When Bob Elmore described what our team would be doing this week in Haiti, he was careful to remind us we wouldn’t be building houses. Rather, Bob said, we’re here to help local workers build houses. And to remember that the “bosses” and their helpers know a lot more about what works in Haiti than we do.
It has to be a bit of a burden, taking on 19 American volunteers, many who have little to no construction experience. But the Haitians we worked with today greeted us with smiles every time we saw them, patiently reminded us how to say “what is your name” in Creole (more than a few times), and took us under their wing on two hot, dusty construction sites that will hold new cinder block homes in just a few days. They’re sacrificing to partner with us.
They’re also teaching us the basics of Haitian construction, from sifting dirt to be used as mortar, to creating an assembly line to get cinder blocks where they need to go.
And in return, hopefully we’re loving them well, even knowing many of us may not come back to Haiti, at least for a while. Our sacrifice is forgetting the heat long enough to loop both arms around kids when they want to walk down the street with you. (Five wide: you in the middle, one kid under each arm, and two more holding your hands).
Our sacrifice is having the courage to love them well, as one group member said during tonight’s devotion time. “It’s easy not to fall in love,” Emily Ebert said, not because the people aren’t lovable, but because it would be easier to hang back, build what we need to build, and leave on Sunday. It’s harder to start an awkward conversation in a foreign language, knowing we’re going to look like we don’t know what we’re doing.
Bob told us tonight that on his first trip to Haiti a few years ago, he focused on the work to be done and didn’t really meet many people. But on several subsequent trips, he decided the relationships were more important. Today, as we stood on the bank of the Grise River (named for its gray color), one of Bob’s Haitian friends – Phillip- told him, “You are from Haiti now.”
Bigarade is dotted with houses built by Baptist Global Response after the 2010 earthquake. Southern Baptist missionary Sam Yorke was instrumental in the building of those homes, so the locals call the community “the city of Sam” and “Sam village.”