Tuesday, June 17, 2008

haiti, part one

Some of you know that I serve on the board of a non-profit ministry. A group of my friends helped establish a small children's home in southern Haiti, and that has become a really important part of my life. It's really just a Haitian family that agreed to take in some girls and raise them as their own. From there we also partner with other ministries and do some education work. It's completely Haitian-run on the Haiti side and we just build on those relationships and provide needed resources. It's called Providence Ministries, and if you're interested you can read more about us here.

Anyway, I thought that since I seem to be short on time and words, I would reprint some essays about my time in Haiti that I've written over the years. Today will be the first of a yet-to-be-determined number of installments. (You know how I hate to hem myself in.)

Haiti Behind My Eyes

This happens all the time. I might be answering emails or working on a lesson or even just walking from one room to the next and suddenly I'm in Haiti. I feel the rush of heat that smothers me and anchors me to the world. I hear the singing cadence of Kreyol, only comprehending a small portion of what I'm hearing, but enjoying the music anyway. I see Francianne's face, a curious map of grief and gratitude and longing and joy. It lasts for only a moment and then I return to where I am. I like it when I return, but I'm never really comfortable. I haven't really been comfortable since I first set foot in Haiti over ten years ago.

I both love and hate Haiti. I have seen some of the most awe-inspiring beauty and some of the most soul-killing ugliness there. Most of the time this beauty and ugliness are woven together like conjoined twins. It breaks your heart wide open and prompts the kinds of questions that you will wrestle with for the rest of your life. The biggest question is this: how is it that I was born in this plush little cradle in the world and Francianne and everyone else I love there were born in the fear-drenched regions of poverty and despair?

I don't think there's an answer to this question, but it binds me to Haiti in peculiar ways. I drift there in my mind periodically to wrestle with demons and to remember how lucky I am.


  1. Terri, I love this. I love how the place moved you and how you talk about it, and how I feel like I see you more clearly when you talk about Haiti. I also love the discomfort it's caused you and what you've done with that. Wow.

  2. wow. my heart is feeling the pressure of that paradox. i feel like i can't breathe when it hits me.

    thank you for sharing this new installment series. i, for one, am sure i will be blessed and will grow and will have my eyes opened so much wider as a result.

  3. Terri: I can so relate! It seems once you've been to Haiti all you see and do has a different perspective. Like you've got "Haiti Glasses" on. I wonder if our friends there realize the impact they have had on our lives! Thanks for sharing your writings! LLP

  4. Missions changes you. It changes how you see the world. It changes how you love. I'm excited to see more in this series!

  5. i look forward to never being the same again moreso with every installment you write knowing your words have the power to accomplish that, thanks terri.

  6. sarah: i love that you love this, and the way you listen.

    christianne: it is a paradox and a pressure. maybe we can hold our breath together.

    linda: i'm sure it would surprise them...they're too humble to think that they may have rocked our world.

    heather: i can't even imagine who i would be without these other countries that live in me.

    di: words only have the power that you're willing to give them. thanks for being vulnerable...

  7. terri, i love hearing about this. i know a good portion of your heart is reserved for haiti & for providence ministries.

    i'm struck by that dichotomy too: the beauty & the profound, sometimes soul-sucking tyranny of poverty. it is suffocating to think of it. to wonder why them & not me? how in the world am i supposed to hold these extremes in my mind, let alone my heart?

    i'm humbled & sheepish-feeling when i realize how truly cush we have it here in comparison to most of the rest of the world.

    so break me wide, open with your words. i'm paying attention.

  8. Oh Teri, I love that you are sharing these writings with us.
    This mixture, this tangle of beauty and ugliness, it is the human condition.
    And to have it intensified here, in this place, wow. I can feel how much this means to you and how it continues to open your heart ever wider.
    love to you.

  9. kirsten: i love that you are open here, even in the midst of your own pain, willing to sit with me and wonder about these things. much love.

    bella: yes, this is the human condition. the tangle is everywhere, if we're paying attention.

  10. wow you are a wonderful person, thanks for sharing this and am waiting for the next installments.

    I am a little lost for words, just letting it sink in...



  11. Terri- Indeed, that is the big question, and I too ask myself often. We are so very lucky. Thanks for sharing your story. Whenever you mentioned Haiti in the past I always longed to know more about your experiences there.

  12. being involved in the development work has opened my eyes to, to count blessings i have in life...

  13. i love this post.
    thanks momma.