Come and See
In the Gospel of John, one of the very first things that comes out of Jesus’ mouth is the answer to a question posed to him by the Disciples. “Where are you staying?” they ask. Jesus says to them, “Come and See”. And then Jesus leads them into the hearts, homes and lives of people who are lost, lonely, broken, trapped, oppressed, imprisoned, hungry and beaten-down. Jesus basically shows the disciples that where he is staying is here. His feet are firmly planted on the earth and he is on a mission to show the world that no matter your circumstance, God is here to stay.
Before our group left for Haiti, we had people asking us over and over again, “What are you going to DO?” It’s a hard question to answer because the purpose of this trip is not so much DOING as it is SEEING, EXPERIENCING and BEING WITH the people of Haiti. This trip is about being immersed in a place whose culture, language, terrain, government, architecture, education, food, commerce and just about anything else you can think of are drastically different from the life we know. In other words, Jesus has invited us to “Come and See”. And as painful as it has been to see some of the things we have seen – we are surely witnessing that God is here to stay.
So what are we seeing?
On Tuesday, some of us went to the “Home for Sick and Dying Babies”. It is basically two large rooms with metal cribs lined up row-by row and four sisters whose job is to care for all of those precious babies, each of them there for reasons unknown to our team. Our only job was to be with them. We fed, we sang, we held, we played, we prayed. Our hearts broke when the visiting hours for the parents who came to hold and nurse their babies ended and a chorus of cries and screams rose up. Were any of us in that same situation, we would have a Ronald McDonald house to stay in along with the option of sleeping on a recliner next to our little ones all night long. So as their parents left - we sang, we held, we smiled, we tried for a few precious minutes to offer the human contact they craved. It was a helpless feeling because in the grand scheme of things, what we were able to offer made a difference only in the moment.
But our eyes were opened – and we saw beauty together with brokenness. We saw parents who don’t have the resources to care for the babies they love. We saw women who followed God’s call to work at this Holy place care lovingly for the God’s children entrusted to them. We saw some babies who were incredibly malnourished and some who seemed to be growing and thriving. We will never see them again. But we came and we saw, and now we know. God is there with them. If Jesus were walking the earth I’m convinced He would spend a lot of time holding and healing those babies. Our prayer is that Jesus will hold them now. That as they sleep, as they heal, as some enter into eternity that the grace of God will cover them and the love of Jesus surround them.
That was what some of us saw on Tuesday.
Believe it or not, we saw even more difficult things on Wednesday.
Wednesday was “water truck day”. This was the day I had heard so much about from my Sister-in-Law and my niece. On water-truck day, Healing Haiti teams take water into Cite Soleil which is the poorest district in the Western Hemisphere, built on an old landfill and jam-packed with somewhere between 200,00-400,000 people. The truck drives into a neighborhood and people line up with buckets to receive as much water as they can carry for the day. As my sister-in-law described water truck day to me, she struggled to find the words and kept telling me “you just have to experience it”. In other words, “Come and see.”
For me, water truck day was filled with the most difficult things I have ever seen. Here’s how it went: We drove into Cite Soleil in the “Tap-Tap” which is our form of transportation while we are in Haiti. It is basically a truck with a cage on the back where we sit as we ride through the city. As we drove into Cite Soleil, 50+ kids chased after the Tap-Tap screaming “Hey You! Hey You! Hey You!” When we opened the doors to the Tap-Tap and climbed out, there were immediately kids begging to be picked up. I picked up one little girl who clung to me for the next 45 minutes. I would occasionally put her down to help someone carry a bucket of water and she would follow me until I picked her up again. When another child wanted my attention she would fight them off and cling to me. Most of our team experienced similar things. Some had two or three children hanging on them at all times. One team member was handed an infant the minute she got off of the Tap-Tap and struggled to find someone to take her when it was time to leave.
At one point, my little girl kissed my cheek with a kiss that lasted a solid 30 seconds. That was beautiful and I will hold onto that interaction for a long time.
However, my heart broke into a million little pieces for lots of reasons……
- - One little boy threw up the minute I picked him up. As soon as he was done throwing up, I simply set him down on the ground in his bare feet with no ability to do anything but leave him standing there. No caring adult in sight who would ever know that he needed attention.
- - Many of the children were naked and very few wore shoes.
- - The structures the families live in are constructed of metal sheeting and most consist of one very small room where lots of people pile on top of one another.
- - The women and children were the ones doing all of the work. Some young men helped fill and carry water but 90% of the people we saw were women and young children.
- - I learned later that the neighborhoods in Cite Soleil are run by gangs and Healing Haiti is one of the few organizations that is allowed to come in because of years of relationship building.
Still, I saw Jesus. I saw him when the children began dumping buckets of water on one another’s heads in the hot Haitian sun. They laughed and clapped and danced as they splashed one another with living water. I saw him in the graffiti on the wall that read “optimistic”. I saw him in the eyes of the older woman who grabbed my hand, looked into my eyes and smiled a knowing smile. I saw him in the church and school that are being built by Healing Haiti in cooperation with the Haitians who live in the neighborhood and long for something different for their children. I saw Him when we were visiting the church, locked in for our safety…. there were three little Haitian girls who somehow snuck into the courtyard of the church. Annika, Lara, Madi and Fiona (our four fifteen-year-olds) noticed the kids and started holding their hands under the door of the church. They must have lain on the floor for a solid 20 minutes holding hands through the crack beneath the door. And as they held the children’s hands, they sang to them: “Jesus loves me this I know….”
As it turns out – when Jesus says “Come and See”, you better be prepared to have your vision changed, your perspective reoriented, your world blown up. Because once you see – you can’t un-see. And then the question becomes – now what will you do with all that you have seen?