Poverty. Everyone has their own definition of what it is and most people have some kind of image that comes to mind when they think of poverty – maybe a missions trip to a country like Haiti or something they saw on TV.
For me, growing up in Haiti, poverty was something I became accustomed to at a pretty young age. To survive in a country like this you can’t get emotional about every sad story or difficult situation. If you want to invest in long-term change and development, you can’t always reach out with the quick “fix-it” every time someone is struggling.
But this “toughness” has its drawbacks. How can we show love like Christ’s, how can we embody His compassion for the poor, when our emotions are numb to what we see around us? I think it is at this point that God steps in and breaks us anew.
Such has been the case for me over the last week, but before I get there let me back up a little… In the six and a half years I have been living here on the Plateau I have seen an amazing amount of change, not just in the environment and infrastructure of the area but in people. The jobs Lemuel has been able to provide to many in the community have offered an increased level of stability for the families. Although things are still difficult at times, like with the drought right now, you still get the sense within most of the families closest to us that they know they are going to be ok.
It is easy to forget, with all the exciting things happening, that beyond that circle of the community that lives closest to Lemuel and that is most involved in Lemuel there is another circle of families we have hardly been able to touch yet. And beyond them are families suffering in ways we can’t even imagine and who have been more-or-less untouched by any kind of significant outreach. Such was the case of Jacques and his wife.
Though I had heard from time to time the Frè Jacques (Brother Jacques) was sick, I had no idea the sheer misery in that house until Krischelle and Bonita were asked to visit their home to treat a bedsore that had developed over the last two years that he has been lying ill, unable to move the lower part of his body. As both Krischelle and Bonita shared what they saw in that home my heart broke. Jacques’ wife is caring for a sister who has lost her mind and her husband who not only is paralyzed from the waist down, but who has also lost any bladder or bowel control. She recently buried another sister whom she had been caring for four years and who just passed away a few months ago.
We have discussed as a team and as a church what our response should be and have begun to take some actions. Last Sunday our Lemuel team and the Church Committee visited Jacques and his wife and began to think through how we could best help and encourage them. He cried as he shared with us how he wishes he could move again so that he could again take care of his family. After singing and praying with them we left encouraged by their faith and the joy of his wife despite her difficult circumstances, but saddened by the suffering of this man.
As Bonita, Krischelle and Thony have continued to make visits to treat the bedsore, we have also been able to take them a few items to alleviate some of their suffering… simple things like some extra sheets so Jacques wife can change them more often when they get wet with urine, some new clothes for his wife who has given all her time, energy and meager resources to caring for her husband, and a solar charged MP3 player that has the Creole audio Bible and some Christian music on it.
As God has been working in my heart over this last week, this has become my prayer: that God would break my heart with the things that break His, that He would fill me with His love and compassion – not emotionalism but true, lasting, sacrificing compassion – that He would fill me with the desire to take that love to those who are hurting, and that He would give me the wisdom to help in appropriate and God-glorifying ways.
There is so much more I could say about this past week but this has already gotten long (and doesn’t even have pictures… gasp!) so I will leave all of that for another day…