Liar, Liar: But Isn’t Haiti Dangerous?
I am so glad that you are here reading this post. When people find out Eric and I work as Mission Coordinators for Praying Pelican in Haiti, this is typically one of the first questions they ask.
This question is broad, emotional, and controversial in nature. To say that Haiti is a place without crime, danger or sin would be absurd. On the other hand, to answer with a resounding “yes” would be equally as absurd.
When our PPM teams come to Haiti, we often have a meeting to talk about the “rumors” they heard about Haiti as they were planning their trip. The responses we get are often mind-blowing: you have to dip your hands in bleach before meals, you must always wear dark clothing,you must have all skin covered at all times, don’t touch the children, no water is safe to drink… the list goes on and on. What I love the most is, at the end of the week, after the teams have spent a mere 6 days working alongside Haitians in their community and yet, have forged relationships, genuine partnerships and friendships that will last a lifetime, I get the privilege to watch the weak foundations of those rumours crumble as truth bursts forth.
I would ask you to do exactly what we ask of our teams. Take all your preconceived ideas and notions of Haiti and rip them, roots and all, from your mind. Take them, and burn them to ash. Create a clean palette for your mind. Open up your heart, and pray for the Lord to let you see through His eyes. This will help you digest the truth of what you see, hear, or read far better.
Don’t let your view of Haiti and Haitians come from the latest news story. The Haitian people aren’t a big scary mob who live in tents, have continual guerrilla warfare, or kill and steal for fun. (Those are, again, more examples from PPM teams speaking on what they thought Haiti would be like). It’s almost as if our culture is obsessed with vilifying the Haitian culture. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a major news network that has shown a positive story of Haiti.
As someone who has lived and worked in Haiti, I can say with certainty that those rumors our teams have heard do not represent the Haiti that I know.
The Haitians I know are are fiercely protective of those they love, even strangers of another color. Crossing the road by yourself? Be prepared to have someone grab your hand and help you navigate traffic. Running to catch a tap-tap? Hands will reach out to help you. Worried about walking to the bathroom at night by yourself? They’ll wake up and walk you. (Yes, true story) They will fight for what is good, be gracious in times of ignorance and give of themselves selflessly. (To get a sense of the character I’m writing about, read one of my previous posts, Driving Along.)
My relationship with the men I know in Haiti parallels with the men in my life at home–protective, hard-working, loving, humble, and at your side in a moment’s notice.
Men who push you behind them when an angry dog is charging you. – Jovani
Forgive your ignorance and take time to teach you. – Almando
Bang on the hood of an approaching car going too fast as you navigate the airport parking lot. – Eli,
Wake the team up on Christmas day singing Christmas Carols at sunrise. – Rudy, Stevens & Davidson
Check the oil and tires on your car before you leave for the day. – Jeanty
Wake up periodically at night to ensure the grounds are safe, without being asked. – Anderson
Leave school and ride 4 miles on a moto taxi to bring you a gallon of gas when you run out. – Phito
Drop what they are doing to come help you at any time. – Maxime & Gens
Treat you like family. – Pastor Samson & Jean Delcy
The women with whom I have relationships with in Haiti have outstanding character, strength and wisdom. Mentors with whom I count myself lucky to work and serve alongside.
Women whose wise words you write down to someday share your children some day. – Sister Mona
Who do your laundry without being asked. – Elda
Pray over you in the middle of the night while you are sick. – Elizabeth
Make sure you take time to focus on your personal relationship with God. – Cassie
Prepare a plate of food and ensure you take time to sit and rest. – Rachou
Get up before sunrise to bake bread for your six hour ride home. – Madame Dominique
Change your bandages and dressings three times a day. – Marlo
Always have a vegetarian option. Always. – Madame Samson
So, is Haiti dangerous? Is America? Your hometown? Yes, yes, and even if you don’t believe it, yes. We are all human, we are sinful in nature. As long as we dwell in our sinful state on this earth, there will be the threat of danger no matter where you are.
Every culture has their crazies. The gossip, the racist, the aliens-are-abducting-my-cows guy. But should they be the ones we use to define a culture?
When you look at the news, it isn’t filled with joy and life, but with terror and destruction. Our society thrives on it. Maybe its something within our human condition, maybe its the lure of evil. Whatever the case may be, the Haitian people I know are not dangerous. They aren’t crazies. They aren’t rapists, or thieves, or killers. They’re the kind of men and women I believe God looks down upon with a smile. They’ll be the first to enter the gates of Heaven. The first to hear “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
I would challenge you, before you judge an entire country by what you see on the evening news, to gain some first hand experience. Bring your questions of danger in Haiti with you on a trip here with us, and have a Haitian answer them for you.
See their smile, hear their laugh, feel their hand grasp yours. And know, without a doubt, you’re safe.
To learn more about serving on a mission trip to Haiti, visit Praying Pelican Missions’ Haiti mission trip information page.