I was passing a TV today and saw an advertisement for the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. As I look out our hotel window where we live I see the Caribbean Sea, I can't help but think about the pirates that cruised these waters in years past. As a major sugar producing colony, Haiti was a major working grounds for pirates that hijacked the many merchant ships that cruised these waters. Pirates were not good people. They were very hard men that were theives and murderers that lived tough lives. They were not the glamorized heroes like Captain Jack Sparrow. They lived very superstitious lives where they created their own religion to explain the world around them. I think about how many of those men spent their lives trying to cope with the guilt of the lives they lived. How many spent their lives drowning the guilt of a life of sin in rum that flowed through the islands here? How many ever found the truth? How many ever learned there was a loving God who died to forgive them of ALL of their sins? How many found the peace that I found when God delivered me from the horrible life that I lived prior to my surrender to the Lordship of my Lord?
As I think about these men that will spend eternity seperated from God in a real Hell much worse than the feared afterlife that plagued their nightmares, I think about men like our fisherman. Men that live lives plagued by alcoholism, polygamy, fear induced from voodoo beliefs, and the guilt from knowing they live a life of deciet and lies. I think of men like Roger and his brother Lifrans that I get to work with everyday processing fish and trying to find ways to reach out to the community in which they live. They know they are sinners. They know that the God that I serve does not approve of the lives they live but they are so entrenced in false religion that they can't believe that the same God loves them immensely. They don't truly understand why in the world I would chose to enter their village and pass my days with Luke and our family trying to make their lives better as we teach them about truth.
Then there is Ayiti. Ayiti is a grounds keeper at the hotel where we live. His job is to sweep the unused tennis courts everyday and pick up trash that blows in from the sea. Ayiti came to me a few weeks ago sick. I examined him and found he had a severe ear infection. I gave him antibiotics and drops (eye drops that I had him put in his ear) and he got better. He was so grateful that I took the time just to talk to him and check up on him daily until he got better. He started making it a point to catch me everyday as me and Joy go for our morning walk to just check in with me. Then about 2 weeks ago he started bringing me everyone he could find that is sick. He does not bring them to me during normal hours. He knows I work long days so almost everynight as we are getting our kids ready for bed, Ayiti lightly knocks on our door with the day's patients. Last week it was a hotel worker with a bad stomach infection that was keeping him from eating. This weekend it was 3 workers from a little road side restuarant across the street with a severe skin fungal infection. Tonight it was 2 security guards. One had a headache and one with a bad back pain. Ayiti has made himself our personal triage nurse. He brings the patient to me and thoroughly explains their symptoms and then asks me to examine them. The term "EYE" doctor does not really register with my new friend. He has found a place where he is important. He is no longer the bottom of the employee social ladder. He now has an important position of helping others. Ayiti is not yet a Christian but he knows that I never turn anyone away and that I treat them all with love and respect. He now spends the time after he finishes work going around looking for sick people. He is trying to find a way to make himself a "good" person. I try to share with Ayiti that he needs God. He is not yet ready to truly listen but he knows that something about us is different. That is why we are here.
Every day we work with our orphans at the mission. We provide medical and eye care to some of the poorest people in the world. We feed children in the schools. Pay for kids to get an education. Help the fisherman catch more fish and then learn how to sell them and invest in their community. We train the women in our housing program to take better care of their kids and they are learning to cook food on our propane stoves to feed homebound widows. With all of those programs and the hours invested weekly, the ONLY thing that matters is when one of our people starts to believe we love them. The scriptures come alive as we see why Jesus said forget everything else and Love your God and Love others. True religion. Love God...Love others. In America and on the mission field we make it so complicated. We have to remember that we feed, educate, train, house, and heal BECAUSE we love. We don't do it to get the right to share the gospel of Jesus. We don't do it because we feel sorry for them. We don't do it because we are trying to earn God's favor. We do it because GOD has placed a love in our hearts for our people. BECAUSE we love them, of course we share the truth of the Bible and the Living God. We could never say we truly love them if we did not care about their greatest need... to know God and Love HIM.
The hardship comes when we do all we do and NOT see people understand their need for God and they continue in their sin and hatred of truth. It hurts so much when we try to reach out and only get people to listen when we have food or clothes or medicine to give. We have not seen sweeping revival and hundreds come to knowledge of God but that only makes us more desperate. But when Ayiti comes to my door with his daily patient I simply have to remember that MY job is to love them and share the truth. GOD's job is to open their eyes and bring them to an understanding of their sin condition.
Pirates, fisherman, patient seekers, me, and you. We all need and want the same thing... to know the anser to "why am I here and how do I make my life count". All the answers are made available to us in God's word but we spend our lives WORKING and STRIVING and often miss the opportunities to just love people and find our place.
Monday, May 2, 2011
|Processing Sugar Cane|
|Joy with some of the kids in the batay|
The difference between Haiti and the Dominican are like night and day. The Dominican has modern cities and visible infrastructure. It is a major tourist destination and many ex-patriats retire there or move there from all over the world. The land is beautifully lush and forrested. The only thing that really seems similar is the depth of poverty in which the Haitians live.
|Houses at Amistad Batay|
|Patients In Clinic|
|Luke Working in Clinic|
|Jacy Giving out Glasses and Josie Giving out Lollipops|
We took our bus and made the 9 hour journey from Port au Prince to Santo Domingo in a quick 14 hours. We had issues at the border- of course- got scammed a couple of times- of course- but made it finally. After one night in "La Capital" we headed to the north coast. Six hours over the mountains to arrive in Puerto Plata for 5 days. We are here with all 6 of our kids including Justice- whose papers that took us an extra month to get but have not even been looked at yet. We also brought Dago, Wesner, Baz, Madame Raymonde, and Jarrod- a PA friend from TX.
|Clinic Under a Mango Tree|
|Loving His New Specs- He's Smiling on the Inside|
|Uncut Sugar Cane Fields Due to US Subsidies|
We got to spend two days doing eye clinics in Batays around Puerto Plata. A Batay is a settlement in the middle of the sugar cane fields where the workers live with their families. The conditions are horrible. No septic, no electricity, limited water, and no security. The two batays in which we worked were even worse off. They are located in the middle of a plantation that a Cuban family owns. The family owns over 1 million acres of sugar cane fields in the DR and are paid subsidies by the U.S. and Dominican governments to NOT harvest the cane anymore. Because of that, the people living in the Batays are out of work. The kids that are born here are not given birth certificates which makes it practically impossible to go ever go to school. We were given a glimpse into yet another facet of the difficulty of the plight of the average Haitian.
|Joy Visiting the Villagers|
The clinics were great. We saw hundreds of very grateful people. The people here are thankful for help and their attitude is different than the people we encounter daily in Montrouis. The people here, young and old alike, just want work. They are not surrounded by humanitarian groups doing free distributions of everything from food to condoms like we see in Haiti. The people are not trained to seek out the white people to meet their needs. They know that if they can find some work, then they can make it. It was refreshing to see that attitude even though the work is so sparse for uneducated and often hated Haitian immigrants.
|Joy Doing a Little Shopping|
We return to Santo Domingo tomorrow to start looking for sources for supplies we need for The Mission. We are also planning to talk to a pastor in the south of the island that works in many of the Batays there and hopefully be able to go and see a working plantation and see how we might be able to help in the future.
Then we return to our home on the other side of Hispaniola. We plannded the trip to be a time of retreat for our staff, relaxation for our family, and an exploratory excusion into the lives and plight of Dominican Haitians. It has been all of the above. We are reminded why we have been called to reach out and share the love of Jesus with some of the most awesome people on earth. What an honor!