Haiti: Beauty Amongst Destruction
In May of 2013, I had the privilege of going to Haiti on a missions trip with a group of wonderful people I was in an internship with at my church. It was the perfect way to end our 9 months together, giving everything we had and spreading the love of Jesus.
I don't know what I was thinking when I pictured arriving in Haiti, but I can tell you it wasn't anything like what I actually saw. The airport kind of just ended at some point. All I remember is being inside one moment, and the next, walking through a garage size door and arriving outside - to dirt, heat, and crowds of Haitians staring at the fairly large group of "Americans"; whom were also staring around in confusion (at least I was).
As we were being driven to our base, I saw crowds of people everywhere. It was clear that not many drove. To be honest, there wasn’t really a road. It was really just some dirt that people drove on. There weren’t any stop signs or lights - which made it a bit tricky at times when there was, in fact, another car on the road.
Mostly what I noticed was all the people who stared in awe. I wasn't quite sure why. Am I that intriguing? I'm just a simple girl!
I soon found out that their curiosity was bringing them closer and closer, and suddenly one of the Haitians reached through the window of the back seat I was sitting in and proceeded to grab for my cell phone.
Don't worry, I held on tight (and kept my phone away for the remainder of the trip).
Our base was located next to a very high poverty area. While it was heartbreaking, I couldn't have imagined being anywhere else. One part was called “tent city” - the name is pretty self-explanatory. A lot of the families barely had a roof covering their heads, let alone much else. My one vivid memory from walking around there was seeing a little infant girl sitting on the cement ground with another little toddler standing close by. I didn’t see parents or anyone remotely older in sight, and they were just sitting there watching us walk by. My heart hurt so badly. All I wanted to do was to scoop those children into my arms and never let go.
We also had the chance to drive all the way up to the highest part of Port-Au-Prince to overlook the whole city. My eyes were glued to the window the entire time. I sat near a girl who had previously lived in Haiti for a couple months, and she told me all she knew. We saw a lot of different areas of town, some wealthier than others; one part in particular had building after building that was halfway torn apart or breaking down. My friend told me about the earthquake that happened three years earlier, and my jaw dropped as I saw the damage that was still visible even after all this time.
My heart was breaking for them, and yet as I kept staring out the window, I noticed the school girls skipping home and the locals smiling and waving as we drove by. Their life was filled with color. Not only literally (because it really was a very colorful place), but also because of how they were choosing to go about their life. It looked like a mess on the outside, but you couldn't tell by their attitudes.
We got to the top and overlooked a big city, full of hurt and damage and poverty, but that's not what I saw. I saw something greater.
The children we had the chance to hang around with at our base, were the most wonderful, lively children I've ever met. They laughed, they smiled, they loved to try on our sunglasses and have us take their picture. They loved playing games and running around - even though most of them weren't wearing shoes and barely had clothes that covered their skin. They loved being held and holding our hands and especially being close to us when we prayed over them. They loved being loved. Go figure. Isn't that what we all want a little bit of? But it wasn't the needy kind. It was the selfless kind. I felt their love in return more than I had ever felt anyone love me before. We didn't speak the same language, or have even remotely the same lifestyle, yet there was a connection. It was such an overwhelming feeling - to have your heart broken from what they had to live with, yet envying their heart and way of living. They loved us for our stuff and for loving them, and we loved them simply for the wonderful people they were.
Many of these kids didn't have a home, maybe no family, no education, no clothes, sometimes no food and water, but they still had joy and love. Their city had places where it was falling apart. It was a dirty, unbearably hot, crazy place that shouldn't have looked like a beautiful place, but I left believing it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. The people and their love absolutely changed my life.
Even amongst destruction, there can be something beautiful. Haiti has my heart and will continue to be the place that consumes my mind.