I just got back from Haiti a couple of days ago. We were asked not to post when or where we were going, as that information on social media can make you a target when you arrive. Later this week I’d like to post some things about our trip there, especially about what we learned about the current political/gang situation.
For now, I’ll repost why we went in the first place. When I posted on my Facebook page that I might be going back to Haiti, I had an old friend let me know what he thought about it.
He wasn’t impressed.
He had two complaints, both of which have merit. One was, “We have plenty of poor here in America, why don’t you care for them first?” His second complaint was more about short-term mission trips in general. It ran something like this. “You go there not knowing the people or what they really need. Then you make changes and leave them in worse shape than before.”
Here’s my answer.
1: What is poverty?
In the United States, we think of poverty as a lack of money. Under that definition, we certainly have plenty of poor in America. But the true definition of poverty isn’t lack of money, but lack of opportunity. In contrast to Haiti, this country is still the land of opportunity.
Temporary ambassador (everyone in government is temporary right now) Louis Harold Joseph estimated the Haitian unemployment rate last year at 60 percent. Lack of opportunity is something different than lack of money, something many times worse. You probably remember the missionary kidnappings in 2021. Kidnapping is even more dangerous for Haitians today. When kidnappings take place, there is no international outcry. This has made getting an education to get a job almost impossible. They have no public school system. The few private schools they do have are unaffordable to most. Free schools like our own have been forced to close due to gang activity and fears of kidnapping.
Haitian poverty is a lack of opportunity.
2: Are short-term mission trips helpful?
The truth is, they can be either helpful or harmful. I suppose it is like television, or the internet, or even church for that matter. What is good can be twisted for evil. As for short-term mission trips, it all depends somewhat on preparation, who is going, and what is done when the team arrives. But it depends even more upon relationships. We only go on both the invitation of our missionaries and with God’s leading, we only go with the intention of continuing a long-term mission relationship (we have been involved in this area since 2005, with our missionaries Byron and Shelley since 2007), and we only go to encourage our missionaries and to do what they need and ask us to do.
Byron and Shelley were able to come to AnchorPoint last year on their way back to Port-au-Prince. On a side note, we also wouldn’t go if Byron and Shelley didn’t feel like it was safe enough from the airport to their place and back again. They make the final determination for the timing of any trips we take.
3: What will you be doing?
Our church and friends have been mighty generous! The three of us who went brought 320 pounds of supplies with us. We do our best to live out of our carry-on bags for the week. We are bringing what they have asked for, as certain supplies are difficult to obtain on the island.
Four days a week our school feeds 240 people two meals a day (about 190 students and teachers) or so who can make it to our place for Bible Club and tutoring. We also give food to other orphanages that are struggling to feed their kids.
- We did devotions, helped with the school, and did lots of upkeep. There are always broken vehicles we get to repair, generator and solar issues, well issues, and toilet issues. Speaking of which, did you know centipedes can live in septic lines? Learning that was frightening. Living in the salt air, in the largest city in the world with no running water or sewer and little electricity, leads to a constant need for upkeep. Sometimes one of the best ways we can encourage our missionaries is just to get things working for them again.
- We brought two Proclaimers from Faith Comes By Hearing. These are really cool. They are solar-powered players pre-loaded with the complete Bible read in a dramatic style in Haitian Creole. Because electricity is rare in Haiti there is little access to online scripture, so they will be a real blessing long after we are gone. By the way, since you have electricity, you can download the audio Bible in most over 1800 languages to listen through your phone. Uh, yes, English is included—just click here for the link.
- I think being an encouragement was our best help. I read somewhere that when we go visit someone in the hospital we are “Jesus in the room.” We aren’t actually Jesus, of course, but just our silent presence, a prayer, can help them feel His presence. That is what we want to be in Haiti for those we love each time we go. Only one other group had gone since we had last been there in 2019. That’s a long time without visitors.
If you would like to give to the needs in Haiti, you can do so directly at their website here.
OK, the next blog may be a bit more about the immediate gang crisis. Thanks for reading!
And as always, the Bizarre Books are available here.