For all of you who have come to Haiti with us for the first time, I want to thank you for coming. It took a lot of courage on your part. You have never been to Haiti, you weren’t sure what that would be like. You have heard about the poverty, you know about the earthquake, you might not have been sure how well your needs would be met, and you probably had a lot of anxiety. You exhibited a great deal of trust in us and in the Lord when you stepped out to make this decision. I hope you have really enjoyed the trip and will want to come back with us again.
There are two really hard things about going on a mission trip for the first time.
- The first is making the decision to go on such a trip. For all the reasons I’ve just mentioned, you really stepped out on faith to come with us. It would have been easier to stay home or to spend your money on a cruise or something else you always wanted. I congratulate you for your courage and thank you for joining us.
- The second really hard thing about a trip like this is going home. It’s hard because you’ve changed and others back home haven’t. You will now never be the same. You can never think about world poverty quite the same again. You have seen it face to face. You know how dreadfully real it is. So, I want to give you some tips about going home.
When you go home you will become aware of the sins of our society and you will become frustrated with them.
- You will become aware of the sins of American affluence and waste. In America, we have so much. We waste so much. We are free to flush a fly down the toilet with 5 gallons of perfectly clean water. The average American uses between 50 and a 100 gallons of perfectly clean water per person each day. In a world where clean water has to be purchased and carried, that seems unthinkable to people like the ones you have met in Haiti.
- You will become aware of the sins of ignorance. People will say the dumbest things like: “Well, we have needs in American too, you know! You don’t have to go overseas to see poverty. And besides, people can always change their situation if they want to. People could always move to another country and improve their situation.” On and on it goes! They clearly don’t understand what you have just witnessed.
- You will become aware of the sins of American arrogance. Americans might call the poor in third world situations stupid, or lazy, or infer that “those people” are somehow inferior. The inference will be that somehow they are better and deserve all the benefits they have.
- You will become aware of the sins of American shallowness. People may be more interested in how many channels their big screen TV gets than in how may children die of diseases that could easily be eliminated.
- You will become aware of the sins of American Impatience. When you get home, people will ask you how it went in the Haiti. And they will give you about five minutes of their time. They will then want to go on to other subjects. You will have to give your story to them in small pieces. It may be frustrating to you.
But you should also be aware of your own sins. It will help you enormously, if you are. The Bible says we all sin. We all fail. But it assuringly also tells us that “if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us”. So, take a look at your yourself.
- Take a look at your own sins of impatience with others. It is true that others “don’t get it”. But the truth is you don’t “get it” either. Neither do I. I have been on this Island dozens of times and have seen all the poverty you have. But I don’t get it. We can’t get it, because, we eat three good meals a day and stay in comfortable housing, and if we get hurt or get sick we have immediate access to medical care. Those who live here don’t have those benefits. We can’t really relate.
- Take a look at your own sins of impatience with yourself. If you have really been impacted by this trip, you will wish you could change it. Dear God, how I wish I could change things here! I am pained by knowing how little I can really accomplish. We make a few people feel better but we don’t really change the situation. If I could I would, but I can’t. Neither can you, but you have made a difference. We have made a difference. All the people who have been coming down here for years, trip after trip have made a difference. More people have hope now than before. Some people’s lives have been changed for time and eternity. People are healthier, Christians are encouraged, leaders feel supported, and we have made a difference. Be content with knowing you have helped.
- Secondly, take a look at your own sins of indulgence. It’s true. If I stopped having my cups of coffee at Dunkin Donuts and gave it to the poor, it would do more good. If I stopped eating dessert, if bought fewer clothes ..., and the list goes on and on. I might be able to change one of those things. I can dedicate myself to working and saving money so that I or someone else can come here to help again. But I also know that I have to live out my life. I can’t change the fact that I live in America and my friends in Haiti live in a different situation. But I can do something. And I must!
- Take a look, too, at your own sins of judgmentalism. One of the mistakes I made when I first did a mission trip like this was to become very impatient with my church. I think I became judgmental. Compared to Haiti, I thought, people don’t really take their faith seriously. But things are just different!
Haiti is a very intense society. There is intense poverty, intense heat, intense suffering, and intense emotion. Haitians pray more intensely, they sing more intensely, their spirituality seems more intense. Church, in general, seems to be a much bigger part of their world than in America. But frankly, what else do they have? You may go back to your church and get very frustrated with people’s lack of intensity in relationship to God, frustrated with how poorly they sing, or how feebly they pray, or how few even bother to go to church. You can turn them off and judge them as a bunch of spiritual slobs who could care less and who need to get their act together. I think I was guilty of that. But it doesn’t help. People need to be accepted for who they are. They can be encouraged and challenged, but only if they are accepted and loved.
Humbly admit your own sins and pray for the grace to be humble, loving and non-judgmental. Remember that there are some things you can do:
a. Pray! Bring Haiti and your new friends there before the Lord, regularly. Remember that God changes things.
b. Share! Tell the story of Haiti and of your experiences there with whoever will listen. Invite them to go and see for themselves.
c. Come again! There is a lot to be done! You have really helped.
Thank you for coming. You have been a wonderful group. I have come to love and admire each of you. You have given so much of yourself this week! On behalf of Pastor Lubin and I who lead this trip; on behalf of Pastor John and the BEM ministry; and on behalf of the poor of Haiti, I simply say, “Thank you”! I hope this has been as great a trip for you as it has for me.