I’m about to become a cliché.
I’ve never met anyone who went on a mission trip and didn’t return a changed person, who wasn’t impacted by seeing real suffering firsthand, and failed to get a renewed perspective on just how blessed we really are to live in this country.
Count me as the next one to say the same.
I spent most of last week with the phenomenal folks at Food for the Poor on a mission trip to Haiti, one of the three poorest countries on planet earth. Haiti’s unemployment rate is 80%, and its illiteracy rate is 50%. Throughout 2013, we enlisted your help to raise the necessary funds to construct water filtration systems for the Haitian children; and part of our trip was getting to meet some of the kids impacted by your contributions. Their gratitude was infectious, and they welcomed us on your behalf as if we were conquering heroes.
On this trip, I saw the bottomless depths of hopelessness, and how even the most modest dose of hope can send spirits soaring. It was only a few days; but they were long, grueling days that were intense spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Through it all, I came away with three thoughts that I hope will stick with me for the rest of my life.
1. Trust God – always.
God is neither an absent landlord nor a deadbeat dad, but is a very actively involved father in His children’s lives. He so wants us to know Him that He put Himself in human form, even becoming as helpless as a baby in a stable. Think about that for a second. The ruler of the universe humbled Himself to have to be potty trained, nursed, and educated like any other human child. Then, as an adult, He was sweaty, tired, dirty, hungry, sick, thirsty, and even had to relieve Himself the way we do. Would you do that for a lesser being? Would you love maggots so much you would become one? Would you even do it for your beloved household pet?
Even when we make a mess of the planet with our rebellion, and then blame Him for allowing us the independence we rebelled for, He is faithful and just. He never gives up on us, even after we’ve given up on Him.
I saw that in a pastor we met in a destitute village. For 30 years, he’s been leading his community to the Lord, despite unspeakable poverty. When we asked him how he even heard about Christ in such a destitute area that not even many missionaries would come to, he told us in Creole of how Christ came to him in a dream in 1981, shared with him the Gospel, and told him to repent of his sins and lead others to salvation. He met a local pastor miles away who taught him the Bible; and then when his community saw the Word of God transforming him, they wanted the same for themselves. Now his daughters teach at the local Christian school, which is really nothing more than a hut with some benches and a dirt floor.
He told us that God sustained his faith all these years with promises He would one day bring them deliverers that would provide them fresh water and safe homes. When the executive director at Food for the Poor told him we were the people God had promised them, and we were going to help them (with your help, of course), I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such pure joy in my life. He later broke out singing “How Great Thou Art” in Creole as he led us through the rest of his village.
Think of how often our faith is tested if we lose out on a promotion, relationship, or purchase we really wanted. I don’t know about you, but I can get awfully whiny when I don’t think God is giving me my way. Now imagine being faithful for 30 years throughout the starvation, disease, and indescribable suffering this Haitian pastor has endured for the Gospel. I pray one day I’ll be able to trust God the way he did.
2. You can tell a lot about a culture by the condition of its men.
Everywhere we went, we saw orphans galore. Where were their fathers? Where were the men fighting for these children, and providing for them? Second only to the orphans were the single moms. Where were their husbands? Where were the men fighting for these women, and providing for them?
After generations of societal breakdown, many Haitian men lack discipleship in what it takes to be a real man; so they either become boys who shave and impregnate women, or they become so ashamed of their own family’s despair that they abandon them altogether. One of the real men I met in Haiti was missing several teeth, and had such bad nerve damage in his hands that he had to wear socks on them to keep them warm in 90 degree heat. He told us that even though he can’t work until he gets better, he could still be there for his wife and children and couldn’t imagine abandoning his family.
Unfortunately, he’s the exception and not the rule. As were the armed men protecting the children at the schools we visited from bad people. As was the man managing one of the villages already rebuilt by Food for the Poor, who made sure everything was on the up-and-up and was keeping evildoers at bay.
Over and over again, I heard from natives and missionaries alike that the breakdown in Haiti began with the breakdown of the family, and the breakdown of the family began with the breakdown of manhood. We have urban areas that already have similar stories to tell, and are among the most crime-ridden and poverty-stricken areas in our nation.
The same elites that brought policies encouraging such a breakdown to those urban areas are now trying to export their failures to the rest of the country. Haiti is a cautionary tale of what can happen if they get their way.
3. This is still a country worth fighting for.
We arrogantly believe that if we cast aside the Christian foundation our civilization was built upon, we can still maintain the freedom and liberty we take for granted. Haiti, as well as human history, proves just how foolish that notion really is.
It is our Christian foundation that produced that freedom and liberty. The inconvenient truth is that the suffering in Haiti, and its lack of a self-sustaining middle class, is actually much closer to what human history has globally looked like since Genesis 3 than the 237-year history of these United States.
That Christian foundation is what taught us our rights come from God and not government. It taught us the proper understanding of right from wrong. And it is the basis for every single tradition that allows freedom and liberty to flourish (i.e. separation of powers, respect for the rule of law, private property, the opportunity to capitalize on your God-given talents, etc.).
Haiti is simply the end result of combining spiritual darkness with the breakdown of the family, and elites in government and industry corruptly conspiring with one another to hold on to power at any (human or financial) cost.
Does any of this sound familiar?
We have a cultural infrastructure to fight back against this Haiti didn’t have. We still have every chance of not becoming the next great nation on the ash heap of history. But we need to fight smarter, not just harder. Instead of feeding the elites’ mission by putting our focus on political power as well, we need to first strengthen our culture in the areas that caused Haiti’s to collapse.
We need spiritual revival that gives the people humility, courage of conviction, and inspirational purpose. We need real men who will grab the jawbone of an ass and fight back against such injustice. Those who detest freedom and liberty understand this, which is why they want to remove God’s Word from every public vestige of society, and then attack the men with sexual temptation and glorifying weakness and slacking.
Not on our watch.
(You can friend “Steve Deace” on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow)
Photo credit: RIBI Image Library (Creative Commons)