Mopping Haiti
by Jen Hatmaker on October 9th, 2012

Today was my first day in Haiti. Now, I’ve sent money here. I’ve sponsored kids here. I’ve gotten behind some amazing initiatives through Help One Now here. I’ve put pictures on my fridge and thrown garage sales for Haitian orphans and prayed for this country and cried a good deal past reasonable over it all.
 
But this was my first day here. In real Haiti. On her soil. With her people. 
 
Haiti is a study in contradictions, and it left me a little breathless today. I’ve been awake for slightly more than 12 hours, and I’ve laughed, cried, sung, testified to a church in Tent City, marveled, despaired, fallen in love, and fallen to pieces. Haiti is not just one thing; it is a song with many chords.
 
First of all, entire swatches of countryside, quite simply, are paradise. It is so gorgeous, that upon turning a corner and taking in this expansive view this morning, I lost all train of thought and couldn’t finish my sentence:

But what do we do with a country smaller than Maryland that has 10,000 NGO’s yet is still the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere? And lest we imagine the earthquake unmoored a previously thriving country, like Pastor St. Cyr told us today: “Haiti was not moving forward before; the earthquake just made it naked.”
 
Two and a half years after the earthquake in January 2010, despite billions of dollars in reconstruction aid, the most obvious, pressing need — safe, stable housing for all displaced people — remains unmet. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians were displaced into tent communities where conditions are dismal; sewage running like rivers, water shortages, brutality, trafficking, disease.

As we walked through Tent City today, 971 days after the earthquake, it stretched as far as the eye could see. Climbing through the steep pathways full of sewage, I kept thinking: “How could I take care of my family here for even one day? Even one day?” The conditions are deplorable; you can’t imagine it. The tales of children lost to trafficking and innocence lost to violence and dignity lost to despair here froze the blood in my veins.
 
But then.
 
Then there are these bright brown eyes everywhere and peals of laughter drifting across the tops of tarps. Then there are little tiny braided girls chasing after us and a church right in the middle of the chaos, where they sang How Great Thou Art in Creole while I sobbed through it in English. Then the lilting, inflected greeting fills my ears a hundred times: “Bonsoir…” sung like a melody.
 
Then I see this girl. What is she…eight-years-old? She is outside her deteriorating tent, dark as night and hot as a sauna inside. She is wearing a shirt that won’t fit her for ten more years, filthy. No shoes. No grown-ups around, only two small boys she appears to be in charge of.
 
And she is mopping dirt.

And something in my heart went…snap. I want to take the makeshift mop out of her tiny hands and break it into one million pieces. I want to scream and pull every hair out of my head. I want her to not be mopping the dirt outside of her filthy tent where she has lived for nearly two years. I want her not to be here in this terrifying place while my five babes are being tucked neatly into their safe, warm beds with their bellies full and our life the picture of security. I want her to stop mopping that damn dirt, because it is so futile and unfair and broken and everything, everything about this is wrong.
 
I am on the verge of rupturing, when she looks at me...and smiles. And the little ones behind her, they smile too.
 
And she keeps mopping the dirt, humming, grinning.

Because her life is hard, but she is going to make it more beautiful. She is. Her presence here alone, with her eyes shining and determined resiliency, is an oasis. We lock eyes and I think, “You’re going to make it, dear one.”
 
There is hope here. I can’t explain it, but it’s here, I can feel it, I can even see it. It’s literally everywhere. It’s a mopping dirt kind of hope – frustrating, decisive, complicated, dogged, wearisome, inspiring.
 
It’s in the Guibert community, nearly entirely displaced by the earthquake, when their pastor rose up and said, “Let’s make a list: most vulnerable to the least. We start rebuilding homes from the top of the list down.” And with their bare hands and sweat and moxy, they rebuilt homes for the most broken members of their community while the rest of them still lived in tents.
 
