washington Post published an Op-Ed on August 6th titled: As Haiti sinks into pandemonium the international community is silent. The Post describes Haiti’s situation this way: Haiti has no functional government, no democracy, no peace, no hope. And the international community’s response is silence. At the time of my writing, the publishing giant’s article had zero comments.
Since the mysterious assassination of Haiti’s president in July of 2021, the country has been unsafe for visitors. Global inflation and political chaos led to an increase in violence over the past year that has made a desperate situation worse. Prior to the pandemic, visits from Americans were an important part of securing funding for organizations like Mission Love Haiti, which is an education and child welfare program led by Pastor Antoine. In May, Antoine made the decision to travel to the United States to plead the case of the Haitian people to any church that would listen. People were dying. Families were starving. Antoine reported their stories.
Travel to Port-au-Prince is not safe right now, even for Haitians. Rather than take a personal car, Antoine boarded one of the buses that pays a bribe required by gangs. Even still, there is always the threat that gang members will stop the buses to raid traveler’s wallets and phones. Last October, a hostage situation with 16 American missionaries made headlines in the United States. While that situation ended without death, abductions of Haitians have increased. Haitians who are found with American contacts in their phones are held hostage while they attempt to extract money from wealthy connections. Antoine’s bus was not boarded. Thankfully, he made it to the airport safely and flew to Chicago to begin a tour visiting friends and church partners.
Though he was received warmly, Antoine found a church that was exhausted by the persistent needs and griefs of 2022. Inflation was peaking and wallets were thin. With remarkable empathy for our own fatigue, Antoine shared what the poorest in our world experience. He painted a picture of families forced to plan food days, which has defined the toughest times for Haitians in the past. Regardless, kids still try and go to school. Teachers still try to teach. Pastors preach on empty stomachs to hungry congregations.
“Living in 2022 is like standing in the center of a room with cement walls reverberating the sounds of a noisy world.”
I do not think the call for companionship and generosity from our siblings in Haiti falls on deaf ears. I don’t think we scroll past a story about Haiti because we don’t care. Living in 2022 is like standing in the center of a room with cement walls reverberating the sounds of a noisy world. Haiti has become synonymous with suffering. We hear the sounds coming of Haiti least of all.
What does Paul’s command to the Galatian church to carry one another’s burdens mean for a global church, where we live with the constant awareness of suffering, the persistent guilt of inequality and the despondency of Haiti?
Antoine boarded the bus because he believes in the church. He has been told in word and deed by good people that they are with him. At one church in the midwest, Antoine was asked why it matters that Christians in the United States care or pray or give, beyond the obvious assistance of financial gifts. Antoine paused. Then he said, “If you cannot send your child to school, it is hard to believe that God loves you. When you cannot feed your child, it is hard to believe that God loves you. But when you share with us, you remind us and show us that God loves us.”
“…when you share with us, you show us and remind us that God loves us.”Pastor Antoine
On his return, he traveled with a few more suitcases full of clothes and a little more cash. He didn’t trust the buses to get him home, so he traveled over a mountain pass. He made it safely back to a place where human lives depended on the report he gave from his trip to the United States.
Antoine traveled to the U.S. in May. The truth is, I’ve had this article in my head for months. But Ukraine and Uvalde and a hundred other headlines crowded Haiti out of my mind. Our collective mind. Perhaps you know an organization in Haiti that you could give to.1
Today, you offered a few minutes to pause and remember Haiti. Maybe this article is simply an invitation into a moment of stillness to hear the sounds of Haiti for yourself; to hear it alongside a God who always listens.
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Good morning Caleb, I liked what you said. I have an adopted child that my niece adopted from Haiti. She had an operation on her leg and is doing well. I also have four grandchildren adopted from Africa, one from Uganda and three from Ethiopia. My son does good work in Ethiopia building schools and giving the families a little bit of aid each month so that the school is possible for the children. He is doing God’s work around the world. I feel it intensely. I also have an adopted son who is an American and is half Black and half white. I pray for each of these people of God each day. Continue your message.
Caleb, My message did not appear to go through so I will repeat what I said. I loved what you said and have a niece who adopted a child from Haiti. She has had surgery on her leg and is doing well. My son has four children adopted from Africa, one from Uganda and three from Ethiopia. He does work in Ethiopia by providing two schools and financial support for those families to enable the children to go to school and not have to work. I also have an adopted sun who is half Black and half white so we are trying to level the field for people who have been oppressed in our nation.