Haiti is filled with the spirit
The international press often diffuses a single narrative of Haiti - one of political instability, malnutrition, disease and devastation. "The poorest country in the Western hemisphere" - this is how Haiti is too often described, ignoring the many layers that comprise Haitian culture and customs that make Haiti one of the most fascinating, yet least understood countries in the region.
In March a group from MCC's Great Lakes office visited Haiti to engage with MCC Haiti partners and communities on a 1-week learning tour centered around the theme 'Soil to Table.' During this time, the group encountered Haiti as it is, not as the sensationalist press so often describes it. What follows is a participants' reflection that challenge the stereotypes and offers a different perspective on Haiti.
I was fortunate to be the MCC leader for a wonderful group of people on a learning tour to Haiti in March. I began working for MCC only a year and a half ago, so the learning part is especially important for me.
MCC learning tours are a great way to see and understand how MCC works by visiting real examples. The goal is to show people small specific examples so they can understand the bigger philosophy as it applies to many different contexts.
Some things I was expecting and anticipating, and other things were surprising.
Overall, for me in Haiti, the spirit of God was with us. Haiti is filled with the spirit, and God is at work in Haiti.
We visited the Assemblée de la Grace Mennonite Church for a worship service. The singing was enthusiastic, full of praise and adoration. We were welcomed with front row seats, as special guests, representing MCC and the longstanding partnership in the work of Christ.
I was surprised by the statement and challenge from the pastor to his congregation. He said, “we may be poor, but there are others who have less than we do.” He then proceeded to challenge the congregation to commit themselves to a sizable monthly contribution to help pay school fees for children in a poorer area of Haiti. It was humbling and inspiring. A great way to start our learning tour.
We traveled over uneven roads in a jeep to mountain communities to see MCC’s agroforestry programs.
We hiked down from the road to a small stream of clear running water, the product of nine years of tree plantings. Erosion is no longer washing away the top soil in that area, and the trees are beginning to heal the land from deforestation. We hiked up the other side of the mountain to meet the Mon Sejou community committee, a community where people have dedicated a big part of their life to the planting of trees.
We saw flats of tree seedlings, 80 in each, with more than 35,000 planted and already growing this year. This group of community members care for the seedlings, by providing shade, carrying water up from the spring, rotating the flats so the roots stay in their pots. The committee invites others to help on planting day. Community is built and nurtured through the care and nurturing of the trees. 450,000 trees are planted each year in the Desarmes area, the spirit of God is at work in tree planting and community building.
We visited Kabay, a remote location farther up the mountain, where a seed bank is changing lives. It was the end of the dry season, (sometimes called the hungry season) and they still had food to eat and seeds to plant. Their community group was considering when and what to plant for the coming season. It was a special day for the community in another way as well, materials and assistance were ready for distribution to all 180 families to build each a latrine. A spirit of hope for the future.
We visited a kids club where a demonstration garden is helping children learn about growing food in small spaces around their homes, an after school program, built on ground that was a landfill, which teaches peacemaking using competitive sports as the training ground. We visited a technical school that now can admit girls into the program, thanks to new MCC supported bathrooms for women.
We experienced the spirit of God everywhere we went. Children singing, people smiling and laughing, greeting each other and us with a friendly Bonjou. Vivid colors surrounded us. Brilliant sun, intense bougainvillea, lush greenery and of course colorfully painted buildings and vehicles. And in all situations, people thanking God for their daily food and protection in situations that most of us would complain about.
Haiti is filled with the spirit. And through MCC, the spirit of God is working in lives of people in the US and Canada, to support people in places like Haiti.
Laura Lerch Horst is the Donor Relations Director for MCC Great Lakes, and lives in Goshen, Indiana.
Read more reflections by group members who participated in recent learning tours to Haiti:
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