By Nora Romness
My grandmother’s reaction upon learning that I was going to Haiti in January of 2011 was to say I had “gone and lost all [my] good sense.” In Gramma’s mind, Haiti was a dangerous place full of every stereotype about Third World countries possible, and there was no way hergranddaughter was going to go to such a place. After assuaging her fears, I boarded a plane with Ali Funk (WWV staff) and we both set off for our first trip to Haiti.
At the same time, however, I saw HOPE. Volunteers from the U.S. were in Haiti with WWV at the same time as me, and I saw them pour out their hearts for the Haitian people, pour out every ounce of their love, only to return to the same site the next day refueled/refilled by the Holy Spirit to minister to God’s precious children. I saw kids who were just being kids (including pinching one another to see if they could get away with it), parents whose greatest desire was for their children to be healthy, and people dressed in their absolute best to worship the Lord on Sunday. I saw joy. I saw a strength that most in the U.S. can only dream about (superhero kind of internal strength, you know?). I saw signs everywhere of God making good on his promises to take care of his precious ones, whether or not that care looks quite the way we would expect it to.
Haiti changed me. You hear things like that all of the time, but it is no less true. In Haiti, I saw people living in what my parents would call “ticky tacky boxes” – sheds pieced together from whatever materials the people could find, whether that be pieces of tents/tarps, tin sheets, bricks piled to hold up a piece of cloth, whatever. I saw people digging for food in the same pile of trash where a hog was doing the exact same thing a few feet away. I met a woman who reported having chronic blood pressure problems, but the real issue was that her only source of drinking water was so contaminated that she did not want to drink from it and as such was severely dehydrated. I saw poverty in its truest form.
Haiti changed me. After returning to the U.S. and listening to people bellyache about their First World problems (okay, so maybe Haiti stripped me of a little patience towards non-life threatening complaining too), I became thoroughly convinced that everyone needs to “step out of their comfort zone, into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is” (as the lyrics go to “Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns). Here in the U.S. we are embroiled in a political mudslinging contest between those who are in the 1% and 99% of life (i.e. the rich and then everyone else). What would it look like for the 99% in the U.S. to realize that compared to much of the rest of the world, they are the 1%…but there is hope and they can do something for the rest of the world’s 99%?
If you are wondering if you should go to Haiti, GO! Be ready to be challenged in ways that you cannot possibly imagine. Be ready to have your complacency shattered, for the Lord to break your heart for what breaks His, for your world to never be the same. Since I returned from Haiti, I have not been able to leave food on my plate (unless that food is beets, my husband can have those), waste water, or hear children laugh without remembering the children in Haiti. I have not been able to forget the people who I saw purely worship the Lord, singing a sweet song that comes out of depending upon God because there is nothing else to depend upon. I have never forgotten Haiti, and never will. Don’t take my word for it, go for yourself!
My husband and I will soon welcome our first child into the world. If our son approaches us in ten years asking if he can go on a mission trip to a Third World country, I will answer “YES” so quickly he may be shocked. Everyone should go. Everyone should be challenged. Everyone should realize that evidence of God can sometimes be most clearly witnessed in what we might call the darkest of places. We need only follow the command to go and be the hands and feet of Christ. What a cool command!