Dear Haiti, We Still Love You
Updated: Jan 11
I stand in the kitchen of my yellow house. My home. My perfect home. Even tho the sink drain leaks so bad that I wash my dishes in a big kettle and dump the water out the door. Even though it's been cloudy so our solar panels aren't generating much electricity and my fridge has to be unplugged every night. To me this home is perfect. Full of dreams and firsts and love. I think about how I just read that Haiti has the highest kidnapping rate in the world. And my skinny black and white cat yowls at my feet because she is always hungry. And I just want to burst into maniacal stressed out laughter.
Later my husband goes after griot and fried plantains with 2 cokes. And we sit on the porch on our lawn chairs... House completely dark except for our solar string lights. A fan to keep the mosquitoes away. I just want to eat all the plantains. And more and more. They are perfect and the picklis is perfect and here I am in tropical weather when in USA I would be getting ready for cold, wet, dreary winter. Who would ever want to live in a country that can't grow plantains and pineapple, mango, limes and avocado?
Except for what was that wierd sound. I clutch my husband's arm. It's the cat. We laugh.
And the gunshots start again. This time my husband is laughing in a maniacal way. Making fun of the situation.... Telling me to come inside..... Doouuussmann.... Soooofffftly.
Tonight they don't shoot for hours. Just a round or two... For fun? But they are automatic weapons. And ya. It's not cool.
It's not cool to feel the fear. The shaky hands. The fear that is like poison so deep in your stomach that you want to vomit it out. But you can't. It just stays. And then you forget about it. But when someone is holding a metal water bottle in a strange way, the fear sees a pistol. The fear looks and listens. And it finally becomes just a part of you and your daily decisions.
Most days you can cover the fear. You see others that have it so much worse and you feel so grateful for things like electricity, food, a private car. God helps you trust. He sends you bright blue skies, palm trees, and bright pink bougainvillea. He sends someone to fix a car problem for free, and he sends tamariyos and bannanns from neighbors and friends. He sends big plates of mayi moulen, the ultimate comfort food, prepared with love by your mother in law.
And God blesses you with His church.
Yesterday our benches were packed. And in a time of stress, I felt like there was no place in the world I would rather be. I taught the ladies' Sunday school and then squished onto a very full bench, with a child on my lap. It feels so good to sit close to everyone like that. No one is judging your dress pattern or hairstyle. And you share songbooks and toddlers walk around looking lost and are helped to find family members. And the floor is filled with cracker crumbs from said toddlers sharing their morning snack with other toddlers.
Young teenage girls get pushed and prodded into a proper arrangement and sing a French song and say a Bible verse. And then the men's group is called up. And they sing. Come. Come. Come. Come. Come to the church in the valley.... My bysitter tells me, "Oh I love this song!" She closes her eyes, tips back her head, and sings along. I didn't think I did like that song, but today it is lovely because they sing it with so much drama and get soft and loud at all the right places. They are dressed in their best and exude self confidence and strength.
The fear has no place in this church.
Or does it? Because I know the stories. I hear them in Sunday school... A simple question about an experience of answered prayer will bring out stories of being held at gun point. The joyful lady sitting beside me was unconscious in the hospital for a week and lost a pregnancy without even remembering it. Our neighbor the money changer is here this morning and just last night he told me of being surrounded by gangsters and losing a huge sum of money here in our own neighborhood. Our deacon has had 3 vehicles stolen from him. One time the driver was killed.
Yes, these people know the fear. But in this building I don't feel the fear. I feel comfort as our minister reads Psalm 91. I want to lift my arm in praise when we sing the closing song and my bysitter does. Eyes closed. Her voice is so beautiful. I can't seem to praise like she does. My eyes burn and there is a lump in my throat but my song too is from the heart.
And then another brother gets up to have a special prayer for the people who were kidnapped. Our minister works for the organization so he picked some of them up from the airport just last Thursday. We stand as he reads a Psalm and then everyone sings a little child's chorus in French. I wish I knew could understand all the words. A part of me wishes I had been raised singing this simple French song instead of with English Bible Story books with pictures and little cutesy paper crafts in summer vacation Bible School. So I could truly belong here. So that I could have their calmness and trust and strength that I admire so much.
The grand finale is the wedding announcement at the end of the service. Everyone is clapping and smiling.
In that church, the fear and despair have no place. I just feel thankful. I don't want to run away from this country to the North American ideal of safety and comfort. I feel like life is real here. Raw and hard, but real.
And later, the fear will come back. I will see my brother in law coming in the gate, shoulders slumped, unable to speak. I will see my mom in law packaging diapers, the worry lines on her face as she shakes her head in sadness. All these will flash before my eyes and I will wonder what am I doing here? Are my husband and I putting ours and other's lives in danger just because I am white and even with our standard of living?
And then there will be a knock on our gate. Someone saying "Pa dekouraje," don't be discouraged. Someone with a story of faith and how God helped them when they had almost lost hope.
And that is why I love Haiti. So much. And my husband does too. Haiti fits him like a glove. I watch him after church, or in the streets, or listen to him talk in the evening to someone who stops by. And I admire him and his place here. I can't imagine him anywhere else because he was made for this island.
And sometimes that makes me full of anger at these gang members. They are forcing people to leave Haiti right and left. And Haitians don't want to leave their country and go somewhere to get rich. They love this island. This lifestyle is for them. Close knit families... Sharing... Relaxing... Being thankful for a bit of fried chicken and plantains with a coke or maybe even less than that. All they want is to be able to make a living and safety for their children. They're not even asking for electricity in their houses or complaining about carrying water from the neighborhood pump to wash their clothes.
Haitians love their country, or what they know their country could be. They are humiliated and saddened by the gangs who have turned it into something that our former US president can write off and describe in an obsene way. A place where people are afraid to visit and that is looked at with a patronizing sort of pity.
So as everyone is talking about this country right now, just keep in mind that it full of normal people just like you. People that just want to have basic freedom of feeling safe and taking care of their families. Yes, a small percentage of Haitians belong to these wicked gangs. And they are making life very hard for us right now. They have ripped families apart.... Wives raising children while husbands work in Brazil. They have made so many talented young people leave the country. It's hard, when all the news is bad news. And we don't know how it can ever change.
But God does have a way. We want to learn to trust with a deeper surrender to his plan. God wasn't relying on this tap tap to take care of us. Maybe we thought we needed it, but God doesn't need it. He is there... All powerful... even when we feel alone.
So whatever happens Haiti, we still love you.