The news from the earthquake in Haiti permeates our media and our hearts. When we turn on the television there are images of death and destruction, and for some loss and despair. At times like this hope can seem hard to grasp. Andrew Brown is a former classmate of mine at California Lutheran University; his numerous trips to Haiti have greatly impacted his life and deepened his faith. I was able to ask him a few questions about his experiences. I hope that his answers help to paint for you a living picture of the country and it’s people. Please read on as Andrew helps us to see into the heart of Haiti.
How many times have you been to Haiti and what did you do while you were there?
Andrew: I have been to Haiti on four different occasions. My first three trips I took to Haiti were work trips focused on building an orphanage, hospital, and school for children living just outside downtown Port-Au-Prince. My last trip, however, was to visit friends and film their stories for a documentary. All of my trips to Haiti have been extremely humbling experiences and root my life again in Christ’s work.
What is your favorite memory from your time there?
Andrew: Where to begin. I think my favorite memories are the times I get to share with my Haitian friends. Leonard is a Haitian man who works as a “Taxi driver” in Haiti. He is usually our driver when we are in Haiti working or visiting. Leonard is the kindest man I have ever met. The times I have been able to share with Leonard fill my life with purpose to be a better person. You often hear him shouting the Lord’s praise in song on our car rides or simply shouting, “No problem!!!” Each time I have been to Haiti he has kindly opened his home to my friends and I. It is somewhat dangerous for a Haitian to open his house to white people as it puts a target on them as being rich, or privileged. Leonard does not care. We are his friends. And he opens his home for us because God called us to do so. The faith Leonard demonstrates is often incomprehensible.
My other memory, although a little more difficult to understand are the times I have spent in hospitals and orphanages. Holding children who are very ill or massaging lotion onto the dying. I never realized how my hands, how my presence, could soothe a crying child, or calm a dying man. I get to be Jesus for a moment and feel the presence of him through my hands. Those little moments are always in my heart and resonate with me whenever pain and sadness exist.
How has your experience in Haiti impacted your life?
Andrew: The relationships I have built with Haitian friends over the years continues to impact my life everyday. Many of the men and women I have met have very little by world standards. But yet I find myself being called to become a better person because of the faith they have in God. It has caused me to remember their faces and in time of trial praise God for all of the blessings in my life. The people of Haiti have instilled a sense of urgency to serve. Since the moment I arrived in Haiti, I have not forgotten their faces or their smiles. I feel called to give my time, my talent, and my gifts to the Lord who has created me. The people of Haiti have taught me what it means to love unconditionally, and to have faith in a God who’s plan isn’t always prevalent.
What is one thing we should all know about the people of Haiti?
Andrew: The people of Haiti are some of the most incredible people I have ever met. They have literally been plagued by corruption, famine, poverty, and injustice for 200 years, and yet continue to love each other and their country so much. The people of Haiti are good. They will give you the shirt off their back, even if it is their last. Haitians are the hardest working people I have ever encountered. They will prosper and they will succeed.
Have you personally heard any updates from people you know in Haiti? Would you be willing to share?
Andrew: I have a very close friend who has been working in Haiti since Thanksgiving of 2009. I received word this morning through Facebook that she has been working around the clock at a make shift outdoor clinic.
From her Facebook: “I know very little other than I am ok. We are working through the night at an outdoor clinic. 3 hours of sleep since the incident. I have to be honest it is kind of terrifying to be here. It is a total battelfield. My heart races all the time. Thanks so much for your prayers.”
Other than Joanna, I have heard various reports of other friends in Haiti being safe, but the news is very scarce. It could be many days before I am able to really understand the gravity of loss to the great people of Haiti. Their words are piercing. But God is good and in control.
How does your faith affect your response to the recent earthquake in Haiti?
Andrew: I think in any time of catastrophe, our faith is challenged. We ask ourselves, “why do bad things happen?” I don’t know that I have that answer, but I do know that God is good. Faith is something you cannot see, and the basis of faith is to trust in the Lord in times like these. That is what faith is built for, times of darkness and hurting. So although it can become easy to question God and His plan, your faith grows exponentially in times of trails. God allows us to suffer because it unlocks our ability to love unconditionally. When we struggle we are able to love without question. We come together, separate our differences, and remember the common good of humanity.
Is there is anything else that you would like to offer?
Andrew: “‘I may have lost a loved one, but also I may have lost my country.’ You feel so sad, terribly sad. Everyone does. But Haiti’s the kind of place where people develop an incredibly strong will. The motto of Haiti is ‘L’union fait la force’: ‘in unity there is strength.'” -Haitian-born American novelist Edwidge Danticat
If you are comfortable, would you please write a short prayer that readers could pray for the people of Haiti?
Andrew’s Prayer: Father, the people of Haiti are hurting. They are crying out in pain asking for your healing. May your hand come down on them and provide them the strength they will need to rebuild their country. May you comfort those who have lost everything. Father, may you sing praise through the streets of rubble that Your will be done and you are present in every corner of their country. Father, give strength to the rescue teams. Father, bring compassion to the world and give us the desire to share our resources necessary for healing and rebuilding. Just be present Lord. In any way. Haiti needs you. The world needs you. May we remember the unconditional Love you give us in these days of hurt. Be with us now and forever. Amen.
Andrew currently resides in California; he is still a member at the church where he grew up, Calvary Lutheran Church, Golden Valley, MN
You can help make a difference today. Please consider making a donation to help the ELCA’s efforts in Haiti. We are currently working with the Lutheran World Federation. Our partners in Haiti have survived the quake and are already working on the ground. Please make all donations directly at www.elca.org/haitiearthquake. You can also read more information and download bulletin inserts for Sunday here. Thank you for your gifts and your prayers.