The kids. That’s what first come to mind when I reflect on my trip to Haiti. The kids living in rickety, wooden ‘houses’ and battered tents. Some wearing nothing but old, over or undersized shirts. The kids who are seemingly oblivious to how bad they smell, or how poor they are. When you first meet them, you are surprised by how eager they are to hold your hand, to be held, to touch your face and wear your sunglasses. They love playing hand-slapping games, and soccer, and singing songs with you. They may talk to you, but it’s very difficult to understand. Their smiles and laughs are beautiful beyond comprehension. Their innocence is mistifying . Seeing them, it’s hard to percieve or imagine the lives they lived before you came and what they will go through after the bus full of American missionaries leaves the village. Being there with them, you don’t think about the fact that some of them have been prostituted, or have seen their parents die, or have witnessed or heard atrocities that most of us couldn’t handle. You don’t realize that some of them are days away from dying of starvation or dehydration or some other disease. You don’t think of any of those things. All you see is their beaming brown eyes and cheerful smiles, all you hear is their laughs and singing.
Why do the kids impact me so much? Because, though the level of poverty and suffering far surpasses what I experienced, I can relate at some level. My early childhood was not easy. My mom had me at the age of 16. That isn’t just a number or an idea, it was reality for us. I witnessed a lot of pain, fighting, hardship. So much that time has thankfully erased from my memory, but that arises up in a vague awareness sometimes. My parents were not Christians and far from being mature adults. We lived in a small concrete house, an apartment that would flood sometimes, would move in with family sometimes. My parents worked undesirable, undependable jobs and made money any way they could. We didn’t always have a source of income or a mode of transportation. Dad wasn’t always there, and I would have to be home alone a lot. We moved more times from state to state and house to house than I can even recall. So much difficulty and adversity, brokenness and sadness. I am blessed not to have had my childhood be as destitute as the Haitian kids I saw, but I certainly experienced a taste of it, and it breaks my heart.
But, we overcame. God had a different plan for me and my family. My past has become my testimony, a source of pride, not sorrow. It is beyond statistically unlikely that I am where I’m at today. That I graduated near the top of my class with multiple colleges offering to cover all expenses. That I’ve met some of the greatest Christian leaders in the world. That my parents are still married and that I get to be with my family every birthday and holiday, and that we are living comfortably in a townhouse with everything we want or need. That I became a permanent resident in only 3 years, when people wait decades for that opportunity. Even the timing of it was perfect. Most of all, that we have loved God and made Him our Saviour. That our situation did not become our definition.
The kids. The kids that, a loving God through loving people and loving organizations such as Mission of Hope, have a future. They have lives that will be even less logical and statistically improbable than my own. They are an opportunity for us to channel God’s love, to show His mighty power by helping them rise above their situation and make an impact in the world. I feel more compelled than saddened when I think about them. Compelled to go beyond just wallowing in God’s blessings and provision for the rest of my life, but to make the most of it and truly make an impact. To sacrifice some of it for the sake of others. The kids, whose radiant smiles make sense after all. Not because they describe their current situation and challenges, but because, in Jesus’ name, they describe the happiness that is to come.