Shake It Off, Step Up

There is an old story about the donkey and a well.

One day a farmer’s donkey fell into an abandoned well. Terrified, the animal cried for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old and impossible to retrieve. He realized the well needed to be filled to prevent future losses. So he invited all his neighbors to help him.

They all grabbed shovels and began to throw dirt into the well. At first, when the donkey realized he was being buried alive, he cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s shock, the donkey quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer looked down the well and was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit the donkey’s back, the donkey would shake it off and take a step up.
As the farmer and his neighbors continued to throw dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take another step up. Soon everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!

Life is going to throw dirt your way and attempt to bury you. However, no one ever gets out of life’s wells by giving up! Shake the dirt off and take a step up!

This week we received news that Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) were pulling their pilots and staff from Haiti until at least 2024. Gang violence, threats, and the actual death of one of their staff members, made it impossible for them to continue. To avoid the mess surrounding Port-au-Prince, we typically fly into Port and then fly a small MAF plane to LaGonave. Now, this ends the last possibility for us to visit our friends in Haiti.

MAF is a Christian ministry that has a special place in my heart. I became very sick one time while visiting Haiti. They made a special flight to LaGonave to get me home quickly. MAF bridges the gap for missions to exist in remote and dangerous corners of the world.

Haiti has never been an easy place to visit. We’ve had numerous close calls and chilling moments. But now it’s too scary for even the seasoned Haiti travelers. It also hit me that I have only so many trips left to Haiti. It’s not tomorrow, but my trips will come to an end and now that trip number is shorter.

And left in the wake are hungry, desperate people with
impossible logistics for organizations to provide aid.

I just finished writing a new book, It’s Not My Problem. Or Is It? From Nudge to Nonprofit. It highlights how I got connected to Haiti, the beginning of offering assistance that ultimately led to the nonprofit, Haiti Alive. The book was really enjoyable to write. In fact, I wrote the entire book in just over a week. With Haitian proverbs and interesting stories, the book will take you on our journey and hopefully serve as an encouragement. The draft is in the hands of an editor and compositor and I will let you know when it goes to print.

What became glaringly obvious was that we’ve had other times when we’ve been in the hole without a way out. With incredible, generous donors and faithful supporters, we’ve been able to shake the dirt off and take steps up. Haiti Alive started as a ministry within a church and has grown beyond what I could have imagined. You might have heard me bellow and cry a few times, we’ve made some mistakes, but we’ve tried to shake it off and step up.

Even more evident, are the resilient people of Haiti who continue to be in the well. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tropical storms, food insecurity, lack of government, no consistent police force, corruption, gang violence, kidnappings, cholera, minimal access to medical care, fuel shortages, inconsistent support by nonprofits – this list could go on for several pages. I’m not sure how the people of Haiti can continue to shake off these tragedies.

In the midst of these shovels of trouble, we’re finishing 32 homes in the Women’s Village and have money to start 8-10 more. The school will reach its maximum class capacity next year, serving grades 1-9 and we’ve had all the students sponsored for two years in a row. Our Christmas program was nuts, with over 1,200 kids attending the program and it was broadcast live on a local internet news channel. Our two clinics are busting at the seams with patients. Our dentist is on LaGonave this week, offering dental care. We gave away boxes of school supplies and get food to the elderly as often as we have funding.

It’s not only taken the farmer, but a lot of neighbors. As the Haitian proverb says, “Men anpil chay pa lou – Many hands make light work.” My dream is for these shovel fulls to one day allow for the beautiful people of Haiti to trot off to their own futures.
Until that day – shake it off, step up.

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