About a week ago we got the opportunity to spend some time in the downtown area of Port-au-Prince. Despite that we have been here for almost a month, we have not seen much outside of the house and the church so spending a day in the city was a pretty big deal. The sights that I saw peering through the back bars of the box truck were sights of poverty, and of devastation, and of a third world country stricken by confusion and chaos.
As I sat and took all of this in, my mind wondered as to how I could pray for this country. What was God's vision for this place? What was his plan for Haiti? Having an American perspective on life, my mind first went to success. I wanted to pray for Haiti to become successful, to become self-sufficient. I wanted Haiti to have nice streets, to have clean water, to have unbroken buildings, and to have luxuries.
It was in that moment that I realized that I was praying for Haiti to become like America.
Just as that thought struck me, I was reminded of the fact that success is not defined by material things. Success is not defined by how large, or how clean, or how modern a place is, not by Godly standards anyway. It was in the moment that God reminded me that I look at things with such clouded vision. That my prayer for this place should not be that it grows into a huge metropolis, but that it grows into a country that bleeds for the Lord. What was even more heart wrenching is that God reminded me that this third world country, stricken heavily by devastation, is more likely to turn wholly towards him that my very own America.
God's vision for Haiti is not ever for it to become like the United States. God's vision for Haiti is that is becomes a country that lives, breathes, and serves a living father despite the hurt and devastation that surrounds it. God's vision is for this country to rise above the rubble, to be a country that overcomes, to be a country that is alive again. God's vision for Haiti is nothing like my vision for Haiti... but I am beginning to realize that is probably a very good thing!
One of the greatest things about the world race is that you can never have any kind of expectations...
I am officially a Haitian School Teacher. Definitely didn't see that one coming! :)
So, how did this happen you may ask? Well.. let me just tell you. Initially my team was to spend this month of ministry living in an orphanage and working on a restoration home that is to open sometime during the month of September. However, because of some issues with finding the right location for this home, my team has spent the past two weeks being challenged to use our own gifts and abilities to help out in different ways around the orphanage. For instance, my teammate Emily, who has a degree in occupational therapy, has been spending the working with special needs kids at the orphanage. Another teammate of mine, Alicia, has a degree is social work and has been helping with assessment and paperwork as new kids come to the Home. And I, well... I volunteered to help out at the school, of course!
Initially when I volunteered to do this, I figured that I could do some one on one tutoring, right? Maybe help some kids that were a little behind, or just give the teacher some assistance in the classroom. I was also very much willing to organize supplies, books, just whatever needed to be done to be helpful.
So, I arrive to school Monday morning with the kids, introduce myself to the two teachers, and explain that I have a background in education and want to be able to just help out for the next couple of weeks in whatever way they need me to. The teacher looks at me and says "well, you can teach the class, if you'd like." My first thought went straight to "what in the world have I gotten myself into?" I tried to politely explain that I didn't think I was qualified to teach a variety of subjects to Haitian students, many of which only speak a little English. Again, they insisted that I teach the class... that being educated in America, I was much more qualified than they were to be teaching these kids, and they as teachers, could possibly learn some new things. Again, "what have I gotten myself into?" I finally ask if maybe I could just observe for the first day, seeing as though I had absolutely nothing prepared to teach that day, nor did I have any idea at what level these kids were at, or what they were learning! They agreed, I could observe the first day and start teaching the next.
As I got back to the house that afternoon, thoughts swarmed my head. What can I do to get myself out of this? Sure I have a degree in education, sure I can help teach some English, but I am not in any way qualified to teach these kids all different subjects in a language they don't all understand. Surely I can find something else to do as my ministry this month, right? I'll spend some extra time in the nursery, maybe help out the nannies downstairs. Then God chimed in... "you, my child, are going back to that school tomorrow, you have a ministry there, don't ignore that." Alright, fine, I'll go.
Later that night I spent some time talking with Mrs. Chris (our ministry contact) about the school situation and how I could best be helpful there. She informed me that there were actually about 4 kids in one of the classrooms that, despite the fact that they are 9 & 10 years old, they have never been in school before. There is no such thing as free education in Haiti, and therefore while the kids are required to go to school, many don't simply because of the fact that they can't afford to do so. These kids needed to learn the basics, they needed to be taken back down to preschool level, they needed to start from scratch... now, that I could do!
So, day 2, I pack my busted up plastic grocery bag with books, crayons, scissors, and prizes and I make the hike to school. It's on that day that I officially became a Haitian school teacher. I now have my own classroom, I have four beautiful students ages 9-11(none of which speak a bit of English), and we spend 3 hours every morning learning our ABC's, numbers, colors, and animals. We sing, we color, we cut, we pray... but most of all, we learn. They spend time learning the basics about English while I spend time learning the basics of obeying God's call, of embracing a situation even when it seems overwhelming, of letting go of expectations.
So that, my friends... is how I became a Haitian school teacher, for this month anyway. Pretty sure this one is a must for the resume. :)
I cannot even begin to describe how much joy there is here at this home in Haiti. Each and everyday I am greeted by the sounds of young voices singing, praising, and just living life as happy children. These children here are beautiful, they are loving, and they are respectful beyond belief.
At first glance, you would never believe that one of the 13 year old girls here was raised under voodoo influence and was forced to drink human blood during rituals from the time she was 7.
At first glance, you would never believe that one of the 11 year old girls here was recently raped while living in a tent community and was subjected to humiliation as all the people around her refused to take care of her.
At first glance, you would never believe that one of the 9 year old girls here was raised as a child slave and wears scars that outwardly show years of abuse. She ran away not solely because of the abuse but because she desired so badly to live somewhere where she would be allowed to go to school.
At first glance, you would never believe that one of the beautiful babies here was found laying in a dumpster with rats eating at her skin all while simply trying to survive.
I am continually amazed at the resilience of children... at their ability to forgive and to adapt. These children are able to handle things in life that would devastate most adults and not only make it through, but also be completely joyful in the process.
Each child here has a story, one of devastation but also one of victory. Each of these beautiful children were handed circumstances that were not in their favor, and yet they survived, they overcame, and they remain joyful, loving, and thankful in spite of what they have been through. There is no doubt in my mind that we could all learn a thing or two from these wonderful kiddos!