A couple weeks ago, I found out something difficult about one of our teenagers. It is a problem that you would not often find in America, but one that I suspect is common here in Haiti. One of the teens that comes to our mission base almost every day, Taina (pronounced like Ty-een-a), doesn’t have a bed.
Because we live at a Diocesan Center, we have several beds here. We don’t have as many as we would like sometimes, and our mattresses are not in the best condition, but we at least have enough beds for us to sleep on, and about twenty other visitors (thirty if some are willing to be slightly uncomfortable). One day last week, some of our teen girls came by on a day when we needed to make beds for visitors. Since they are always willing to help with tasks, I asked them to help us make beds. After we finished, there were some leftover mattresses (okay, let’s be real, they were floor mats that were less than an inch thick) piled up in a corner. Taina (one of the smallest girls, and a great dancer) walked over to the pile and lay right in the middle of it, telling me she was going to go to sleep there. I just laughed. A few seconds later, she got up, and pointed to an orange mat and asked me in Creole if she could have it. I asked her why. She said she didn’t have one. I said, “You don’t have a bed?” She said no. So I asked how she slept. Her and her friend Louci proceeded to show me. They spread a sheet on the floor. That is the only thing they sleep on at night.
While it broke my heart then and it still does now, I knew that I couldn’t give Taina a bed that day. Because if I gave her a mattress, every other person in town who didn’t have a mattress would come asking for one, and we simply don’t have enough. I agonized over this for days. I wrote emails to my friends. I talked about it in our community. I prayed about it in the chapel.
I went through many scenarios in my head. Maybe I could raise enough money to buy mattresses for the whole town so that no one would have to sleep on the floor. For a few minutes, it sounded like a good idea. But then I realized that it would not be appropriate, because our mission here is evangelization. It would be terrible if people suddenly thought we were going to solve all of their material problems. Then I thought, maybe I could roll up the floor mat really small and shove it into a backpack and take it to Taina’s house without anyone ever knowing or finding out. This was also not a realistic option.
Finally, I realized that I was asking myself and other people all of the wrong questions. The question is not, “How do I get Taina a mattress?” or “How do I fix this?” or even (it sometimes felt this way), “How can I stop all of the suffering in the whole world?” At the end of the day, the reality is that many people in the world sleep without mattresses, and many of them don’t know life in a different way. Like Taina, they are not unhappy people (like we can be, even with our fancy mattresses). And while a mattress would make them more comfortable at night, it would not solve their deepest problems. The question is really, “Is Jesus enough?”
A problem like this DEMANDS a response. The suffering of others, ALWAYS demands a response from us, because we are Christians. But for me, right now, the response has to be an increase in my prayers and my faith. Will I pray for these girls more? Will I offer up my own sufferings for them? Will I make sure that when I minister to them, I am really giving them Jesus, and not myself? And do I really believe that when I give them Jesus, I am giving them everything that they need? Do I really believe that the salvation of their soul is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing? Do I believe that Jesus can bring hope and comfort to all situations and all sufferings, even the sufferings of people that I love deeply?
I do. I do believe that with my whole heart. I believe that my God is enough for them. I believe that no matter what suffering we face, our Lord is the ONLY answer. He is our hope. He is our peace. He is ALL that we need.
Give us all more faith Jesus. Help us believe that You are enough. Help us to know what response you are asking from us when we encounter suffering. Give us Your eyes to see, Jesus.