God loves the Poor

God Loves the Poor Jan 25 2010

My first visit to Haiti was in November of 1992. I traveled with Food for the Poor and stayed at the Montana Hotel that has now collapsed. Stories of joyous rescues and tragic lives ended have risen from the dust. Allow me to be a steward of this memory of Haiti. Even though the poverty was oppressive back then, I always sensed hope. I returned in 1999 with St. Boniface Haiti Foundation and then in 2000, 2001, 2003 and for a day in 2004. My last visit to Haiti was in 2005 just a week after I arrived home from my deployment with the Marines in Iraq which is another type of deep poverty.

HAITI 17 November 1992


Prayer on the mountainside
Protected from the elements and muck of a slum in a third world nation
Unprepared, unsuspecting down the hill we descended
into the scene of choking exhaust, open sewers,
and the many, many children of God?
Port au Prince lies on the bottom of mountains
the poorest of poor living as low as one can get
on a floating cesspool of mud
that sometimes swallows the smallest children
and the faintest hope of existence in this world
wishing to push them out to sea
like the sewage in America
piped out far from the coast so as not to spoil the beaches
Cite Soleil
Little Haiti
in which slum isn’t an adequate word to describe it
the dump my family used to go to every week as a child had much more wealth
than the likes of Little Haiti
mud so thick so disgusting that it was mixed with human…
I think you get the picture
Yet from this sludge rose the most fascinating spectacle
to ever touch this earth of ours…
life, human life
lives with smiles
lives with hope
that one day
a dry floor
a clean glass of water
make that a handful of water
that one day
a pair of shoes
a banana or orange or school.
From the mud arises a child able to
beat the odds of one in two
making past five and still able to squeak out a smile.
Haiti means mountainous
And hope
is believing that you will rise out of the dirty water
to the dryer ground
and eventually go up to the mountainside
and see the richness and natural colors of the flowers, trees and sky
that are reflected in the paintings and on the tap-taps
the truck-buses all unique and colorful.
Walking among the slums of higher ground
amidst feeding programs
and people old and young
trying to survive
and yet needing to celebrate
grateful for what?
What is it that causes them to just want to touch us fifteen or so pilgrims?
We walked through a maze of junk
and among people living lower than our homeless in America
And they SMILED,
they touched
They tried to loosen us of our wealth
And the hope we saw
was in these dinky little one bedroom houses
where a plastic bag use to suffice
The hope
in that concrete was poured to raise them out of the murky watery sludge
for a chance, a possibility
slim as it may seem
to hope for a vision,
maybe to read maybe to pray or learn.
We don’t need to bring God to the Poor
God is there
Calling us to care
Calling us to build a city of joy
May our hearts be turned into dancing
where the Lord, our Light and our Love
has turned the night into day.

God is not a vision.
God is born Emmanuel time and time again
in slums like those found in Haiti
And throughout this poorest nation of the Americas
There is more joy and more spirit filled people
than found in all the churches of our country
because their joy comes from nothing material
or even in the meager rice and beans distributed by Food for the Poor,
but from nothing,
their joy comes from absolutely nothing
and that nothing must be
has to be
Christ in one another
God among us
God suffering with us
celebrating (sanctifying)
love in life
even if we push them
off the dry land…
Them bones gonna rise again!

Driving Mister!

Haiti is an incredible and poor country
with many, many inhabitants.
In a bus
we were driven all over from the airport
to the hotel
to the slums that seem to float into the streets
overflowing into the streets outside the slums
like a rising tide and north flowing river
people everywhere selling bits and pieces
of all kinds of fruit, sweets, clothing, fabric, flea market stuff
“Bon Jour!”
“Bon Soir!”
Waving a hand and sweet gentle smiles
A people stuck in the mud
but not stuck in the muds.
We drove to feeding programs
schools in slums
schools for adults
a home for street boys abandoned, forgotten, 70 plus
We were driven from one end to another
Food for the Poor warehouse
back to the hotel
and then back down the hill again
to the Sisters of Charity who bring back life
to severely malnourished dying babies and orphans
to Mrs. La Fontane’s school for young women that get a chance
she shared her selfless story, open and laying down her life in service
and then a drive around and around
to a church with Sisters of Mary where over 60 girls crammed into a small room
were learning and thrilled to be in school
And then we traveled the bumpy mountain road up and up and switching and backing as the scene of the slums drifted further and further below
up to the Baptist Mission
and bargaining for a wood carving of Jesus and paintings
while driving away making final deals
(my mother held on to that cross as she died a painful death)
And then “Driving Mister” to a distillery and a lookout for more wheeling and dealing
And then the descent back to the hotel
still looking out over the harbor
where I know the slums go on and on without me
but within me
if I recognize this God of compassion within me
and within the poorest of poor
all part of the Body of Christ
My heart will be driven for years to come
back to the heart of God
always in the slums
and pleading for a hand or two…

How about you and you?
I’ll offer to drive too!

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