Chris’ thoughts 4 days later

Thank you all for your supportive comments. They are really encouraging. Now that I’ve had more time to reflect on the experience I’ve realized that besides just a few minutes of hesitation right after the quake, I did the right things at the right time. If I’d stayed after dark, it really would have been impossible to do anything productive. I want to believe that my motives were pure when I left, but whether they were pure or not, it turned out to be the right thing and when we came back the next morning we pulled out 6 live girls.

I want to show you the comment I liked the best:

“I honestly don’t know if leaving was the right thing to do. Only you can say whether it was fear and emotional exhaustion that drove you away from the school, or if you left because you truly thought you could do more good by going home. Either way, you were pushed as far as you could go, and you made the best decision you could in the circumstances. Whichever way you chose, you would have second-guessed that decision for the rest of your life, and that is the hallmark of a compassionate person.

What surprises me is your comments about the other people on the street- that they didn’t stop to help. This is similar to what I saw on a video taken immediately after the earthquake. People milling around, people running through the streets, but very little direct action to aid the survivors as they cleared themselves out of the rubble.

A little more support for you, the help of a few neighbors with even basic tools, would have made all the difference for those girls.

What happened? Why didn’t people stop to help the strangers directly in front of them?”

I feel good today. The reason is that I feel God has gave me a gift. I know that sounds crazy, but I will explain. The work that we do with Biosand filters saves the lives of many, many children, but it often feels like a thankless task, and in the last year, it’s not only felt thankless, but we’ve felt persecuted as well. The arson attack and death threat were very discouraging for us. I was at a place where I needed to feel like I was helping people hands-on, not just suffering persecution here in Haiti for no reason.

On Tuesday, God put me in the place where I was needed. I’m absolutely certain that God knew exactly where he intended for that truck to break down and then made it happen. He chose me because he knew I would climb under the slab when others wouldn’t, and I had the resources available to later come back with the CWH crew and take the rest of the girls out of the school. It feels good to do God’s work, and every time we pulled out a girl my heart hurt a little bit less.

Now comes the part where I might upset some people, so I won’t be offended if you decide to scroll down to one of Leslie’s posts instead.

The second part of the comment I like too because it asks hard questions about Haitians in particular and human nature in general.

First off, everywhere in the world there are good people and bad, brave people and cowards. Immediately after the quake, most people could only thing about finding their loved ones. I knew that not only were Leslie and Olivia outside of Port au Prince, but our house is very strong and I didn’t need to worry about them. Obviously, in an emergency like that everyone should immediately start to help right where they are, but if my family had been living in a poorly build house in another part of Port au Prince I might have taken off running.

Also, there were people helping even if they didn’t know where their families were, even on Tuesday night. The guy who found me the hammer, brought water, and helped me haul out the heavier bits of rubble was a guy named Samson, and without him it would have been so much worse. We saw him the next day when we came back, too, and he never stopped working. On Wednesday when we arrived, we found people who had been working through the night. They were really happy to see the tools we brought, but they weren’t afraid to do the hard work. Towards the end of the day, there was only one hole left with live people in it but there were men working in the other holes to remove the bodies.

Finally, it’s way, way easier to do the right thing when you have an example to follow. There are a lot of Haitians that have good in them, but are afraid to do the right thing. Our own experiences in Haiti are proof that no good deed goes unpunished, so to speak. In Haiti, the politicians work to fill their own pockets, but not to advance the country or help the people to feed themselves. There is not a single document or government function I can think of as I sit here that doesn’t require bribes to be paid. Our own adoption of Olivia has taken two years (so far) because we haven’t been willing to put money in pockets. Successful businessmen in Haiti stay that way by worrying about their own affairs and not worrying about Haiti’s “unsolvable” problems. They work within the corruption instead of fighting against it. If the typical Haitian countryman seems selfish, it’s because he’s taken his example from the country’s leaders.

I don’t pretend to know the solution to Haiti’s problems, but I have a few ideas I want to talk to Obama about! I’ll leave that for another day, perhaps – I want to spend some time loving my family.

16 thoughts on “Chris’ thoughts 4 days later

  1. Its hard enough to keep yourself in 1 place where you are needed when every fiber of your being is telling you to GO HOME! I think that by jumping in and instantly putting others 1st you are a hero. And the fact that the 1st place you went to upon returning was to the school tells me that your conscience was dwelling on her the whole night. I applaud you for even trying to be there when no one else was.

  2. I’m glad you told us about Samson. People have a tendency to stereotype groups of people (All missionaries are fill-in-the-blank; all Haitians are violent/dangerous/lazy/corrupt/etc); but when you take it to the person-to-person level you realize every individual has unique worth. In times of crisis some go into shock and others are mobilized (think of our fight or flight instincts). You have shown us that many many Haitians jumped right in, as you did, to help tirelessly despite being underequipped.
    I love the resilient Haitians fiercely and am glad you spoke out for the ones that showed their generosity despite having so little to give. Please keep telling us of the individuals you run across who are making a difference in their community.

  3. Chris I think you are right and some people will feel offended, and I think they will feel offended because you are right. It is courageous for a person reliant on outside donations to say what is really going on in a country like Haiti, when people in the richer countries simply don’t want to believe it. It’s a problem common to almost all missionaries that I know. I praise the Lord for the work you and Leslie and all the other missionaries in Haiti are doing, and I understand a small fragment of what your sacrifice really is. I’m very blessed to know Leslie and that you guys are doing such meaningful work, and not just the Biosand filters either. I really believe too that now is the time to pull no punches as the outside world finally begins to see what is happening in that beautiful and tragic country. Many blessing and encouragements.

