“Prayer requires that we stand in God’s presence with open hands, naked and vulnerable, proclaiming to ourselves and to others that without God we can do nothing. This is difficult in a climate where the predominant counsel is, ‘Do your best and God will do the rest.'” (Compassion: A Relfection on the Christian Life by Nouwen, McNeill & Morrison, pp. 104)
I love Nouwen’s words above, because from the moment our van left Santo Domingo at 5:30am this morning, on the road to Haiti….I have pretty much felt naked and vulnerable. I think a lot of my anxiety was that for the first time I was not leading a trip, but was going as a participant. It’s different when you lead. You organize details, you encourage the other participants…and in so doing, I have found that it’s easier to be removed from engaging others. It’s easier to hide behind details, itineraries and agendas. You are too busy in charge of others, to actually have to engage anyone on a real meaningful level.
Our first stop was in a hosptial where hundreds of relief workers, doctors and nurses were treating all the wounded Haitians. I found myself on the edge of that experience most of my time there, but was enjoying playing with the kids. First stop, not too bad.
Our second stop was in another church/hospital compound that was run by the pastor, his wife and lots of volunteer doctors and nurses. Again I found myself on the edge of the experience until we walked inside to take a tour of the hospital and talk with the patients. In the very back room we met a woman who was sitting on the edge of her bed recovering from her wounds after being bruied for almost two days in all the rubble. We asked if she wanted to share her story. She told us about her house shaking, and how when the roof collapsed she was holding her twin baby boys (17 months old). Both boys died and she talked of one boy breaking into three pieces, and then having to “throw away”the other baby as he was crushed against her chest. In her eyes was such hope and peace as she talked about calling out the name of Jesus for help. She went on to say that her husband ran away because he thought she had died, along with his two sons, and his sister-in-law. When we asked about her husband the quiet man sitting in a chair behind her moved forward to sit on the bed with his wife.
We began to pray for them both, all 10-15 of us Americans, along with other Haitians and Dominicans. We stood there, hands on them, praying for about things that none of us can ever understood. And then in the overwhelming grief of the husband he began to rock back and forth, shake, and cry out,“Why Jesus, Why Jesus, Why Jesus, Why Jesus” — over and over and over again. I have been in lots of hospital rooms, and even spent 5 years in the hospital rooms of my mom as she was dying of breast cancer. I remember being next to her after she had died, consumed with my own grief as was everyone else in the room. But in all my years I have never been witness to someone so overcome by grief. It’s the type of grief that you picture an Old Testament character experiencing after the loss of their entire family, wherein they strip off their clothes to cover themselves in sackcloth and ashes and sit down in their grief. I stood in silence, stunned, unable to offer forth any words. We all stood in silence.
Then I knew…and I think we all knew…that this experience was just the beginning of what the rest of our time in Haiti would be like. A mixture of hope and grief. Sadness and joy. Tears and laughter.
Much more happened after this trip but I hardly feel like I can do it justice in my own words. But what we did experience was much of the same. Lots of laughter and hope, and lots of tears and despair. We sat with about 45 Haitian pastors later in the afternoon, hearing their stories, praying for them, strategizing with them, and passing out supplies that we had brought. But when we left that place the only image seared on my mind was that of a young Haitian pastor who talked of losing his wife in the earthquake, and who is alone now taking care of their 8 month old baby.
I tried to approach today with hands open, and Christ met me there, in all my nakedness and vulnerability. And it was through him that others saw hope and love…not through any skills or gifts I could offer.
I appreciate your prayers and encouragement on the journey. It’s fun checking in on Facebook and Twitter to see that I’m not alone on this trip.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
And if you are interested in coming to Haiti to serve, or want to donate money, check out Adventures in Missions who is leading this trip.
[the image is of one of the Haitian pastors taking supplies we brought back to his community]