For several weeks now Scott Hunter, former CBF Field Personnel, has served as the Haiti Disaster Response Field Coordinator. Scott has traveled throughout the ravaged island nation. Along the way he has encountered obstacles, heart ache, and at times, hope. In the midst of everything, he has often paused to reflect on the experience. Below is an excerpt from his latest reflection.
“We drove through the streets that were narrowed by the intrusion on both sides of the road caused by the rubble of the broken houses. Even the ones that do not look damaged no longer have people living there. The people all crowd into the open spaces between the houses, living in tents donated by various organizations, or under scraps of cloth hung over sticks. This is what the city of Port au Prince has become.”
“Tightly packed tents filling in the empty spaces between the houses. People afraid to re-enter even standing homes, afraid that the next shake will bring distruction even to what little remains standing.”
“Finally, we drive by the total rubble that was Salem Baptist Church. I have come to Haiti hoping to help the churches that have been damaged. I wonder if the task is too big. How do you rebuild a city that has grown here for so many generations? How long will it take?”
“We continue to climb the hill, the road so steep now that I hear one of the tires on our 4-wheel drive vehicle slip. We drive past a small field that now only grows more tents. “What will happen when it starts to rain?” I wonder. I don’t want to think about it.”
“Finally, we arrive at a house that now hosts the Church, the courtyard covered with the now blooming blue tarps that are everywhere in the city. I am not sure if open air would not be better than the searing sun. I am greeted by the pastor’s wife. She looks familiar but I have met so many.”
“We are seated and the daughter of the pastor comes in, she is wearing a walking cast and I recognize her. She is part of the family of a pastor that was killed in the earthquake. I met them a week ago as the leadership of the Haitian Baptist convention had brought legal papers for her to sign and some small compensation gift that, at the time I thought might be woefully small.”
“How do you replace a pastor, a husband or a father? Be careful, it is dangerous to get too close to people’s lives. You might have to share their pain. You might even have to join in their suffering. Better not to get too close, there are so many I could not bear it. I remember a line from the book of Amos where the prophet asks the Lord to spare the tribe of Benjamin because they are too small. Please, Lord, help them in their time of sorrow, they seem so small. The damage is already more than they can bear.”
“These people’s lives are built around relationships and now they tell me almost a full 10% of the people in Port au Prince died in the quake. Many others bear physical scares, they all bear emotional scars.”
“I am here this day with the President of the Haitian Baptist Convention. He has come to offer them words of encouragement. As the introductions are passed, it comes to me to say a few words. What can I possibly say? I cannot understand or feel their pain. I can only see it. I tell them I represent other Baptists in America, Baptists in America that have been watching the TV that is filled with stories and pictures of what has happened to their city and have seen the horror of the loss of human life.”
“They, like the people of Haiti, are in shock, they do not know what to say. It is too much to understand. I tell them that is my hope, that when the planes from America fly to Haiti in the weeks to come the planes will not carry doctors like they do now, doctors to help heal their wounds, but carry Christian brothers and sisters that will help them heal their homes, their churches and their lives.”
What words are left, I can only join their pain now. Oh, Lord how can these people stand? They are so small.”
How I can hear those last words of Scott! They sound so much like the words of comfort and blessing he spoke to the people of Sri Lanka whose homes had washed away in the tsunami. I am so glad he represents me…and CBF…and Christ in that devastated country.