May 10, 2017 | Compassion and Heartbreak
People always talk about experiencing a culture of poverty when they go on mission trips. Many people, when they experience the devastation and poverty have their senses and minds overwhelmed and their hearts broken. Compassion surges through them and they know why they came. I’ve been on a mission trip before and this didn’t happen to me. I wasn’t affected in the way that I feel I should be by such widespread brokenness, hurt, and lack of basic necessities. I went into this trip hoping to feel that compassion, but as we drove through Cap Haitien all I felt was excitement.
As we drove we saw the large gutters filled with sewage and filth. We saw people crowding the streets and sidewalks and we knew that around 80% are unemployed with no substantial way to provide for their families. We saw broken down cars sitting by the road because the owners couldn’t afford to fix them. We saw simple concrete block houses or huts made from thatching and mud with no hope for air circulation to relieve them from the oppressive heat and humidity. We saw families with no access to electricity or clean water. Instead I was soaking in the otherwise vibrant, colorful, busy culture and it made me want to experience and learn more about it. After thinking about my lack of compassion in the face of such difficult conditions I started to beat myself up over my hard heart. I thought something was wrong with me and I prayed for a compassionate heart.
As the week went on, I noticed my hard heart softened as I go to meet and interact with individuals. I met a boy named Mickenson at the EBAC orphanage. As I spent time with this serious, hardened twelve-year-old, he let me past the thick walls around his heart so that I could see the playful and singing child waiting to break out. I began to understand his vast brokenness beyond his years and his simple desire to be held and loved. Then he cried when I had to leave him. Another teenage boy showed us where he sleeps with a group of other boys in a room with no windows and I began to imagine what it is like to try to sleep there during the summer. In talking with the people at Pastor Jean-Claude’s home I was able to put myself into their shoes where they never know when the next bout of water borne illness will break out in their family. On the hike to the mountain church the hollow stare of a little boy along the path asking for food cut me to the core. Since I’ve been home, one of the young men that I’ve been texting had to pull out his own tooth because access to medical care is almost nonexistent.
These are just some of the examples and what they all have in common is that they moved me because I engaged a person. In talking and encountering real people, living real lives, with real struggles opened my eyes to the realities of material poverty. Compassion grew in my heart for these individuals and families. This process sank deeper in me the massive truth that God is primarily about relationships. While he does care about the big picture, (and he wants me too as well), he works primarily through personal relationships. He worked through these individuals to change my heart and through my interactions he created opportunities for me encourage them and to show them their worth and God’s love for them. My hope now is to carry this new knowledge into my daily life here at home and invest more in the people around me. I hope be a better friend and to open myself up more to others so that God can use me in others’ lives. And in the process there’s no telling what God will use them to teach me.