By Laura-Jean Watson
Everyone knows about the poverty of Haiti: The country suffers from sky-high unemployment (more than 40 percent). Thousands of people still live tents sent after the January 2010 earthquake. Per-capita GDP is $1,358 (compared to $51,248 in the U.S.), making Haiti the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
But Haiti is, in many ways, rich in valuable assets – contentedness, gratitude for small things, resourcefulness and a collaborative culture. Haiti’s poverty still boggles the mind, but churches are using their cultural assets to transform Haiti into what many thought it would never be – a missionary-sending nation.
Haitians are now sending missionaries back to West Africa, where animism and Islam dominate, to share the life-changing message that Jesus came and died so people could be forgiven and have a new life. They understand the culture – the voodoo and spirit-worship common in both areas — and the French language in West Africa. They are well-equipped to minister to people there.
One Haitian Christian recently said that if Haitians had not been brought from West Africa as slaves, they would not have had the opportunity to hear the gospel. God has used something evil to bring them great blessings spiritually.
Do we in the U.S. see profit in the bad things that happen in our lives or become bitter and resentful?
But how can Haitians afford to do send missionaries? The short answer is sacrificial giving.
One pastor encouraged his congregation to support missionaries by selling what they did not need. He said, “If you own two shirts sell one. If you own two pairs of shoes, sell one. If you own two dresses, sell one.”
The Bible tells us that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also (Matthew 6:19-21).
How much are we in the U.S. willing and ready to give up in obedience to the great command to love one another and the Great Commission to share God’s saving message with the world?
Haitians have learned to be content with little and thankful for small things. Materialism is not as rampant in their country as it is in ours. People are resourceful and hard-working. They look for creative ways to provide for their families.
Are we thankful for all we have or do we just complain about what we do not have and dwell on what we still want to obtain?
Another asset Haitians have is collaboration. They think of others and help others. It is not unusual for one Haitian who has a paying job to support 15 to 20 other people. They are family-oriented, and they include distant relatives in their responsibility to family.
Do we care about our communities? Do we even know the needs of our extended family members?
Unfortunately, many families in Haiti do not have enough resources to feed their own children. Orphanages are filled with children whose parents could not afford to feed them. Other parents send their children to live with other families, where the child must work for the host family. Parents do this so their children can eat, but also so that they have access to an education (education is not free in Haiti — families must pay even for public schools, and all children must have uniforms to attend school).
The poverty of Haitians is striking, yes – but so is their example of love and concern for others and the kingdom of Christ. There are physical, emotional, and spiritual needs right here in the U.S. that we should be meeting. Time needs to be invested in discovering needs. Our conversation should not be centered on ourselves. We need to be listening so that we know how to both pray and act to make a difference in our families and neighborhood. We need to truly care about others.
What are you investing in? What will you give up in obedience to God?