My first trip to Haiti was in 1999. Wow that number just feels like yesterday. I have been going off and on ever since. There are years I can’t make it, and some where I have had the gift of going more than once. Over the last 12 years, many wonderful and amazing friendships have been born.
Last year on Feb. 12 the pastor we had been working with alongside the Haiti Lutheran Mission Society was murdered in his home. Rev. Dr. Doris Jean Louis and his wife Elucie were coming home where they were attacked upon entering. Pastor Louis was asked to give the robbers all the money from the school. When he said he didn’t have it, they shot him in cold blood in his driveway. Pastor Louis has worked with countless mission teams and was in charge of at least five churches, two schools, a medical clinic and new orphanage compound. He was a man with money and connections to those interested in taking advantage. This sadly was not the first time his family was attacked. Many years ago, when we first starting going to Haiti, Elucie recounted when the whole family survived multiple gun shot wounds and beatings. Her sons watched in horror as their mother was shot through the chest and survived. All of this over money.
People often ask, “It costs about $1200 to go to Haiti, wouldn’t it just be better to send the money instead? They need the money, and the money could do a lot of good, then they could hire Haitians to do the work. Haitians who need the work.” All of those statements are true. But Pastor Louis response from my very first trip is what I remember. He said, “If you had to choose between sending money or coming on the trip, I would tell you to come on the trip every time. Yes, we could use the money, but when you come, we see you here. You coming tell us that believers around the world haven’t forgotten about us. You coming tell us that we have people out there who are here to help. We are not alone. When you come, you see and hear our story and you can go back and tell others our story. When you come, you can be our voice in places we can’t travel. We are not alone when you come.”
That philosophy spoke so much to me that day as a 19 year old kid, that I still remember it clearly today. Yes, Haitians should be hired to do work. When we go on trips, we hire as many Haitians as possible to hire alongside us. We also bring money to support the church to do the outreach programs that share the gospel of Jesus Christ with all people.
When all we do is give money, we are disconnected from it. We give to great programs and then forget about them. (unless our heart has been affected first.) What Pastor Louis said so well is that when we give of our time, our lives are changed from that kind of giving. We are different. We see the world differently. We understand God and sacrifice, and love and grace and compassion in a different way. The poor and forgotten want our heart. They want to be understood. They want to be loved. They want to be seen. They want others to know that its not OK for any human to live as they do. They need someone to advocate on their behalf. You need to go and see and learn and experience to have that kind of change happen in your life. You can’t just write a check.
(I do understand that those checks are important and sometimes in our lives that’s all we can give. I do not underestimate that in the least. I need those checks to get to Haiti. Thank you for that. Most of those checks though come with a heart for serving and loving others, so its different. That’s not the kind of check writing I mean.)
I also think Pastor Louis knew that once you came and saw Haiti, you would fall in love with her forever and you will automatically go back and be her voice to all who will listen.
Thank you Pastor Louis for teaching us that love is about relationships, not just about money. That living like Christ meant real sacrifice and heart and compassion. You gave an ultimate gift in your service to the Lord, and I will not soon forget. I will also continue to speak out on behalf of those who can’t be heard. And I will continue to bring whoever will come to meet Haiti and fall in love with her. Thank you Pastor for your ministry.