Monday, May 9, 2011

Glimmer of Hope in a Hopeless Place

  • On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Porte-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, resulting in 3 million people needing emergency aid.
  • In the weeks that followed, 33 aftershocks occurred ranging in magnitude from 4.2 to 5.9.
  • 222,570 people were killed.
  • 20% of the city was destroyed and serious damage was done to the remaining 80%.
  • 14 months later – only 20% of the rubble has been removed and 1.5 million people are still homeless.
  • In November 2010, a cholera epidemic affected over 170,000 Haitians in Porte-au-Prince and killed over 3600.
  • In early 2011, a political upheaval significantly slowed down the already difficult process of earthquake recovery.

It was with this somber news that my church sent a mission team to Haiti to help rebuild. Seven men from our church were called to leave behind the comfort and daily routine of their lives for a week to spread a little of the hope of Christ by building a home for someone in need in Haiti. One man explained that several years before, he had been on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic (Haiti’s neighboring country) and was touched by the poverty and lack he saw there. And yet the country was being overrun with illegal immigrants from Haiti who were fleeing to the Dominican Republic because, in comparison, they were so much better off than the people of Haiti. What a sobering statement.

I expected upon their return for them to share how hopeless the situation in Haiti is. They were going to build one house in a nation where 1.5 million were left homeless. They were going to a place where the poverty and lack of a neighboring country was preferable to their own even before the earthquake. They were going to a place where it could take a decade for the inhabitants to once again enjoy the standard of living they had before the earthquake – not a standard of living we in the U.S. understand – but a standard of living that is representative of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere – a title Haiti held long before the earthquake hit. I expected them to return feeling good for helping but defeated from the overall devastation.

Instead, they returned filled with hope – hope given them by the very people to whom they went to give hope. They told of a young man who hollowed out the trunk of a fallen tree to make a canoe which he used to help support his family by giving boat tours of the reef to tourists and mission workers. They spoke of a family of children given the hope of security by their grandmother who cared of them and the grandmother whose hope was fullfilled in the home (essentially a sturdy shack) built by strangers whose only motive was to help where they could. They told of the incredible dignity these people held onto amongst the rubble of their former lives.

One man brought back a souvenir that touched my heart and showed me the hope that God can bring even amid this unimaginable devastation. A young enterprising Haitian boy had picked through the wreckage to gather together some bottle caps, wire, tin and plastic sheeting out of which he carefully crafted a toy dump truck. The wheels move, the bed lifts and the tailgate is hinged to open. In this desolate place, surrounded by the debris left from the strongest earthquake Haiti has seen in 240 years, the children have found a way to play again. What greater hope can be found in such a dismal place than the laughter and joy of a child playing?

There is most definitely hope to be found in Haiti and in my own life. I’ve learned from the people of Haiti that my hope truly does rests in God and not in my surroundings or my situation. If I believe that with all my heart, I will act like I believe it, and then others will see that hope in me. And when that hope can be seen especially in the worst of circumstances, how much more is God recognized and praised for his amazing grace!

About the pictures:
All the pictures were taken by and posted with permission from Ted Martin. Thanks Ted.

1 comment:

Audrey said...

Thank you so much for today's entry. Hope is such a powerful concept! Sometimes I am ashamed with having all that I do and still not a living a life of total gratitude and praise. I appreciate all of those who leave their comforts behind and go to help those who have been through devastating times. They instill hope in God's honor!