For the past three or four years, I’ve felt the need to go to Haiti on a mission trip with CCJ.
It wasn’t something that I felt that I would actually enjoy doing. I’m a city girl and I like my luxuries. Going on a mission trip and not having the access to the things I take for granted didn’t sound like fun. And I remember the political uproar there in the 1990s. That added to my fear of going.
But something in me said that I needed to go. I didn’t know why this was a must. But I knew that the internal nagging wouldn’t go away until I went.
Now that I’m back, I have a better understanding of the why.
Some of my notions of Haiti were all wrong. I expected to see people who were depressed about their situation. But they weren’t.
What I saw was people who dealt with their situations and were thankful for whatever they had. They were talking and laughing, and they greeted whoever they met cheerfully.
We in America get depressed if we get a pay cut, which may force us to have to get the cable TV turned off. We get mad if we can’t buy that new car we want; instead we have to continue driving this 8- or 9-year old model.
In Haiti, I saw a people who are close to God and praised Him day and night - and praised HIm loudly, I might add.
Many of us are shy about our religious affiliation. We don’t want people to know and thus, judge us.
In Haiti, I saw the people making do with what they have, and being thankful for it. Why can’t we do that?
While I was learning from them, some of the people were learning from me.
Several people mistook me for Haitian and started speaking to me in Haitian Creole. When they realized that I was American, they apologized (I got this through our interpreters), though they looked at me kind of funny. But they were still very nice to me.
The most impacting misidentification — which explained the funny looks from before — came on the last day we were there. We stayed in a dorm that was close to the local grade school. We were getting ready to leave just as the kids were having recess. So we were swarmed by children. A little girl looked at me and started speaking in Haitian Creole. I shrugged my shoulders and told her that I didn’t know what she was saying. She looked at me confused, and then her eyes widened some. She pointed to me and asked, “Ameriken?”
“Yes,” I said, pointing to myself, “I am an American.”
She gasped — that’s the first time I’ve ever heard anyone actually gasp out loud — and asked again. “Ou Ameriken?” I confirmed it again.
The little girls started calling her friends over, pointed to me and told them, “Ameirken!” They looked at me in wonder and asked me too. Then they started calling over friends. I had dozens of school children pointing at me in wonder and asking over and over again, “Ameriken?” One boy even held his arm up to mine and pointed at both back and forth to emphasize to me that we are the same color. The kids were in awe.
I guess they weren’t used to seeing Americans that were the same color as them. Now, they have some new information to file away. I’m kind of proud that I was able to give them that, after all the people of Haiti had already given me.
I left Haiti with a new perspective on the country and new inspiration for me to hold on to when everything in my world isn’t perfect. They showed me how to be more thankful for and content with what I have.