Spanish music is playing tonight. It is a little warmer than usual, but all is good.
Today I had the privilege of speaking at a small mountain church. It was wonderful. The ride took...probably an hour. I am not real sure because I find myself not checking the time so often here. As we wound through the mountains I couldn't help but be in awe of the their stunning beauty. God's workmanship is truly amazing. Some things that struck me. First off, people live up there and when I say up there I am talking on top of the mountain! We saw houses sitting way up on the side that look almost impossible to reach. The sides of the mountain are checkered as well. We were told the first day we were here that farmers grow crops on the side of the mountains. I have no idea how they do it. The closer we got to the mountains the more impossible it looked.
As we drove from Fonds Parisien to the mountain church we saw many, many people dressed in their Sunday best headed to church (What they say about shoes is true! These people love good shoes and they only pull them out for Sunday or special occasions). Daulus told us that people will walk miles to church or pay someone one (motorcycle driver) to get to church. I had to wonder. If Americans had to walk or spend money of which there was little of would they be as dedicated to church?
We got to the church a little late (no surprise). They were just finishing communion. All I can really say is first, we made a seen walking in. Second, they sing A LOT!! Third, I love preaching to a Haiti congregation because they respond to you by saying "Amen" and letting you know they listen. After the service was over with we shook just about everyone's hand. We met the pastor who is in his 80s and has been pastoring the church for many, many years. His son has been taking care of things because he is unable to do it anymore. He asked me to pray for him because his leg does not work like it used to. He uses a crutch to get around.
On the way back down we dropped some people off where there was a small community down in a valley by a huge dry river bed (no power or running water). It was a few miles away from the church. The dedication of these people is amazing.
After lunch we were able to go to Port Au Prince and see the damage. Almost six months has gone by and to my eye it seems little has been done. Buildings are destroyed with some still containing bodies (one of the destroyed churches we passed had a foot showing through the rubble in an upper story. They have not been able to get to the body). Rubble has been pushed into piles that litter the streets, but the biggest shock of all is how people are living. Small tents and makeshift shelters litter any open area. Some roads have even been blocked off because people have pitched their tents on it. The living conditions are absolutely incredible.
One of the places we went to was an HCM school. Daulus was actually teaching at the school on the third floor when the earthquake hit. By the grace of God everyone escaped. The third floor is no longer there and the building is beyond repair. HCM has set up a makeshift school so that education can continue. Also HCM's largest church in Port Au Prince was damaged. Unlike the school it is reparable. The mission has set up a makeshift building across the street so that church can continue.
Just a quick note. The government has been going through the city evaluating buildings. After evaluation they mark the building. Red means it is beyond repair. Yellow means it is repairable. Green means it is safe to use.
We got to see the Presidential Palace. It looks like a giant foot just step on the top. Though the damage to it is quite impressive and it is beyond repair. The biggest and most haunting site was not the Palace but was directly across the street; thousands of people living in tents in the national park opposite the Presidential Palace. It was simply amazing and no amount of words can describe what was seen.
To be completely honest I cannot even spend enough time trying to describe things and the pictures and videos I took can never do it justice. I can say this, despite all that has happened I was amazed at how happy people looked. Maybe happy isn't the exact word to use. There was still joy in the midst of the tragedy. These people are continuing on with their lives despite what has happened.
I found out later that since the earthquake the population of Port Au Prince has increased. It seems impossible. A person would think that people would want to get out of the city and go to the country, but the fact of the matter is...there is food, shelter and false hope that all their needs will be met. People have flocked to Port Au Prince for a free handout. The tent cities are bad, but they are even worse because there are people who were not directly affected by the earthquake now trying to benefit from it. The government has actually stopped some projects because of this. What is sad is there are more resources and opportunities for people outside the city.
This is why organizations like HCM are so important. Instead of giving a handout they are trying to teach Haitians to work hard and support themselves. Any organization can come into a country and hand out food and shelter, but those things only last so long. In fact, they can be very damaging as is being seen in Port Au Prince. What needs to happen is for individuals and organizations to funnel funds and resources through organizations run by nationals. Haiti Christian Mission is doing a lot of good here. Most importantly, not only are they educating people and challenging them to not depend on a handout, they are giving them ultimate hope that is only found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
This is very evident by the testimonies we heard from HCM staff this evening. Everyone has a story. Some involve the earthquake, some go back before the earthquake, but they all tell of how HCM helped them better themselves through a relationship with Christ and education.
This has been a very good trip and it has taught me a lot. It has taught me that no matter how hard I try not to be I am still very ethnocentric in my thinking. There are two ways in particular. First, even though I tried not to think this way, I had a little bit of a savior complex. What I mean by this is that in the back of my mind I had the idea that we could come in and "save Haiti." No one can save Haiti but God. God can use whomever he chooses and it doesn't have to be America. In fact, I think the best thing for Haiti is Haitian believers. Second, for some reason I had this idea that because Haiti was suffering so much they didn't have time to suffer with the same problems I do. Humans are humans. It doesn't matter the culture a person is brought up in. All humans struggle with the same temptations and sin. This is what makes the Gospel universal. I can identify with my brothers and sisters in any country because we all struggle the same way. The circumstances may be different, but we all struggle and we are all in need of God.