    PS Purely on a temporal scale (well as much as anything can be), I think a concentrated effort to not only rebuild Port but to develop two other major centres needs to be part of any recovery plan. For when you have the ear of the president.

  4. You are courageous. I believe that God did put you there at that time for a reason. I pray for you every day, for strength and courage and wisdom. I have one question, regarding the school. Is it a elementary or high school? God Bless you and your family, as well as your work.

  5. You guys have been in my thoughts non-stop the last few days. Sitting in a news room or at home, I’m so far removed from all of this, yet trying to imagine your reality. I think what you say about the good & the bad is so true. You can find extremes everywhere. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about it all.

  6. Hi Chris, Leslie, and Olivia,

    Came across your blog from a link on another blog regarding the earthquake. Thank you for what you are doing. It is beautiful to see such love and honesty in your heart. God is so good to give you the gifts He has bestowed upon you and to place you in the exact situation where you can share your gifts. What a grace, and thankfully you have been open to His calling in your life. I am looking forward to getting to know more about Clean Water for Haiti in the future. Please know that your family is in our prayers, including your Hatian family. We are all the body of Christ, and when one suffers we all suffer. Where there is great suffering, there is also great redemption. We thank you and praise you Lord Jesus Christ!

  7. Reflection is essential, and thank-you for sharing yours with us. And please take this as a compliment, but I don’t believe courageous is the right word for what you did; You were obedient to the Word (and I am not a believer). Christians are called to serve others, even if the inclination is to serve ourselves (and our own). I honor that obedience. It makes God more real to me than ten thousand Christians in America praying in one breath and asking why more Haitians didn’t stop to help in the next.
    Deprivation and loss hardens people. What we in the States think of as poverty bears no resemblance to what I’ve seen in Haiti. Who cares why more didn’t stop–you DID. Bless you.

  8. Chris and Leslie I have been following this since the second we heard! I was so thrilled to hear that Chris was ok. I can only wish you well and say this too shall pass!! My heart hurts for you and your experience, I am sure your faith will get you through this. Love you guys!! Please give Olivia a hug and kiss from her distant cousin!! ♥

  9. Really appreciate your thoughtfulness and honesty, Chris. Remarkable testimony to God’s providence; calls to mind Mother Theresa quote: “we aren’t called to do great things, but small things with great love.” We do what He places before us moment by moment; as you are doing…

    Thanks for being faithful in all of your moments… especially in such a time as this. Feel sad/sorry that we sometimes only recognize faithful ‘small moments’ in times of large tragedies? Yes, guilty as charged.

    Will use your blog commentary with HS kids tomorrow; with lots of prayer continuing for you & Haiti (sounds trite, as I write this… but trusting in His redemptive power). Can I say, “Peace, Be Well?

    That is my prayer… In His strong name,
    PS. blessings from your Columbia Presbyterian family.

  10. Thank you for sharing your story online. I was once on the edge of a lake in India when awoman in the water got out of her depth and raised her hand. There was only one other person around, head down, washing her clothes and unaware of the situation. I did not think twice about jumping in; unfortunately I am not a strong swimmer and when I got to her she clung on and we went up and down, up and down! Eventually I got her on my back and dog paddled for shore. We both survived but it did make me reflect about the importance of thinking and assessing before acting… I am very good at jumping in without thinking first. I think how we react is partly to do with our individual personalities as much as culture.

    I can imagine the frustration of living in a corrupt society – I know refugees who come to New Zealand often comment on what we take for granted: democracy and a relatively corrupt-free government. Good on you for taking a stand.

  11. Thank you for sharing Chris and Leslie. My experience down there with your organization seems well reflected in the way you guys reacted to this; with a drive to do what’s right but knowing that you can’t do it all and need to focus on the main task you’ve been given. I have been devastated since I heard the news and continue to be. You and Haiti are in my prayers.

  12. God’s Blessings on You, Chris!!
    I feel what you are saying. Do go and give your family a Great Big and Long Hug, continue hugging them.
    I know of many Haitians that would have helped if God had chosen them to be there. Earth quakes don’t give much advance notice, so when they happen there is usually panic. If one is sure that his loved ones are safe or sure that He will take care of them, then subconsciously we are able react. Another part of reacting is what we put into our hearts before a tragedy. Our Lord has filled you with His Love so much that He called, and you accepted the challenge to go to Haiti and serve Him. To help in this tragedy is what and who you are.
    I know and am Praying for Peter Craig and his family as they are confused by the anticipation of serving with you in Haiti and then this tragedy happens.
    God is so good not to allow this wonderful family to experience these tragic times until they have had a time to settle in. I am sure that Peter and Sara would have done all they could to help save people, anyone.
    God Bless You and your precious family, Chris.
    Sharon and Paul Smith

  13. I read your initial post about where you were on the day of the EQ a couple of days ago and have thought about it a lot. I think you are absolutely right in that God made no mistake when He placed you – broken down- near that high school full of girls. I give thanks that you were able to encourage those girls to pray even as they were buried. When you left for the night- you did not leave Jacqueline (was that her name?) alone- but instead, you reminded her to pray to Emmanuel. She was not alone. Thank you for doing God’s mighty work in Haiti.

  14. GWAN NOW! you are a mighty family! <3 i give thanks to God for renewing my faith through the works of people like you.

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