Yesterday evening two SUV’s pulled up to the driveway and a bunch of people got out. It was a community delegation that had come to talk. I was upstairs trying to get dinner started so Chris went and sat down with the dozen or so people that were here. They wanted Doug present too, probably because they thought he would like what they had to say.
Chris wanted to receive them well and to try to give them a fair chance. After I brought some water down and sat in we both realized that what they were saying they were there for – to talk and find a solution to the situation with Asne being in prison – and what they were really there for were two entirely different things.
I want to preface the rest of this by saying that situations like this are hard for us. We want to respect people and to hear them, to listen and try to work with them. After the introductions were done and they launched into things it became clear that they were really there to try and pressure Chris into letting Asne out of prison, to make him feel like he should drop things. Chris asked them, “Do you believe that someone who is suffering because of actions like this should find justice?” One person, one out of over a dozen, said yes. One out of a dozen or more? That made me sad. It made me sad because people in our area have gotten so used to living without justice that they don’t even consider it an option. What was more important to these people is that their friend was released from prison. Not that anyone should be held accountable for a crime if they’ve committed it. Not that they don’t want this kind of thing to continue in their community. There was talk to of there being two victims here – us because we’ve had this offense done against us and him because he’s spent 90 days in prison. Chris reminded them that there is a justice system and that there is a course of action that needs to be followed. If they are unhappy that their friend is in prison, that is not our fault, it is the fault of those who are not pushing the arrests of the others so the investigation can continue, and so the case can go to trial.
At one point one of the main speakers told us that they were here to help us too, not just to help Asne. Chris asked them where they’ve been for the last 8+ months. Where were they the day after the fire when we needed to have the community rally around us? I eventually got tired of hearing the same thing over and over and finally just said, “I bet you Asne hasn’t told you all of the things we did for his family!” and started listing off all of the things that we have done in the past. I told them that the last time we had a problem with him, over a speed bump that he put in the driveway that we couldn’t even get over, that we invited him and his wife over to talk it out so we could try to find a solution and be on good terms with him. That was when he told Chris he needed to watch his back because someone could come and “deserke” us – basically attack our home and family. It was pretty quiet for a second there. I also told everyone that we know that people talk badly about Chris and I and the mission in the community, and I asked them how many of those people actually know us face to face. The truth is that it’s not very many. I asked them why it is that when I walk down the road no one greets me unless I greet them first, and why that was. Nothing.
We have been praying that God would use this entire situation to change the whole community, not just change things for us or our workers. We know that will only happen one person at a time, and that it will happen as people hear the truth. We eventually asked the group to leave because we knew they were just there to try and pressure us. We got some attitude from several of them, but we appreciated the one woman who said, “He said we need to go, so we need to go. ” It was the same woman that said yes, she believed that people who have suffered should have justice.
The whole situation was a bit overwhelming and we camped on it for a long time last night. It was good to have Doug and Adele here to talk through things with, and for one of our board members to see what Chris and I get to deal with on a regular basis, what our life is like here. One of our neighbors was also here to visit just before the group arrived, so he stayed to listen in on things. When Chris talked to him after wards he said that he agreed with everything we said. He’s Haitian and runs a mission down the road from us and has had similar problems from the community. Part of the reason that we’re following through on this is because of the problems he’s had before. People have attacked his mission at gun point and run the foreigners out of town.
I know this sounds like a bit of a rant. Call it more of a venting explanation. After we came up last night Adele said that one thing she’s realized is that they don’t pray often enough for us. Life here is hard and sometimes it’s hard to share what it is that makes it so hard.
I keep waking up early in the morning because my mind gets going and I can’t sleep. I find I’m going through conversations in my head, things I would like to say to people. Things that might make them think. One thing I want to ask/say to people is, “Haitians say that foreigners need to come and help their country, but when we get here we get harassed, we get robbed, we get threatened, our homes and vehicles get destroyed and we get told to go back to our own country. Why? Why do you say one thing, then do the opposite. What do you really want?” I know that not all Haitians are like this, but there are many in our area who are. There are many people here who speak poorly of the mission or of us, but they have never actually had a conversation with us, they don’t know us.
