Guest Blogger: Bret Pinson, May 21, 2011
Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work. 1 Chronicles 28:10
Like many of you, I have been following, supporting, and praying for a Christian sister named Megan Boudreaux. We have been stirred, challenged, and inspired by her faith in our Lord and the love of the children on a rural mountainside in Haiti, called Gressier. A few weeks ago, my business partner, John Anderson, and I went to visit Megan in Gressier. We went to see firsthand what she and God were doing, and determine how we could help. We had an amazing experience; one that changed our perspectives and lives permanently.
Before I got to Haiti, I knew about the lack of a stable government and no economy to support its citizens. I knew about the extreme poverty. I knew about the millions of hungry people. I knew Haiti was the poorest nation in our hemisphere. I knew about the squalor they lived in. I knew about the devastating effects of the earthquake in January 2010. And I knew that millions were forced to live in tents, and they’re still there a year and half later. Until recently, I pushed this knowledge aside; it’s easier to not know, to forget it doesn’t exist. I just pretended that our world was the world.
In our world, most of us feel safe; we have work, access to clean water, electricity, food, and free education. In Haiti, many are not safe, especially the children, there is no free education, adequate health care is almost nonexistent, most can’t find work (unemployment is estimated to be over 50%; the average wage is $660/ year) and those that do work are blessed to have one meal a day. Despite their efforts, many don’t work so they don’t eat …and neither do their children.
What I saw in Haiti was consistent with what I knew, however, once there my knowledge turned into reality, for the first time I felt it. This wasn’t your average feeling; this was intense, in my gut, and hard to even comprehend, much less articulate. My first clear insight; seeing is more powerful than knowing.
There were kids wanting to play with me, wanting to talk to me, and wanting to be held by me. Their names were Jefferson, Ricardo, Lovely, and Michaelle, to name a few; and there were many more, actually hundreds more. Not surprising, they adore “Sister Megan”. Wherever we walked, people knew who she was. Throughout the day we would hear children calling out for her from the valleys and the mountaintops, “Sister Megan, Sister Megan”. And we heard her telling them over and over again in Creole, “Ou kapab!” which in Creole means, You can! Everyone needs encouragement, and for many of these children, Megan is the first person to let them know they can do more, be more, and how to serve more.
We watched Megan teach English classes (in Creole!) attended by kids and adults of all ages. We participated in two children’s feeding programs, and the number of kids walking miles for one meal of rice and beans was astounding. I realized that maybe more important than the food, were them having the opportunity to come together to play and sing songs of praise and worship. Another realization was that with the hundreds of kids that ate at these two feedings, besides us and the few adults administering the programs, there were no parents!
Where were all the parents? Unfortunately, for many of them the answer lays in Megan’s last blog, on May 20th, Trapped.
We saw some of Gressier’s poorest kids attending the new free school, sponsored by Respire Haiti, which Megan founded. We encountered kids everywhere we went. Most of these kids struggle because their most basic human needs are not being met; as a result, they become malnourished and under-developed. Adequate health care is nonexistent for most. A simple infection can become life changing. Many are forced to work from an early age, just to survive a meager existence.
Besides not having food, clean water or electricity, they also don’t have Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, or computers. They don’t have toys, bicycles, or sports equipment…no little league, dance recitals, or school sports. Most Haitian kids have the clothes on their back. Jefferson and Ricardo were with us every day…in the same clothes every day. In contrast, our kids have “stuff” in excess.
I learned that these kids are easier to ignore when you don’t know their names, when you have not looked into their eyes, when you have not held them in your arms.
My second takeaway: Haitian kids have less yet are blessed with so much more! They have more gratitude, more joy, more faith, more hope…and hope does not disappoint.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5
I remember one evening at Megan’s house listening to the sounds of Gressier. I heard goats and chickens, neighbors talking and laughing, the church choir was singing, and most noticeable were the sounds of kids. They were running, playing, and laughing; unlike the quiet we hear in our neighborhoods. While their poverty is indescribable, their joy was excessive, heartwarming, and gave me hope. Their focus and time is spent on getting and receiving those things you can’t buy; things like helping one another and relationships; relationships with each other and with Jesus.
A little boy approached me at one of the feedings and asked, “Do you love Jesus?” He smiled at my response, and walked away. These kids, with so little, have so much more than many of our kids. It makes me wonder why we as parents try to give ours so much…we try to give them everything and feel bad when we can’t. Maybe instead of giving them the best clothes, toys, money and stuff, we should be teaching them how to be happy even when they don’t have what they want; how to have gratitude for the blessings they do have, how to give beyond excess and surplus, and how to love? How to love God and their neighbor!
Many of you are unaware that Megan has a close friend, helper, partner, and brother in Christ with her in Gressier. His name is Bernard Joseph; he is God-sent. He grew up in Haiti and has helped Megan from the very beginning, finding housing, property, administering Respire Haiti duties…and whatever God and Megan calls him to do. God has called many of us to help and serve Megan and Respire Haiti, and few have been more helpful than Bernard. A shout out to Bernard, the newest member of the LSU Tigers fan club!
We attended church one Sunday morning with Megan at Pastor Benito’s church. He has become a partner and friend to Megan and Respire Haiti. Pastor Benito is a man after God’s own heart. Throughout our stay we continued to learn about all the things this godly man has done for his neighbors. Attending his church was one of my more memorable experiences in Haiti. Men, women, and children were all celebrating God in this small church on a hillside in Haiti. It was inspiring to me and when they began singing How Great Thou Art…in Creole, the trip reached a spiritual crescendo for me. How could a church be more filled with the spirit of God? Here they were struggling daily in a way most of us can’t comprehend yet on this day they displayed an amount of joy and happiness that I have rarely seen; they actually celebrated!
It occurred to me that while I came out of a calling to serve, the people of Gressier were serving me by their walk, their witness, and their authentic faith. They can teach many of us about what complete faith looks like.
Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold. Proverbs 8:10
My final ah- ha; I have a choice. In his book, Radical, David Platt revealed/clarified for me the choice I have. What if I chose to realize that God blessed me with excess, not so I could have more, but because He wanted me to give more? You and I both have this choice.
We can stand with the starving or the overfed.
We can identify with poor Lazarus on his way to heaven or with the rich man on his way to hell.
We can embrace Jesus while we give away our wealth, or we can walk with the rich man on his way to hell.
We can embrace Jesus while we give away our wealth, or we can walk away from Jesus as we hoard our wealth.
Only time will tell what you and I choose to do…
David Platt, Radical
Over time, I will likely forget some of the details of this trip, but I won’t forget:
- What I saw. Seeing is more powerful than knowing.
Seeing what God is doing through Megan in Gressier was amazing. You should go see and serve the poor. If you do, you’ll be blessed. If you can’t go, you can serve in so many other ways, but serve!
- Abundance and excess don’t’ have much to do with joy, happiness, and hope. Haitian kids have less yet are blessed with so much more!
I don’t think their joy, happiness, and hope was in spite of their poverty, but in part, because of it. We and especially our kids need to understand how blessed we are. It is our job to teach them through our example. They hear what we say, they believe what we do!
- I have made a choice.
You have a choice too. The choice is not about Haiti, it is about choosing Him over self.
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15
By Bret Pinson, email@example.com
To learn more about Megan and Respire Haiti: https://blessedwithaburden.wordpress.com