Earthquakes, Storms, Disease, Flooding … and Teenagers

Seriously, Haiti is a horrible place. Really. Why on earth do you want to go there?

I hear that a lot. Like, almost every time I mention that I have been there and plan to return.

In John 9:1-3, Jesus encounters a man blind from birth, and his disciples ask him if it is the fault of his own sin or that of his parents. And how did Jesus answer them? “You’re asking the wrong question. You are looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.” (The Message)

A lot of people talk about Haiti like that now, including some high-profile televangelists. “Whose fault is it that Haiti experiences one disaster after another?” Who shall we blame? Is it the voodoo? Is it a pact allegedly made with Satan before the slave revolt? Is it Duvalier’s fault? Or the U.N.? Why did Haiti have two hurricanes? Then a massive earthquake, then a flood, then a cholera outbreak, then another hurricane….? Who sinned, that God would do all of this?

Maybe no one. It doesn’t matter.

I go to Haiti every chance I get because I believe that I have seen, and will continue to see, what He can do. Not everyone is called to Haiti. I have friends who are called to South America, Africa, and Thailand. I know that many people are called to work right here in the U.S., and there is certainly plenty of need right here. I believe that if everyone goes where they are called and does what they are gifted for, every need will be met. Naïve? Yeah, maybe. Don’t care.

And – why teenagers? Why do I feel so strongly about the youth of Haiti? For that matter, why do I spend so much time and effort and worry on the youth of America? Why this trip, with these kids, for these kids?

Again, this is where I am called. I can talk to teenagers. I can give them advice and they will mostly listen to me (unless they are actually my personal offspring, that would be crazy.) Teenagers and young adults are my “grid square.” Heaven knows I would be an unholy mess trying to work with preschoolers!  And in Haiti – teens are just as often forgotten about or brushed aside as they are in the States. They need friends and mentors, maybe a little advice, someone to help them figure out where they fit in. Not so different from teens here at all, really. And the value of the experience for our young people is immeasurable. Again, I’m not implying that every teenager in America should go to Haiti. But I do believe that there would be benefits to every young person in America going somewhere – especially somewhere where poverty means more than not getting the latest WiiStation87DBox the month it comes out. I believe that this trip will have some usefulness to the teenagers at the orphanage, and other teens that we encounter. We may plant some seeds, we may start someone thinking about a future career, we may even begin one or two cross-cultural friendships that will last. I hope so. But honestly the really most important reason for this trip is the awareness and perspective that it will offer to the ones going. Which really is the point of a short term mission trip in any case, honestly. Okay, the surgeons and dentists and ophthalmologists that go to the field for a week or two really do change a lot of lives – but most of the rest of us regular-type folks, in a week or two, are going to change ourselves more than we change the world.

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