Surprised, and unsurprised, in Haiti

Published 10:00 pm Friday, October 4, 2013

My wife and I just returned from a ministry trip to Montrouis, Haiti. I came across many things that surprised me there.

It wasn’t the immense poverty that surprised me most. It shocked me. It affected me profoundly. But it didn’t surprise me. I was shocked by the taste and smell of the poverty, but I sort of expected that reaction.

It wasn’t the love for the people I developed almost immediately. My wife had already infected me with her love for the families and children we minister to from her previous travel to Haiti. I expected to fall in love with the people.


Email newsletter signup

It’s very difficult not to love a child in desperate need when she locks eyes with you and smiles because of you.

I was not really surprised by the depth of the impact in my soul from these things, because in a way I had mostly foreseen it. I know myself. I know the way God works in my heart. I had anticipated being affected.

What astonished me was the shared humanity I found in Haiti. I love to laugh. So do Haitians. I am sometimes sarcastic with perfect strangers in an amusing way. So are Haitians.

One afternoon I asked our guide to take my wife and me to the market in Saint Marc. This is a typical third-world, open-air market, where a person may buy everything from ladies’ underwear to fly-covered pig intestines.

Desiring the full Haitian experience, we rode into the city on a “tap-tap,” a taxi like none in America. It was a barely running small pickup truck with as many sweaty, smelly people as will fit in the back. Desiring to breathe, I stood up and held onto the rickety, hand-welded railing behind the cab.

A man on the side of the road yelled, “Hey Blanc, kot machine ou!” My friend and translator informed he had said “Hey white guy, where is your truck?!”

I have barely stopped laughing since he said that to me.

People are people. While most Haitians are terribly poor, lacking even the most basic essentials of clean water, a stable food supply and access to a basic medical care, they are not that different than you and me.

They love to laugh. They love their kids. They have trials and pain, and many of them look to God for help in their lives.

In Haiti, I was most surprised by something that I already knew in my mind but had never really sank into my heart; something that H.G. Wells said a century ago: “Our true nationality is mankind.”

One God gave breath to all men. One God made one race of men of which we are all a part.

“Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” (Genesis 2:7 NLT)