Sunday, March 7, 2010

Those who Dwell in Hell Need to Know Heaven Has Not Forgotten Them

"Hell is empty and all the devils are here." --William Shakespeare

Shakespeare must have visited Haiti. A year ago this past Christmas my wife, Leslie, and I engaged in a short-term mission trip to Haiti. I had been to Honduras, often regarded as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, on half a dozen occasions the past 10 years. The U.S. poor look wealthy compared to the poverty-stricken in Honduras.

Honduras is hard; Haiti is Hell. Within 48 hours of arriving, I was wanting to return home and dreading the remaining 12 days. I feel I'm pretty tough when it comes to living in hardship. Haiti stripped me of any inflated opinions of my emotional fortitude.

Haiti is raw. Life there is brutal. The first day we were there our hosts wanted to show us the typical outdoor market. We were walking down a main thoroughfare in this market, hundreds of people shoulder to shoulder, lots of noise, too much smell, and food on display you would and will never choose to eat. As we're walking I noticed the throngs of people in front of us begin to veer to the left or to the right, and I'm assuming there's mud or standing water causing everyone to take the diverting paths. We walk another ten feet and lying in the middle of the dirt path is a corpse. A man is lying there, and flies have begun to gather on his face. People walk around him and continue their business. Just another day at the market. When people are merely existing and not "living" there is no respect for life. The vast majority of Haitians are destitute, unsure of food and shelter for that very day, much less preoccupied about tomorrow.

On a normal day, Haiti is Hell. Imagine what it must be like since the earthquake hit. I can't. We've all seen the footage. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but, I can tell you, a picture isn't worth two minutes of being there. Have you ever had the experience of going on a beautiful vacation and having taken some pictures of breath-taking scenery, you get back, have them developed, and they look so bland and anemic? Pictures don't do justice to Heaven; they certainly underestimate Hell.

Since seeing the initial footage of the earthquake my heart has gone out to these who dwell in Hell. I have wrestled with what is my responsibility. ( If you haven't already viewed them, see 2 previous blog posts wherein I talk about Haiti and my internal struggle--do I go or do I stay? See Jan.17, Hell in Haiti, and Feb. 3, Come Hell or Salt Water I Gotta Get Out of Here.)

Les and I have talked and prayed, and feel both compelled and "called" to go. We found out about a relief organization, Crisis Response International, and applied. Just last week they informed us we are accepted. We have a lot to do in a short period of time. We are required to undergo three days training in CPR, education about the Haitian culture, and prepping for working there. Training begins on 3/27 in Kansas City, and from there we and the other team members fly to Haiti on 3/30. We will return on 4/13. As you can see, we will be able to serve on the front lines for two weeks. We have not been told precisely what we will be doing. I surmise that the chaos is such that everyone there is still overwhelmed. CRI did say we will probably be “working in Leogane (20 miles west of Port-au-Prince), a city in the epicenter of the earthquake. The team has been working at an orphanage there, clearing rubble, working with the children when possible. As of right now, the conditions are hard and strenuous. It would definitely be an adventure if you are up for the challenge. It is hot, and rainy. Things are subject to change on a daily basis, as expected in times of crisis. . . “

I am both excited and, to be honest, nervous. Excited about the possibilities of providing concrete help; nervous about the psychological and emotional impact of all the destruction. Nonetheless, we believe God is calling us to do this, and the Scriptures attest that what God calls us to do He also empowers us to do.

I also feel compelled to do this. I believe that we who have so much need to give to those who have so little.

We need financial support in order to do this. Costs for the training and flights are @ $1200 each. In addition, there are 4 -5 nights lodging stateside, insurance, supplies we need to purchase, and loss of more than two weeks income (for me.) This is no pressure, no guilt, no manipulation. If you desire to help and have the means to do so, you can partner with us in one of two ways:

*If you desire to contribute online, please go to our church website At the bottom right-hand corner you will click on“Give on-line,” then click on “Give Instantly—a one time gift.” Then click on “Select One.” Click on “Steve and Leslie Harris’ Trip.”

*If you desire to support us by check, please make your check payable to Imago Dei Church, and in the note section write “Steve and Leslie Harris Haiti Trip.” Send your check to our church address: Imago Dei Church, 309 B Main Street, Peoria, IL. 61602

If you cannot help financially or choose not to, we appreciate and depend on your prayers and your encouragement. Your "comments" will be especially meaningful the next several weeks.(Those of you who don't normally comment--this would be a great way to "partner" with us in the ensuing weeks.)

Tryon Edwards, a nineteenth century American theologian, made the following statement:

"Hell is truth seen too late--duty neglected in its season."

To go to Haiti may be the equivalent of going to hell. For me, to neglect to go would be hell, as well.

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