The one thing that is predictable in my trips to Haiti is that I’ll learn something or get a new perspective. In that aspect, Haiti never disappoints.
It has been a couple years since I’ve been able to travel to Haiti and the island of LaGonave where we have our ministry, Haiti Alive. You may know that it’s a difficult time there, especially in the capital of Port-au-Prince (PaP). Unfortunately, the only way to get to LaGonave is through PaP. The center area of PaP has a large police presence and is relatively safe but the areas surrounding the city are currently controlled by gangs.
On my recent trip, I flew into PaP, rode in a van with three heavily armed guards to a police station, and then took an armored vehicle to the port area. This last stretch is not safe, so government workers and foreigners need that extra layer of protection. We actually heard gunfire and automatic weapons, the sounds of rival gangs vying for control of an area.
This part of PaP is a shipping lane and we watched sea containers being off loaded by large cranes. From this port zone, we boarded a 20-foot speedboat to travel the remaining 50 miles to LaGonave. The guards came along with us, as there has been some “piracy” of boats by the gangs.
You always hope for calm water for the water leg of the journey, but it was not to be. Once we got into open waters, we encountered white caps and waves. The easiest description is, we got beat up for a couple hours on the boat. Climbing the waves and slamming back to the water, while sitting on six inch boards, was tough. Tried to stand, sit on life jackets, and change positions, but we continued to get body-slammed over and over.
The next day, my lower back was a lovely shade of purple, my tailbone was bruised making it hard to even sit. My arms and legs were jelly, from continually holding myself up and trying to brace from the impact. Tough time for an old guy, but even the boat captain said he had to rest the entire day following.
During the bumpy boat ride, I kept thinking about endurance. This scripture verse even came to mind, “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb. 12:1 ESV)
There were many times I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to take one more wave, one more body thump. I kept hoping for an end, but the island didn’t seem to be coming any closer. The best thing that happened was we were running out of gas, so we needed to pull into a remote village on the far end of LaGonave to buy gas. It provided time to stand and get a break from the pounding.
Just when I was feeling proud of myself for my endurance, God tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “Is this really endurance?”
What about my friend who was diagnosed with metastatic cancer and will have to take medications for the remainder of her life?
What about my friend who has a debilitating condition that will advance over the years?
How about the family member with progressing dementia?
How about the people who live in Haiti, who daily are unsure if they will eat, will there be health care, and will their family be safe?
That, my friends, is endurance. You are probably already thinking of situations and people in your own lives who define endurance.
My pain will go away – God made Aleve, ice packs, and heating pads for my aches. I endured, but it’s not endurance.
I also need to share that the remainder of my time on LaGonave was wonderful. It was great to interact with the people, our school is doing well, the new Women’s Village is incredible and energizing, a new Agape Center/Clinic is coming along nicely, and the kids are so much fun and fill my soul.
God calls us beautiful and hard things. We run the race that is set before us.