One of the most challenging things about living in Haiti for me personally is not necessarily the overwhelming physical needs. Yes, this is hard to face, especially when I’m in a place that is spacious, our family has more than enough food and all of our needs and beyond are continually met. I’d be living the same way if I lived in the U.S. but the extreme need feels magnified around me. Yes, this is difficult. However, I’ve found something even more challenging, and that is not necessarily the poverty that I see surrounding me, but the poverty of the mind that is steeped and rooted into the heart of this culture.
Back in January, we had a short term trip come out to partner with us from the Rock Church. During this time, we had purchased material to help rebuild over 35 roofs for those who had lost them in the recent Hurricane. One Thursday morning, the team and I walked down the narrow alleyways of Sentalen, (a very poor neighborhood here). As we began bringing material into the nearby homes, people multiplied, voices rose up and crowds were pressing around us. I quickly gave instructions, we prayed and broke up into groups. During that day, everyone served faithfully and put their hand to the good work before them. At the end of the day, we were able to rebuild 3 roofs in that neighborhood that helped 5 different families.
What I had hoped for was a community to gather around this elderly woman, living with her elderly husband, who had no way of repairing their roof. And another woman, living alone, who had so generously opened up her home to other victims of the hurricane to stay there. Instead, what I found was a depraved mindset. During that day, children, women, men, young and old, skinny and well fed, reached out to me, grabbed me, begged me, surrounded me, asking for money or a new roof. Keep in mind, our team is not only taking care of these roofs, but doing kids activities for over 400 children, and serving food to them as well.
“You fixed hers, now fix mine.” Sure, the women getting their roof replaced were very happy, but outside of that, there was nobody, not one neighbor who seemed thankful for these people receiving a new roof. All of them had the mindset of, “If I’m not getting help, I don’t want anyone else to get help either.” The Poverty Mindset says, “I’d rather see everyone suffer than to see one person lifted up out of their misery…”
Shortly after that day, we took an optional evacuation by the U.N. and spent 2 weeks away from Jeremie, Haiti. We’ve been back for 5 weeks now, and this past week, we returned to that same neighborhood to make good on a promise of one more resident’s roof. This lady was a single mom who had 4 children and shared the house with a family that had been displaced due to the recent hurricane. Putting a roof up meant the family could return and live there.
After the roof was finished, the neighborhood was in a frenzy, bursting with people wanting the left over material. In between the time frame of the leaders on the worksite coming and going, the homeowner, who had just received a brand new roof at no cost to her, facilitated the theft of metal sheets and wooden pieces. Not only did she do this, but when one of the leaders returned, she also lied to him about where the material went, as some of it went to the neighbors, and she hid some of it in her home.
When I found this out, I had mixed emotions of frustration, anger, disappointment, sadness...and then my heart broke for her. My heart broke for her and so many like her that even in their situation of getting a new roof, it wasn’t enough, she wanted more. She had an unthankful heart, a heart of greed. And I’ve come to experience this is very common here. Mostly, it seems especially in the city, that something given, no matter what it is, it isn’t enough.
I’ve been struggling with loving people like this for the past 1 ½ yrs I’ve been here, because it’s in your face every day. I think generally, it’s easy for us to love those who are thankful or who love us back. Jesus says if we simply love those who love us, what reward do we have? As I’ve been battling with this in my heart, to show continual kindness to people who have an unthankful heart, who literally to your face reject your gift, reject your love and your offering because they want more, one morning this verse struck my heart.
“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.” Luke 6:35
God is using these experiences and His Spirit to show me Who He is, and Who I am. He’s showing me the reality that to the extent I understand my identity in Christ, is to the extent I will show kindness towards the unthankful and evil. Ultimately, if I’m lacking in showing kindness to them, I’m lacking in knowing the reality of Who I am and Whose I am. He’s showing me how to do this with an open heart, ready to receive unthankfulness, knowing that this is my identity in Christ. He has freed me, He has freed you, He has freed us all to live this way, for He is kind to the unthankful and evil.