A friend of mine emailed me today. She works with the deaf community outside of Port au Prince and three of her ladies had been coming home from buying supplies this past week and had been beaten to death. My own Mario was shot in the face just two weeks ago. Another missionary who drives the same make and model of truck as I do was robbed at gunpoint four blocks from my house last week. This is the reality of the climate that we live in. Every day there is so much brokenness around us. Sometimes we joke down here that if we ever were to tell or write about everything that happened every day, that we would lose all credibility- no one would believe us. So we choose what to say and when to say it. All the while wanting to protect and promote this little country that we have come to love. Haiti really is a wonderful place. It is. And it’s not at the same time. There is so much sadness to deal with.
Aside from all of the external pain all around us, the expat community is so very segmented and broken too. When someone believes ideologically that feeding programs or orphanages are the best solution or the way that they are supposed to be helping, it makes it hard to have relationships with those around you who believe in sustainability or agriculture for example. There is always an elephant in the room when expats all get together as everyone believes so strongly in the work that they are trying to accomplish. It is hard to be vulnerable with people who believe differently than you. Add to that the spiritual side of things. You have the Embassy workers, and the Calvinists, and the Charismatics, and the World Vision people….It is hard to have common ground. Hard to see eye to eye. It is the side of Haiti that you don’t understand until you are here for a while. So many people come to me and say, “Why don’t you all work together more?” It doesn’t make sense until you have been here a while. It is hard enough to work by yourself. To marry your efforts with another group and risk potential conflict is, in many cases too great of a risk.
If relationships go bad here, you live within 10 feet of each other and it is painful and awkward. This is a very small island. It is the walking on eggshells that we all do just to try to get by.
And there are very few emotionally safe places to land.
All of us down here have heard of child trafficking orphanages. We have heard of unspeakable things being done to women and children. We have heard of scams to bring Haitians to parts of South American as slaves. We have heard of massive rapes, and machete slayings, and people being burned alive. I have witnessed people getting stoned to death. I have seen bodies laying in the streets as people walk by like it is a normal occurrence. And all of us can’t do anything about it. We can’t fix the brokenness. We can’t change the bad things we see around us. We can’t even get along with each other.
So how do we as expats, do self care? How do we process the things we see and have a safe place to go to talk about what we need to say? Who other than us down here can really understand what we are going through. I long for a day when I can look another expat, an aid worker, an embassy staff person in the eye and just be kind to them. We all need it so much from each other. In spite of the differences of ideology that we have, all of us are so hurt by what we have seen and by the work we do and need so much kindness extended to us. I want to be a safe person, a kind person to each person who I come in contact with, even if I disagree with the methodology of what they are doing in Haiti.
There are a few people in Haiti who over the years have shown me continued and undeserved kindness. Steve and Ruth Hersey, Karl and Anne Olsen, Callie Himsl, Mary DeKoeter, Kathy Brooks, Risa Reeves, Tonya Kucey, Rhianna Pfaff are just a few of those people off of the top of my head. For them I am eternally grateful and they are an inspiration to me to continue to show kindness to my fellow expats who are in the trenches of heartache along side of me. They truly are the reason why I am still here today.