Jeff and I are volunteering in Haiti for just 47 days. Yes, we're counting. We have less than two weeks to go before we leave for the US.
Being a "short timer" is making me appreciate even more the people who are here to stay in Haiti. And I wonder how they keep going.
The people in the photo above are all longtime, dedicated servants.
Jamalyn (above left) lived in Haiti for two years beginning in 2003, and has been coming back ever since. She has two small children and a big job in a church in Indianapolis. Surely it would be easier to let someone else lead teams. But here she is, in Fondwa again this week, with a big smile on her face as her latest group of 22 experiences Haiti. She shows amazing fortitude.
Rich (above middle) has been coming to Haiti since the late 80's. Over the years, the organization he founded, Partners in Progress, has tried a variety of approaches, in Fondwa, and elsewhere in Haiti. I'm sure he's had plenty of ups and downs, but still his idealism, his determination and his hope shine through. He keeps on going, planning, organizing, contributing what he can.
When I contemplate Kathy (above right) and her work with her husband David and Family Health Ministries, I know about many of the valleys as well as the mountain tops. Kathy and David have had many successes, but all at a price. When they're in those valleys, they don't lose faith, but they keep trying to find solutions.
Over the years, Kathy has continued to support Haitian partners through times of wonderful achievement and moments of head shaking. I am guessing that she has been frustrated and discouraged as many times as she have been delighted. How does she do it? Why does she do it? Will she be able to keep on doing it?
Luke 5 tells the story of Jesus at the Sea of Galilee, calling his disciples to be "fishers of men." Usually we focus on the second part of the story, when they leave everything, and follow Jesus. I think it's also useful to think about the earlier part where Jesus says to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."
Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
Simon is already tired, probably exhausted. He and his fellow workers had already worked as hard as they knew how, all night along, without catching a thing. Surely they were ready for a break from their physical toil and from what must have been a discouraging time. And they do not really know this consultant Jesus. Is he a fishing expert? What could he possibly know that they don't?
But somehow, when they take heart and find the strength to let down their nets again, they are hugely rewarded. They caught so many fish that their nets began to break and they had to call for help. They were in new trouble, because their boats were beginning to sink from the weight of so many fish.
We can't tell from Luke's description how forcefully or authoritatively Jesus told them to go back out to fish some more. We know that Jesus and the men who became his disciples were early in their relationship. They hadn't had time to build up a deep and trusting friendship. Jesus may have even spoken softly, perhaps quite casually, in a suggestive tone.
We might also note that Jesus didn't tell the the fishermen to stay close to shore where getting back again would have been easy. He directs them to deep water, where they could have encountered wind, heavy seas or even a fierce storm.
These men chose to listen, and then to follow the counsel they'd been given. They go out far enough to be in dangerous waters. They leave in spite of their fatigue and with near certainty that the counterintuitive advice from Jesus is going to be faulty, a waste of time and energy and potentially, of valuable resources. They find enough strength to have enough hope.
As I think of Jamalyn and Rich and Kathy, I have prayers for them as they also keeping letting down their nets. May they find enough strength to keep going. May they know when to call for assistance. May they find partners in nearby "boats" to help them. And may they and their companions be "astonished" at their "catch."
Jeff and I don't feel as we've been in deep waters. We have been living in a lovely facility here at the FHM guesthouse, with wonderful staff caring for us daily. Yes, we've had many challenges and no, it hasn't all been fun. We have had to do some things we really didn't enjoy doing, but we haven't been exhausted by anything.
At this point, we're not sure it's our role to venture out in the boat. But we know we can make a contribution here on shore, repairing the nets, caulking the boat, and grilling the fish for supper.