Please know that I’m not writing this to speak poorly of Haiti, just to share some of our reality. The Bible says that we are to pray for those who persecute us, for those that want to do harm. We are praying for Asne and the others implicated in this. As we sat in court the other day I looked at him and felt so sad, and prayed that God would change his heart. We are praying for our community, that people would realize that they don’t need to live in fear of their neighbors, that they can live differently. We are praying that God will take everything that is intended for evil, and turn it on it’s head and use it for good. That he will change this entire community so that people can live in peace.
We know that a big part of seeing that change happen is being willing to talk, and to share the things that God is putting on our hearts. After our meeting last night Chris said that he believed God was speaking through him because the things he was saying were not things he would normally say. They were things that needed to be said, that people needed to hear. We are seeing that crowds of people in a court room may be intimidating, or having people show up at our gate can be intimidating, but that those are also opportunities for the truth to be heard. The truth will be known one person at a time. We are hoping for many more opportunities to talk with people so that they can know our side, so that they can understand why we are continuing on, because right now most of them don’t know why. They only hear one side telling them that we are bad, that we are here to take advantage etc.
I had a good conversation with one of our workers on Thursday after work. We were talking about everything that was going on. I told her that I know that people don’t like us, but that most of them probably don’t really know why. That they are making their judgements on lies. We talked about why people are upset. Things like we can’t give jobs to everyone is one of those issues. But, to expect that is unrealistic. I asked her why she thought there wasn’t more work coming into Haiti. We agreed that instability is probably the biggest part of that. I told her that I knew that the government wasn’t good, and that customs needed to be cleaned up, but that there are people trying to work on that. But, on a community level there is still too much instability around the country. People won’t invest in the country and bring work in if they know that the locals will steal from them, destroy their buildings and equipment and threaten those in charge. So if there is instability on a community level, who’s responsibility is that to fix it? Is it mine, as a foreigner? No. I can’t do it. I told her that it’s the responsibility of every single person in each community in Haiti to make a choice. They need to choose to live in peace with their neighbors, they need to choose things that are good for the whole community. I told her that many people look at developed countries and say that Haiti needs to be like that, or complain that Haiti is not like that. What gets forgotten though is that those countries weren’t always that way. It took many people working together, choosing what was good for everyone to get there. And, many times it took a few to stand up courageously for what they knew was right, even when everyone else was against them. If there is to be true change in Haiti it needs to happen on the community level. People need to stand up for what they know is right, they need to let those that are only out for their own interests and out to do harm know that those things are no longer wanted or accepted. I can’t do that for people here. We can try and help by setting an example for people.
These are the conversations that are so important, we’re realizing. We are so grateful for the opportunities that we are getting to have them. We know they are God moments, and we know that they are providing people with things to think about. Maybe those will be things that lead to big change. We don’t know. We just know that our role in all of this is to keep moving forward one day, one step at a time, as God leads us.
We talked for a long time last night about the things we see God doing through this. This has been one of the hardest situations that either of us has had to deal with, yet through it we see how God is using it. He is changing Chris and I as people. We’re developing more character. Our convictions are deepening. We’re seeing more of his calling in our lives. He’s deepening our marriage. That one’s a tough one because this whole thing has definitely worn on us, but we’ve made a choice to move through it and we are stronger. Chris is my best friend. I respect him so much for the way he has chosen to stand up for what he knows is right, even when it feels like the whole world is against us. He thanked me for being so supportive through a situation where most wives would probably want to leave. We are seeing our relationships with our workers change. We are seeing that dynamic change too – they are more unified as a group. People are being called to pray for us in a way that they haven’t been before. And, in a time when we could be completely distracted by all of this, we have seen the mission be more effective than ever. In the next week we will be installing almost 140 filters. We are getting stronger, and we are reaching farther than we ever have before. Having Doug here has given us a chance to hash through some mission stuff and we’re excited because we see that God is growing the mission, that we are moving into a new season. Those changes don’t ever come without growing pains though. We know we need to slug through until God says stop. So far he hasn’t said that so we move forward. Our God is a very big God. So big that a whisper from him can move a mountain or part a sea. We know that he is moving and we’re hopeful and excited to see where we’re going, how he’s going to change this community and what it’ll mean in the future.
Phew. That was a brain spew. Thanks for reading and following life with us. In the last week we’ve felt more closely connected to you through what we’ve been able to share and through knowing that you were fighting with us through prayer. We are here not to destroy, but to be part of renewing and rebuilding. Thanks for your support in that.