Haitian Happiness

I was living under this dorm at the right hand side.

Matt 25:40 "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." NIV

The summer I spent doing relief missionary work in Haiti would turn out to be quite full of surprises! In fact, my very first day, from the time my plane landed in Port-au-Prince, was packed full of unique learning experiences. As I was taken by car from the airport to my final destination, I was shocked by the vast numbers of homeless people living in the streets with nearly nothing to eat. This evidence of stark poverty was literally everywhere, and though I had been told in advance that Haiti was considered one of the poorest countries in the world, reality was far worse than I had envisioned. But what made the poverty even harder to comprehend were the many luxurious mansions that I also saw along the way! How could such apparent wealth and such harsh poverty share the same city?

My next "surprise" came when I stepped foot into my new home. It consisted of three rooms: the bedroom, the living room and the kitchen. I had a human roommate from the Dominican Republic, another student missionary; but to my dismay, I also had thousands of "native Haitian" roommates! I knew from the beginning that I would appreciate the human company, but the "natives", the huge, flying cockroaches, I could have well done without! Their favorite hiding place was behind the fridge in the kitchen, and we had to be especially careful to not leave any food out. Otherwise, we would simply be encouraging our filthy "roommates" to multiply!

There didn't seem to be anything to be done about these pests. Due to the fact that they were expert flyers and that they knew how to intimidate their pursuers by flying directly into their faces, they proved to be extremely hard to catch! "Fumigant bombs don't work either!" my roommate assured me. "We've tried these, and though many did die, somehow the colony survives."

How reassuring!

The kitchen was the launching pad for my next series of "surprises". The kitchen sink had a small water purifier attached to the faucet. These seemed initially quite reassuring. At least I would be able to drink clear, clean water!

But my roommate quickly dashed those illusions. "We have to boil the water before we drink it," he said rather mater-of-factly. "That water purifier is useless. Most of the water we get comes directly from the streets."

I had seen the stream of water running down the side of the road, but surely he didn't mean . . . "What exactly do you mean?" I quarried.

"Well poor people need to relieve themselves too!"

I remembered all of the homeless people I had seen on my drive, and it made logical sense. Yes, I would most definitely boil my drinking water!

I sighed as I wiped the sweat from my brow. A glass of cold water might have tasted good right now, if it hadn't been for my roommate's most excellent news. That's when I discovered that my new home hadn't come complete with air conditioning. The electric fan made almost no difference whatsoever in that stifling, humid air. In fact, it was running kind of sporadically, like it was on its last leg! All night long we would sweat, sweat and sweat with no relief at sight. The daytime wasn't better either, but at least we could walk around in our sweat bath instead of sitting in it!

Over the course of the first few days, I gradually began to accept some of these inconveniences-until the ultimate in Haitian surprises came my way! Haitian Happiness!

"Just what IS Haitian Happiness?" I asked my roommate after my 6th trip to the washroom in one hour.

"Most missionaries catch it," he assured me. "You guys aren't used to what this water contains. The diarrhea only lasts a few days, up to a week, usually."

I sighed. I couldn't imagine 24 hours of this, let alone 7 days!

"I even saw one student missionary transported to the emergency room because of it," he continued, encouragingly.

Why did I ask?

Yes, those first few days in Haiti were full of unpleasantries, but when I think back on those days now, I realize that every minute was worth it. Reaching out to the less privileged is an honor bestowed upon us by God Himself. Pursuing careers and material possessions always leaves us feeling empty, which leads many to ask just what is the purpose of life. However, when we reach out to the less fortunate, not only are we blessed, but we also never need to ask why we are on the planet! Jesus, our example, constantly reached out to the needy, yet not once could you hear Him complain or wonder why He left Heaven to be here.

Would you like to find the purpose of your life? Come to Jesus and learn from Him. "It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for." (Eph. 1:11 -- THE MESSAGE). Jesus will give meaning to your life.

By the way, would you like a glass of delicious Haitian water?

Rob Chaffart

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