Recently, I have been devouring books about Haiti and the people that have given their lives to help make a difference in this suffering and impoverished country. As I learn more about the suffering, political corruption, poverty, disease, and all other things that would turn away the tourist world, I find my heart growing larger and larger for these people who I don’t yet really know living in a land not so far away from me geographically, but millions of miles away in all other senses of the word. This is a country that is truly in desperate need from the top to the bottom. To many, it would seem hopeless to think that this country could ever be repaired. I’m sure that many people who give themselves to the work often find themselves battling against discouragement and hopelessness. I’m sure it seems that it is the kind of work where you take one step forward and then feel like you fall back ten. It is the kind of work where you might never see “the light at the end of the tunnel” You feed 50 people at a feeding program that takes all your blood, sweat, and tears every day, but then walk away and see hundreds and hundreds more of starving people that you simply don’t yet have the resources to help.
Even though I have only been to Haiti a few times, (though we’re planning on moving there in the future) I have already shared in those sentiments. We went to help provide food to families who lost everything due to the hurricanes that wreaked havoc on their already ravished country. Through a lot of work (both in the states trying to collect money as well as down there purchasing, packing, and distributing) our small group was able to provide a weeks worth of food to a few hundred families in Gonaives, one of the hardest hit areas. This was good to be able to help a few hundred, but I wrestled in my heart as we were driving away from the church and I saw literally thousands of people who still looked quite hungry and quite desperate. What about them? And what about the families that we did give food to for a week?…what about the week after that?…and the months?…and their lifetime?
And so, I too wrestle with that nagging question that might be best summed up as “Am I really able to make a difference in a place like this?” The answer to that question is a resounding “yes” if I look through a set of lenses that is able to see beyond the statistics that illustrate the hunger, disease, poverty, and suffering. I must remember to look through the lenses of love…God’s love. As I was reading a book recently of a woman who started a feeding program through a catholic church in a poor area of Port Au Prince, I saw where she too came to that gripping question of “Am I really making a difference in a place like this?” And just in that very moment, as her heart was grieving over that perceived reality, the priest who she was working with came up behind her and whispered in her ear, “Thank you for coming to Haiti and being here to love these people. You are making a difference in many people’s lives.” As I read that, I too was overcome with passion and emotion as I said to myself, “Yes, that’s what it is all about.” Here to love…and not just with a love that comes from my own human heart (which is oh so limited), but love that comes from the heart of God, which is limitless. And expressing and sharing that love with people WILL make a difference in their lives…I am fully convinced of this because it has made a difference in mine. God’s love changes people for the good regardless of whether or not their circumstances ever change. Yes, I believe that Haiti needs feeding programs, educational resources, homes for orphans, etc…and as I prepare to move there with my wife and children as missionaries, I hope to be involved in some of those developments. But I cannot base my success or failure on how many people we were able to feed versus the people that we weren’t able to feed…or the orphans we were able to care for versus the ones that are still living on the streets. If I base success or failure on those “statistics”, I will certainly come away thinking that our efforts amounted in failure. BUT…if instead, I look at the people that we have been able to help (with no matter how great or small the resources) and I ask myself, “Were these people loved with the love of God as we reached out to them?”, then I will be able to come away knowing that there was great “success” (not that “success” is the word I would use) because these people were loved. And that made a great difference in their lives.
And I am reminded in God’s Word in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church when he talks about different spiritual gifts that are given by God to His people to be used for His kingdom purposes. He states, ” And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Faith and hope are good things also. Haiti certainly needs faith (faith in feeding programs, faith in the promises for economic resources, faith in education, faith in healthcare reform). And Haiti needs hope (hope for better leadership in government, hope for jobs, hope for access to healthcare and educational resources) But, according to the “book” that governs my life, the people of Haiti need love…God’s love…the greatest gift ever…a gift that surpasses everything else…a gift that sustains them no matter if their circumstances ever change or not(though I hope they do)…a rock on which they can stand when all around them is still sinking sand…
And that is why we continue to minister to such an impoverished nation…We go there to love. And in that, I know we will make a difference in their lives for the glory of God