Have you ever tried to take a picture of the Grand Canyon? Pretty disappointing. Words cannot express and pictures can rarely capture such a grand scene. You must experience it for yourself to truly understand.
That is often how we feel when trying to communicate realities on the Plateau.
The thorns, for example…we’re not talking about a couple, scraggly bushes.
These are carpets–walls of mean “pikan wouj” (“red thorns”), mixed and tangled together with other cacti that you don’t want to step on or brush up against. The pikan wouj are segmented so that when they are hit with a machete or pick-axe, they “fly” out to stick into their attacker.
Well, what’s the big deal anyway? We have talked a lot about Food-4-Work projects aimed at cleaning the community of thorns and underbrush. But why does that matter? Don’t we have anything better for the people to do?
But it does matter….a lot, and on many different levels.
The Spiritual Significance: The Parable of the Thorns
This is what Satan has to offer. It is Ugliness. Dirtiness. Desolation This is what covered the Plateau, encroaching even on people’s houses; making maneuvering from one place to another difficult; piercing skin, sometimes getting infected. Misery. Pain.
One could have hardly called it a place of LIFE or of HOPE.
In this evocative representational picture, thorns are growing out of the trunk of a tree dedicated to an evil spirit.
Satan has a way of convincing us that we are fine the way we are. He keeps eyes from seeing and ears from hearing, convincing us that there is no need to change anything. He keeps us comfortable with the dirtiness, the ugliness. We don’t even see it. And we don’t realize the misery and pain it causes us.
But when Christ comes, He opens our eyes to see that the way we are living is, in fact, not good…that He has so much more, something so much better to offer us. He won’t leave us the way we are. He clears out the “thorns” in our life, and cleanses our hearts. He brings beauty and new life.
In some cases, it may take some time for us to really understand, just as it took some time for certain people in our community to finally agree that clearing away the thorns was a good thing…they had to see the difference first. And now they are drawn to the idea.
Clearing the thorns and the underbrush and cleaning up our community may not be a spiritual act in and of itself; but it is a tangible, physical expression of a spiritual reality….a really REAL reality.
It visually speaks the message to our community (which we also speak in words to them, by the way): “When Satan reigned in hearts here, he offered thorns, desolation, ugliness, and misery. But now the LOVE of God has come, and what was once a place of despair is becoming a place of hope. Jesus Christ offers a new life full of beauty and hope for the future, even to eternity. Would you not rather have Him for a master?”
The Social Significance: How Does this Directly Impact PEOPLE?
As we have often reiterated, Lemuel is not interested in giving hand-outs. We want to preserve the dignity, the work-ethic, and the self-respect of the people in our community. Food-4-Work gives them the chance to prove–both to themselves and to others–that they CAN.
They can work.
They can make a difference.
They can contribute.
They can make a living for their families.
They can develop their own community and make it a place where people actually WANT to live.
Yes, they need others to help them bridge the resource gap. But they don’t need others to do FOR them; they need others to do WITH them.
It is our dream that this place–the Plateau–can serve as an example to other Haitians that they themselves, the Haitian people, CAN change their communities and their country.
The Economic Significance: How Does this Directly Impact PEOPLE (continued…)?
The farmer can no longer live by his garden. There has been no harvest in several years. The livestock herder can no longer live by his livestock. He can hardly keep them alive. There are few jobs, and there is almost no economy. And Lemuel cannot provide permanent work for everybody on the Plateau. We struggle just to support the staff we currently have.
Food-4-Work creates at least temporary employment and offers hope of survival to struggling families.
The Environmental Significance: How Does this Impact the Future?
Deforestation and its effects have devastated countless communities in Haiti as it has the Plateau. The community development aspect of Lemuel’s work includes a great emphasis on reforestation. Mesquite trees are extremely hardy, and will sprout and grow wild, despite severe drought and intense heat. However, the thorns tend to overspread and choke out the saplings. By clearing away the thorns, we not only give the mesquite saplings a chance to breathe and grow, but we create space in which we can plant more trees.
The Dream: Where Do We Go from Here?
The vision for developing our community through Food-4-Work doesn’t stop at simply cleaning out the thorns. It doesn’t even stop at reforesting the Plateau. We dream of better roads; of new roads; of strategic rain-water catchment holes; of more effective canals for gardens (when rain run-off comes from the mountains), and beyond. We dream of a community rallied and united to work hard together to make the Plateau a better place for their children. We dream that one day, young people will not be eager to leave their homes for Miami or the Dominican or even Port-au-Prince to seek a better life.
We also dream that people will glorify God for what happens here, and worship the One who delivered them from thorns both physical and spiritual.
“…that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God…” (Acts 26:18)