The Tragic Backstory
The Haiti Collective believes there are different kinds of intervention and involvement in cross-cultural mission. There are times when the appropriate response is relief in order to “stop the bleeding.” Other times the appropriate response is development, focusing on empowerment by increasing capacity and diminishing vulnerabilities. Finally, there are times when the appropriate response is reform, bringing systemic and lasting change not just to individuals but to structures and systems manifesting the brokenness and corruption that comes from our fallen world and state of sin.
In Haiti, decades of systemic brokenness has led many Haitians to believe the light has turned “red” in their country, and particularly in their own communities. Young Haitian men believe that, to remain in their own community, they are only given a life of struggling to survive with no open door for flourishing and freedom. Just recently, USAToday reported on a worldwide study where citizens were assessed on “subjective well-being”–how citizens of a country personally feel about their lives. Sadly, after the war-torn countries of Afghanistan and Syria, Haiti ranks the lowest in the world. There is a battle going on in Haiti, but it is not with terrorism. It is a battle to survive. Given that Haitians subjectively feel the worst in the world where they live, the greener grass conspiracy is a reality for the majority of men who take their ambitions and dreams outside Haiti in hopes of a better life.
The fallout from the “red light” in Haitian communities means that the greatest assets from the most ambitious leaders with the highest capacity to produce change are in a long line of exodus to places like the Dominican Republic, South Florida, and New York City. In pursuit of economic opportunity, Haitian families are divided as the “breadwinner” seeks financial prosperity in places that require them to be removed from other familial responsibilities, such as caring for their wife and training their children.
Economic despair has become a catalyst for relational dysfunction and divorce. Men who leave their communities with aspirations to provide for their family over time begin to forget about their family and start a new life in a new world of possibilities, including the possibility of never coming back to the grueling challenges that plague life in their own communities.
When we consider the massive number of children in Haitian who are orphaned, we must first ask the question, “Why?” When it is reported that over 300,000 children in Haiti are vulnerable and functionally orphaned by parents who can no longer afford their survival, we must ask, “How did this happen?” I don’t want to pretend to know all the factors in involved here, but if we are going to address the orphan crisis in Haiti, we must address the systemic brokenness that has perpetuated this crisis for decades and continues to worsen as each year goes by. It is not enough to care for orphans; we need to pursue corrective reform that reverses the problem by addressing the problem at the root so that the category of “orphan” would be an anomaly, not a majority, for children in Haiti. We’ve got to let the orphans know there is a future and hope for them where they live, not just to survive in brokenness and despair, but to flourish in transformation that comes from the power of the gospel at work in every area of their life.
Turn on the Green Light
The gospel of Jesus Christ brings transformation in every area where we experience brokenness in the world. Those areas are fourfold: in our relationship with God, with ourselves, with one another, and with the world itself. If we desire to participate with local churches bringing holistic care to orphans, we need to address the children in every area as well as the systems inherently connected to those areas.
While in Haiti this past summer, it occurred to us during the documentation process of profiling dozens of Haitian orphans that many of them were much older than they looked. When we typically think of orphans, our mind is directed to an infant or toddler with an adorable smile, needing to be held. Rarely if ever do we think about the 15 year old orphan who has spent the majority, if not all, of his life without a family on the precipice of entering adulthood in a society that promises little and delivers less. Coming face to face with so many teenaged orphans, I saw the next generation of Haitians and an opportunity to change the landscape of their community.
We began asking the questions:
“What if the red light in their communities became the green light?
What if the greatest talent, the strongest leaders, the best assets in this generation of orphans were well equipped with transformational training to reinvest in their own communities to see their world impacted with the gospel of Jesus Christ and bring reform to the systems and structures perpetuating the despair and decadence?
What if the brightest green light was not in New York City but in their own city?
What if orphans were trained equipped to love God supremely, understand themselves truly, serve others sacrificially, and leverage the things of this world faithfully?
