On my first trip to Haiti in May of 2015, this picture was taken. It makes me cringe and want to cry and laugh. A 26 year old physical therapist living in Dallas, desperate to pursue this life-long dream of missions. I had been seeking out opportunities for months and months and had been denied, wait-listed, and had scheduling conflicts. Finally, I got to go to Haiti.
I went down to Haiti with one of the largest faith-based non-profits in the country who bring about 5,000 ignorant me's through the country every year. This organization loved having people from our church because we had done some reading and preparation for the trip. This put us ahead of most teams coming down to Haiti.
On this particular day 3 years ago, we were out in a village of roughly 12,000 people walking through the streets and 'evangelizing' under the guide of a summer intern (college student), a Haitian village champion, and translator or two. We stopped at a gentleman's small business on his home property where he sold local goods and snacks. I'm pretty sure there was a solid 15 of us Americans and a few Haitians.
I'm sure we talked to him about Jesus.
I'm almost sure we bought nothing from that man.
After all - all this food would make us sick right?
His child, I assumed, was asleep on the floor. She awoke and started to cry. I asked if I could hold her. I held that child and 'just loved on her.' I asked if we could snap a picture.
There are so many things wrong with this story.
I had packed some of my worst clothes to go to Haiti (isn't it a dirty and poor place?) Now when I go to Haiti I pack some of my best clothes.
I picked up a random child and took a photo. I still feel shame about this photo. This is not okay. You could even say it's exploitation.
We knew no language, no culture, but we walked through that community with our backpacks, sloppy clothes, and our white Jesus hearts and talked to people about Jesus. It is highly likely the locals in this neighborhood had a team come through the week before and do the same thing.
We didn't support this local businessman by buying any of his goods but we sure did take up a lot of his time.
We even undermined the local economy by the goods we brought to the organization in our suitcases.
I shudder looking back at how my pure but ignorant heart interacted with Haiti.
Though ignorance is truly bliss, I would not go back to that ignorance and those rose-colored glasses. I love and respect Haiti too much for that. I know too much for that.
It is way overdue for us to change the way we do short term missions, the way the American church interacts with the world… the way America interacts with the world.
Oh what a difference 3 years makes when you want to see and learn and love.