Team Leader Reflects on Haiti Before and After
by Nora Jones
As I reflect on Haiti, many images and thoughts come to my mind as a pastor, a clinical psychologist, and a team leader. I think of the Haiti I knew before January 12, 2010, and simultaneously those images are mixed with images from my recent mission trip in September.
When I drove through the streets I had visited before, the one theme that kept re-surfacing in my thoughts is that everything has changed in Haiti: the faces of the people, the faces of buildings, and the definition of hope. The people and structures that seem so immovable now have been moved and changed and redefined. As I returned this last September, I observed a people whose eyes still held some hope, but were also veiled with much fear, sadness and grief. I noted a nation that in all likelihood suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder on a grandiose scale.
After much thought I finally realized that the Haiti I had come to know and love is still present, but also emerging into a new Haiti. The Haiti that exists currently holds qualities of the old Haiti, and yet the new Haiti is rising from the tons of crumbled buildings and crumbled spirits intermingled with Haitians' and volunteers' sweat, sadness, love, tears, and hope for a new future.
As we drove through the street, I kept wondering and reminiscing about how much I miss seeing people who would walk down the road hand in hand, who would shout out "Bonjou!" to passers-by on the road. But these images in my mind have now been replaced with new images of people riding on motorcycles or sitting on the tap-taps (truck or van taxis) staring out at the world with vacant looks of sadness, busy work crews of Haitians working to rebuild streets and toppled buildings, and people running to and fro from more tents than I could possibly count in one setting.
As we drove through the streets of this disaster-struck, distraught city, I talked to our driver, Ojay, about the new Haiti. Ojay inferred that change was and is hard for most people in general, but when everything that one knows changes, it becomes exceptionally hard, but the Haitian people still believe in the possibility of what God will do through them, and they still hope and believe.
Amid the sorrow of lost lives, crumbled buildings, and homes in Haiti, I begin to see anew the hope in people like Ojay, Patrick our interpreter, and the resilient children who greet us with smiles and unconditional love from the time we arrived at the Mellier site until we left. In many ways I felt as if we were in the shoes of Nehemiah, sent to help the Haitians rebuild their city wall around the school and church.
While we worked, the Haitian children embodied the hope of Haiti and belief in the God of possibility. These hopeful, joy-filled children were with us each morning to encourage us to build, from the time we awoke, throughout the work day, until late in the evening hours. For us working in Mellier, these children represent the hope for a new future in Haiti and the resilient spirit of the Haitian people.
Also, as a pastor I saw a people of hope working alongside us during this trip who summon the courage to rise from a night's rest in a tent constructed for them as a temporary shelter, which now serves as a home to help people rebuild the walls of their city, their lives, and their church. I saw the courage of people who still have a deep desire and willingness to dance and sing anew and praise God in a church that served as a work shed for us during the week and a sanctuary on Sunday mornings. Yes, there is still hope in Haiti, but this hope has changed in its target and audience, and we who volunteer there must work with them to create both individual and systemic change in their country.
Finally, as a team leader and a pastor, I learned that even when you think you're ready, God still has much to teach you and for you to learn about Haiti, its faith, and its people. The lessons are sometimes whispered to you by God through the lives of the Haitians, who demonstrate to me how to better lead another team back, and to love more as God loves.
I learned that each time you lead a team you and your team will be stretched in new ways to love and embody the mission of Christ to our neighbors. The Epistle of James 2:5-7 states, " Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom?" During our week in Haiti, we learned the faith of the poor and experienced little pieces of Parousia (the Second Coming) from the richness of their faith, love, and hope.
Nora Jones led a team of ten persons from the Missouri Conference to Mellier, Haiti, in September 2010.
Date posted: Oct 25, 2010