When traveling, especially to a foreign country, I am often first struck by the
new landscape or smells, but by the time I leave, my lasting memories are of the
people I have met. There is always a temptation to get stay caught in the
“picture:” the scenery, the smells, the newness of the experience and never move
into three dimensions: the people, their lives, their pains, and their joys.
But as my trip to Haiti this spring break reminded me, moving into three
dimensions is most important part of life no matter where I am; to see the
people for who they are, because human nature transcends time and space.
In Haiti I saw a lot of disturbing things. I saw a woman with a tumor
the size of an orange on her face sitting in her back yard while I was painting
the overlooking fence. I saw an 11-month-old baby who was so malnourished he
couldn’t pick up his head. I played with a little girl for a couple of days,
met her mother, and was asked later by one of her friends if I was going to
adopt her because we loved each other. A small group I was a part of was asked
extremely tough questions, like, “why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” and, “does
the faith of a nation determine their prosperity?” But in spite of my
challenging feelings, I was left reflecting upon God’s love and upon His
sovereignty that gives purpose to the lives of those I encountered and to my
It is easy for me to remember the challenges I observed and faced
and the images will never be erased from my memory, but the challenges did not
define my trip. What I will remember most is the wisdom with which our
translators spoke: the insight that they brought into our journey in Haiti. I
will remember the joy I heard with every song that rang out from the church and
filled the community. I will remember how God used the people I met to move me
away from the contentment that I had gotten accustomed to, to a place where I am
asking God to use me for His glory, even if it is at the expense of my comfort.
What was important about our trip was not the work that we did for the
mission, the mixing and carrying of concrete, the painting, and the picking up
of trash, but the realization that despite material possessions and the lack
there of, we are all the same. In all honesty we are no more fortunate than
they are. We may have more possessions, but we lack the richness of communal
responsibility. This is a hard concept for those of us who come from tight
communities, however, I guarantee that our sense of community and our
responsibility to one another does not begin to compare to that of the people I
met in Haiti.
For instance, we met a young man who is not getting married for
several more years in order to fully devote himself to providing for parents and
siblings. We encountered many multigenerational households full of individuals
who put the needs of their family members before their own. And we met teens,
full of ambition, whose life goals were not to become doctors or lawyers, but to
run orphanages. But it is these things: the sense of community, hope, and
happiness, despite a lack of basic necessities, that I will remember most about
my trip to Haiti.
Written by Lisa Davis, current M.A. student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.