Reflections on our May 2012 trip to Haiti, post 1

Erick working on a project
This is my sixth trip to Haiti. I started going there in May 2009, exactly three years ago. It strikes me how every trip is different, yet certain themes tend to be similar. I have experienced Child Hope from both sides. Five of my trips have been with stateside mission teams, and one trip was as a temporary Haiti-side staff member. The latter was the emergency trip I took after the earthquake in January 2010.

Of the five team experiences, I have never been on a team that has been highly “project” driven. We have always done projects of some sort, but every time I have been to Child Hope, our team has concentrated on being relational. It was interesting to get to the mission in Haiti this time and have Tammi Jo, the Child Hope team coordinator, say, “We know your teams are going to spend a lot of time being with people and going out into the community.” Bingo. This team was comfortable being present with people, showing them attention, praying with them, encouraging them, and loving them.

Erick connecting with a "ti gason" (little boy)
This trip was unique, because every one is. However, the relational theme was consistent. And that's okay with me, because in Haiti we are entering a situation of dire poverty, and material projects don't get at the deepest aspects of poverty. As Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert document so well in the book When Helping Hurts, "Poor people talk in terms of shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness. North American audiences tend to emphasize a lack of material things such as food, money, clean water, medicine, housing, etc." (p. 53).

In other words, Americans tend to march in with a project plan. That is good and necessary, don't get me wrong. But if we don't connect relationally with the poor, we only serve to reinforce their feelings of shame, inferiority, and so on. If you think in terms of all the teams that come to Maison de Lumiere in Haiti, some of them will focus on material projects. Some are more relational. The people of the neighborhood, including those in the tent cities, need both material help and relational connection. We focused on the latter. Like I said, that's fine with me. Besides, it used the best of the resources we had on our team. I love it that we expressed who we are and met deep needs at the same time.


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