But I've been home from Haiti for not quite a week, and my head just won't stop spinning. So I'm hoping that by putting some of the jumble of thoughts here, maybe I can get some clarity. And stop crying at random times.
First things first: Katie is doing great. Better than great. She's had a rough year in some ways, but she is growing closer to God and closer to her missionary family through the trials. She is surrounded by incredible people. It is exciting to see the people of talent and passion that God is gathering into that little corner of Haiti, and to think what that community will look like in ten years because of the people he has called to serve there now. She is amazing in her classroom. Her students spoke not a word of English when they began school, and many of them had never held a book or pencil. Now they know their letters, alphabet sounds, numbers, colors, days, months, seasons...in three languages! She loves them dearly and they adore her. There is not a doubt in my mind that she is exactly where God has called her to be.
Just look at her with those sweet faces. I am one proud Momma!
It's hard to understand Haiti. Hard to describe it. I was prepared for most of what I saw: the poverty, the garbage, the crumbling buildings and total lack of infrastructure. I can't say that I really experienced culture shock. Still, when you see with your own eyes and smell with your own nose and step over filth with your own feet, it provides a perspective that others' words and photographs just can't give.
But here are a few pictures to give an idea, anyway.
What haunts me most, however, is not the garbage I saw. It's the people. The ones I really saw.
Let me try to explain.
It came to me this morning in church. Our sermon text was Mark 10:17-31, the story of the Rich Young Man (and no, this is not a blog post where I announce that we are selling everything and moving to Haiti). In verse 21, it says that "Jesus looked at him and loved him." He looked at him. Really saw him, saw his heart, his hopes, his desires, and loved him. Certainly Jesus, being God, had the ability to see people in a way that I never could. However, when we are intentional about looking at people, when we make eye contact, when we connect with them and engage them, things change. For both the seen and the seer.
Port de Paix is a congested city, with people everywhere in tap taps, riding taxis, standing in the street, walking, sitting on porches, looking out windows. It is easy to let the faces of the people there blur together. It is tempting to look away from the scenes that are ugly, and sometimes strangely difficult to remember that those women leading donkeys and men pushing wheelbarrows are not just part of the third-world scenery, but real people living their very real, very hard lives. Walking down the streets, it is possible to see many people without really seeing any of them.
But there were moments when God opened not just my physical eyes, but my spiritual eyes as well, and I had the humbling experience of really seeing the beautiful Haitian people. One of those times was a visit to House of Hope, a children's home near Port de Paix. Some of the children were shy at first, but within a few minutes they were basking in the attention of total strangers. They had a craving to be noticed, to be acknowledged, to be played with, to be held, to have their picture taken...to be seen.
I know all too well that a visit from some Americans will have no impact on these kids' circumstances. They still live where they live. There is still not enough of anything for them. But you can see by the looks on their faces that they rejoiced in our brief attentions, in being seen.
If we are the hands and feet of Jesus, aren't we also his eyes? Isn't he El Roi, the God Who Sees Me? And how can we be his hands and feet if we haven't first seen with his eyes those he loves and would have us serve?
But as I said, seeing changes the seer, too, and this is one of the reasons why I have been reeling through my first week home.
It is one thing to know there are poor people and another thing entirely to know poor people. To know their names, to kiss their sweet cheeks and have their fingers braid your hair. And when you see them with Jesus' eyes, you also love them with his heart. "Jesus looked at him and loved him." He loves them and now I do, too. It's so hard to come back to my comfortable, over-indulged life, knowing the situation of not just these children, but others that I came to know and love during our trip.
I'm trying to figure out how I live here after I've been there.