So, a movie came out a while back staring Leonardo Di Caprio called “Blood Diamond.” It was about the corruption in the diamond industry in Africa. In one of the scenes, when Leo’s character meets a young journalist who is trying to get more information to expose this corruption, they get to talking about all the problems, corruption and particularities of Africa, and the response he gives to her is “T.I.A.”
When she asks him what that means, he explains that it means, “This is Africa.” He goes on to explain that the corruption, difficulties, problems and particularities are just the way things are in Africa, and these things don’t phase him as he has just come to accept it, ergo his response of T.I.A.
About two months ago, as Fr. Louis, Michel (Fr. Louis’ brother), Sara, MarcArthur (Haitian missionary), and I were driving to see the Missionaries of Charity we got to talking about the many things that are so . . . Haiti. I remembered that movie, and in particular that scene, and I thought to myself “This is Haiti.”
Now every time something happens that could only happen here or is just normal/expected by Haitian standards, our response is “T.I.H.”
- Waking up in the morning and having this conversation like it’s no big deal – Question: “Did you hear the rats last night? They were crazy!” Answer: “Nope, I slept through that this time.” – T.I.H.
- Driving down the street in your pick up and stopping several times to give rides to strangers along the way, sometimes fitting up to 13 people in the back of the truck. – T.I.H.
- Kidnapping your neighbor’s cat, cooking it, inviting that same neighbor over for dinner and serving their cat as the meal as a practical joke. This actually happens here, and people think it’s funny. – T.I.H.
- Using the horn in your car to say “Hello,” “Goodbye,” “Thank you,” “You’re welcome,” “I’m close to your car” “I’m far away from your car” “I am driving on the curve of this mountain and I can’t see if there’s anyone coming on the opposite direction” “Nice to see you again” “I don’t want to see you again” “What are you doing?” “You’re moving too slow,” “You’re moving too fast” “Move!” – really, any phrase you can think of. – T.I.H.
- Walking down the street and having a little kid scream with a look of fright on his face, “Blan! Blan! Blan! Blan!” (Translation: White!) – T.I.H
- Finding crabs in the dining room or in your shower. – T.I.H.
- Having pet goats and chickens, and finding out after dinner that you just ate your pet. – T.I.H
- Having the beach as your backyard. – T.I.H.
- Having a group of little kids put together a whole dance & song performance because it’s your birthday. – T.I.H.
- Having a group of men fight over who gets to eat the goat brains. – T.I.H.
This is Haiti in need.
On a more serious note, there are many things in Haiti that have increased my awareness for the need of mission hearted people to invest in this country:
- A family of four or more people living in a small hut with a dirt floor that is smaller than our bathroom. – T.I.H.
- The all-too-frequent smell of burning trash. – T.I.H.
- Having to fight with hospital staff so a young girl who is in respiratory distress can get oxygen, finally getting them to agree and then having them tell you, you have to pay for the oxygen before they will administer it, all the while this young girl is barely able to breathe. – T.I.H.
- Meeting three little kids at an orphanage, who were abandoned by their parents because they have physical and mental disabilities. – T.I.H.
- Hearing the girls that come hang out at the base tell you they are ugly daily, and trying to explain to them that they have worth and beauty. Then having a conversation with one of their moms who tells you in front of her young daughters that Haitian’s are ugly, and then point to one of the kids calling her ugly, explaining to you why their hair, features & skin aren’t good enough. – T.I.H.
- Realizing that in Haiti, unlike other developing countries I have been too, there aren’t pockets of poverty throughout the country, poverty is all around you. – T.I.H.
- Witnessing several young kids have negative spiritual manifestations at prayer meetings or church, then finding out their parents had them “baptized” by a voodoo priest when they were babies. – T.I.H.
- Meeting a 22-year old young man who has some sort of muscular dystrophy, he is about the size of a 6 year old, with several severe contractions on all his limbs, and very malnourished. Finding out his life consists of sitting on the dirt floor of his hut, everyday, without much interaction. All the while thinking if he had access to physical and speech therapy his quality of life would improve greatly, but he doesn’t. – T.I.H.
- Realizing that several kids in our village don’t have a relationship with their father, because they either abandoned them or have another family elsewhere. – T.I.H.
- Watching little kids, sometimes as young as 5 or 6 years old, walking several miles up and down the street with huge plastic containers just to get clean water for their homes. – T.I.H.
There is Hope
Being a missionary in Haiti is not easy. There are so many problems, so very many obstacles. Often times it can seem almost impossible for things to get better. I was recently told that Haiti has been called the “missionary graveyard,” after being here a little over 2 months I can see why that phrase came about.
That being said, even if the outlook for Haiti can seem bleak at times, I believe that There is Hope (T.I.H.). There is hope for the people of Haiti because God can bring forth beauty from ashes. There is hope for the people of Haiti because His love is relentless and He does not tire or grow weary, even if we do. There is hope for Haiti because God exists and He is sovereign.
So now, every time we are joking around with our community and we see a funny T.I.H moment happen, I am going to try and make that a prayer and remember that there is hope.