Something I have come to love and appreciate about Haitian culture is how welcoming people are. You can pretty much walk up to anyone’s house, chat with them for a few minutes, and they will almost always welcome you in. ‘In’ may be in their courtyard, in front of their house, or even inside. But no matter what part it is, they do a great job of making you feel welcomed, even when they don’t know you. I guess I appreciate it so much because you just don’t find that in the states. When was the last time a stranger came knocking on your door? And if they had the courage, did you ignore them, or pretend you weren’t home? Yes, we all do it !
Just last week, we had another team right after the Liquid team. And something new for me was there was only one woman that came with a whole gaggle of men. She came on the trip with her husband, and she was excited to get out into the communities and get to know people. From my perspective, both sides can be tough to do-a team with a lot of people, and a team with just one doing Bible stories/Vbs stuff. But we can go around and visit homes more easily with just two of us, and that is exactly what we did.
I enjoyed coming up with things for us to do, knowing we could visit and talk with women more easily if there were less of us. Thankfully, Linda came prepared, and had fun little craft ideas and things we could do with women and mothers. So while the men were off repairing pumps -this was also a different trip because it was pump repair-we simply walked around. I told her it would be fun to just go around the village and talk with ladies, and we could use the crafts and things she brought if we wanted.
And off we went. We simply walked down the road, calling to women as they worked-sweeping, cleaning, doing laundry, cooking. And every single time we stopped to say hello, chat, and asked if we could come in and chat for a moment, these ladies said yes. An enthusiastic yes. We invited us onto their property, where a few houses are close together. Then we would stumble across a few more women, silently working or talking with each other. And they too joined us. We are always offered a place to sit, and made to feel welcome. And something new occurred to me at the first house we visited. I have come to know and see that families usually live pretty close to each other-this is pretty common in Haiti. Most of the time, in one little village you will meet someone’s sister, mom, aunt, nephew, grandparent. But something struck me differently that day.We introduced ourselves, and then they went around and introduced themselves. And since almost every single one of them was holding a child, we asked the child’s name, age, etc. And I noticed something.
Most women were holding other people’s children.
Not just anybody’s child, but as they pointed out who the mothers were, I realized all the mothers were right there. And when we asked who was related and how, I realized they were all sisters, cousins, sister-in-laws, aunts. They were holding and loving these children like they were their own. I feel like you can usually tell who the mother of a child is simply by the way they interact, but in this situation, it seemed like they were all mothers to each child. They all loved each child, helped take care of them, bathed them, held them, disciplined them.
And my heart ached.
You know that feeling, that deep down ache, that makes you want to cry one of those good, long, uncontrollable cries? You know, the ones that make our poor husbands blankly stare on as they pat us on the back? I thankfully held it together, I don’t think anyone noticed a few tears. And so, there it is. I miss my family. I miss being a part of their everyday lives-doing the mundane, the normal, the ordinary together. When you count the cost of living in a foreign country, often times people think it’s hard to just live here, that it’s hard to be surrounded by poverty, hard to live in conditions we are not used to, hard to give up comforts. And that is true. Yet the real struggle is rooted in relationships. Relationships that will survive across the miles-I don’t doubt that at all-hence why there is the ache. It’s more so coming to terms with not being a part of the daily routine that involves those you deeply love and care about.
There it is. Plenty of people we know live far from loved ones and family. And they know what I’m talking about. So I guess what I’m left with is this thought:
I want to continue to make the most of the people and relationships I have now.
I may be away from my beloved sister, my BFF, my family-but, but, but I look around. God has provided in other ways to bring along new brothers, sisters, mothers, friends to fill that void. He is faithful. He knows how we are made, He knows what we need, and He will provide. So I encourage you, choose to live in community, choose to live with people surrounding you that love you, care about, notice when you are having a hard time. It’s not always easy to find,it’s not easy to reach out again and again and put yourself out there. But I believe the reward is great.
The good news? In the midst of the ache, God has provided. We met a few special friends that we hold dear from when we lived in Port de Paix. And now, a year later, God has continued to be faithful and we have met a group of friends who are wonderful. They love the Lord, care about us, and are willing and wanting to share life together. And that is beautiful thing. So we may not be ready to build houses right next to each other -let’s face it, the idea of community living is grand, but the implementation is much harder!! Okay, I’m not ready to have my hut a stones throw away from everyone I know, but I am ready to acknowledge there is something to be learned. And I think I need to continually say it to myself: make the most of where you are, of the people God has blessed you with in your life. Enjoy them, lean on them, share with them, love on them, and open yourself up to them. The rewards are great.