The Plateau, also known as “Grand Diable” or “Big Devil,” is home to approximately 400 people. While once part of the bread basket of Haiti, today the land is desolate and depleted. Livelihoods still depend in large part on gardening and animal husbandry, but today such livelihoods are precarious at best.
The Influence of Vodoo
Although vodoo, the worship and service of satan, has for generations been the main religion and controlling force of the area, things are beginning to change. Mome of the most entrenched followers have passed away, while others have recently come to Christ and have turned their backs on their old practices. Many of those who practiced more ostensibly have become skeptical since the capitulation of those who had been more wholly and intensely involved.
The Need for Water
On the Plateau, life revolves around obtaining water. Years of deforestation have significantly diminished rainfall, and what was once part of Haiti’s “breadbasket” is now a waterless desert. When Lemuel first came to the area, it was common for children to be woken up in the very early morning hours to go for water up to a two-hour donkey ride away – all this before beginning their day’s activities. Not only is water vital to the existence and daily life of the people, but also to the survival of their livestock. As herders and shepherds, their animals are their bank accounts, as well as their only sources of income when the gardens fail.
Agriculture on the Plateau is primarily watered by rain, but since rainfall is so scarce a system of canals has been developed to carry water from the mountains that receive more rain down into the gardens. In years when the mountains do not receive adequate rain to fill the ravines and canals there is very little, if any, harvest.
From the beginning, Lemuel has endeavored to address the water crisis. These efforts include a well with a wind-generated pump, community dug rainwater catchment holes, a water truck, and home cisterns for families in the community. Although these solutions have alleviated the suffering, the situation remains precarious, and can rapidly become critical.
The People of the Plateau
While life on the Plateau is difficult and in many ways seems like a vicious downward cycle, do not be misled. Treating the people of the Plateau as pitiable and in need of others to do for them and give to them is unhelpful at best – and more often, harmful. A young lady on the Plateau once described poverty as someone with no land or livestock and no one to care for them. “Do you think anyone on the Plateau is poor?” she was asked. “No,” she replied, “we are not poor.”
Yes, the people of the Plateau are in need, but that need is not purely material. They are in need of people who will walk beside them, show them their value and potential, and, at times, lend a hand of support and assistance when they cannot cross the next barrier alone. Most of all though, they are in need of the forgiving and saving power of Jesus Christ who is able to regenerate and renew all things, from peoples’ hearts, to their relationships, to their land. In His name we walk.