What if orphans were trained in such a way that they could flourish financially, build healthy families flourishing in relational wholeness, and create Haitian-born solutions for Haitian-caused problems?
We believe we have the opportunity to make such a difference by focusing on creating a pathway and onramp to adulthood for teenage orphans in Haiti to experience a new way of living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ where their head, heart, and hands are well equipped to transform their communities for the glory of God. This pathway would incorporate the best practices of development and empowerment, employing creative and conventional means to ensure the best possible outcome for teenage orphans launching into life with a mission to not simply survive but see the renewal of all things through a life deeply rooted in their identity in Jesus Christ.
To Go Green in Haiti means to turn the green light on in the four areas transformation needs to take place:
- Spiritual green light (spiritual poverty)
- Familial green light (relational poverty)
- Educational green light (poverty of being)
- Economic green light (material poverty)
Until we turn the green light in all four areas, we will fail to bring the reform that makes relief so necessary. And only through a developmental determination can we begin to see that green light turn on in Haiti.
What we need is a vision to create new pathways for new opportunities of thriving in rural Haiti. We need a vision to increase capacities of indigenous communities. We need a vision to incorporate both the spiritual and practical for holistic development through local churches. We need a vision to launch young people as the greatest assets of Haitian communities into adulthood where they embrace possibilities heretofore beyond reach in their own community.
The first area of life transformation is in relation to oneself. Orphans who know the gospel, believe the gospel, and ground their identity who they are in Christ will be able to live out that new identity with humility and hope. Unless hearts are changed and minds are renewed by the power of the gospel, lasting transformation will be beyond reach. The good news is that we have every resource we need to cultivate character and integrity in young adults through instruction and training from God’s Word.
Orphans will be empowered in their relationship with others, understanding how to live in reconciled relationships in fostering healthy community. Through local churches, orphans will experience a life of serving others, living interdependently while meaningfully contributing to the needs of others. They will learn how to effectively interact with people in ways that constructively build others up. Most importantly, they will see and prioritize the value of the family as the basic building block to a thriving community.
In their relationship to the world, orphans will be empowered with skilled competencies to offer goods and services that will tangibly impact their world for good. As image bearers of God, they will explore ways He has gifted and equipped them to steward their lives in productive ways to provide for themselves as well as bless others. Equipped with both traditional and innovative best practices, they will have opportunity of being at the forefront of shaping Haitian culture for Christ.
Throughout their lives, teenage orphans understand with a biblical worldview the centrality of the local church and orient their lives and usefulness to the mission of the kingdom of God. Instead of building their own kingdom, they will seek to build up the kingdom of Christ through investing their lives in their own local church in ways that bless others and makes disciples. As those entrusted with privileges and promises, they will own the responsibility of teaching and training others as faithful men and women of God.
GO GREEN PARTNERS
The Haiti Collective is a gospel-driven network focused on empowering Haitian churches and communities through relief, development, and reform initiatives based on mutual partnership in kingdom advance. THC values are shaped by the ministry and practice of Christ and the Early Church, and are: Holistic development, participatory empowerment, relational investment, transformational reconciliation, and intentional discipleship. Find out more by visiting our website.
Altar84 is a non-profit ministry that seeks to alter the lives of orphans and vulnerable children by offering them a forever: Speak up for those without a voice and demonstrate the Gospel, Ongoing education and equipping for the Church and the family, Nourish both their physical and spiritual needs, Gather and provide resources to fight against the root causes of the orphan crisis. Discover more about Altar84 by visiting our website.
Society of Christian Haitians (SCH) is an indigenous network of Haitian churches working together to reach transform communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ. SCH currently has 15 churches who care for over 1,700 orphans in Haiti under the leadership of Pastor Odanis Joseph. Since 2011, SCH has affiliated and partnered with The Haiti Collective to work together in accomplishing the mutually shared mission through local churches in Haiti as well as in the United States.