Hope is in Fifi and Earnest’s new house, the first project in Help One Now’s 100 Homes Campaign. For $6000, this family of five has a new home, 20 jobs were created in its construction, and a small microloan from Help supplied them with rabbits and gardening supplies, which she proudly showed off behind her house.

Hope is in Pastor St. Cyr, who has tenaciously served Tent City, providing free schooling for the children (an exorbitant luxury), aid for tens of thousands of people, and who preached in the middle of Tent City every single night for seven straight months after the hurricane. He is a hero who sold his home in Florida and returned to his country to serve them. When pressed on his fiery determination and contagious hope, he said, “When the earthquake happened, God was still on His throne. If I’m still alive, I have the right to say that God loves us. All I see is God’s grace and mercy for Haiti.”

Hope is in the love of neighbors here and the love of Jesus. It’s in hands lifted in praise at a worship service in the middle of abject poverty. Hope is in people like Chris Marlow with Help One Now who is such a friend and fierce advocate for Haiti, spending his life on setting the captives free and loosening the chains of injustice. Hope is in the courageous people of Haiti, declaring God’s goodness and assuring us all day that God has never left them.
 
So it may feel like mopping dirt down here, but let me tell you something:
 
I’m grabbing a mop.


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79 Comments

Beth - October 9th, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Thank you for this. It is beautiful among the awfulness of it all.
Jen - October 9th, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Lotsa love from here...beautifully written...thanks for bringing us on your journey.
becky - October 9th, 2012 at 11:50 PM
yes. this. as tears stream down my cheeks.
thank you for allowing us on your journey. into your heart and your head.
prayers with you as you walk dirt paths, that as the Lord works and breaks and binds within you, He is able to accomplish the same in us through your obedience in sharing.
bless it.
Joy Collins - October 9th, 2012 at 11:51 PM
The cussing somehow makes me feel better. I do it too when I'm in the third world and I'm just mad as H at the entire SITUATION. Better Christians than me pray first. I cuss first. Somehow I know God is ok with my order of operations.
Luke - October 10th, 2012 at 9:30 AM
Amen!
Kim - October 10th, 2012 at 9:57 AM
What Joy said...
Jennifer - October 10th, 2012 at 10:02 AM
Me too. Me. Too.
Hannah - October 10th, 2012 at 11:23 AM
Missy - October 11th, 2012 at 12:22 AM
I think sometimes we're called to cuss. I think it's not only appropriate, it just might be holy.
Erica - October 10th, 2012 at 4:18 PM
For sure! Makes my frustration feel stronger!!! :)
Tammy - October 11th, 2012 at 12:47 PM
I agree and had to share this t-shirt set with you because your comment reminded me of it
http://www.cafepress.com/ i_love_jesus_but_womens_dark_pajamas,520034560
Caleb - October 21st, 2012 at 8:16 AM
Ephesians 4:29 says this- Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. It is a very sad thing to see believers basically encouraging other believers in the area of cussing. You won't find a list of words in scripture that it says "Don't say these". However, there are words that will discredit you and cause you to lose your witness with a lost world and cuss words are part of them. We are called to be holy, aka separate. Cuss words are worldly. We as believers should not use such speech if there is any chance it displeases our God, and somehow I believe cuss words do just that by violating the scripture just posted.
Cat - October 24th, 2012 at 8:46 PM
I totally agree!!!

Steph Groutas - October 9th, 2012 at 11:52 PM
Thanks for sharing! Praise God for the Hope that He gives. Looking forward to Uganda with you next month, my friend.
Linda Bolt - October 9th, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Thank you for letting us see this through you. Looking forward to more.
jacque - October 9th, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Thank you for helping me to see that mopping the dirt was a positive and not the negative that I too would have thought. You are a good teacher to see & relay to us the positive & hopeful signs from such a small gesture. There is hope.
Caitlin - October 10th, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Thanks for including us Jen. I had a similar experience in Brazil and Nicaragua. You capture the dichotomy perfectly, and those vast differences should be nothing less than a call to arms. Arms against despair.
Whitney - October 10th, 2012 at 12:12 AM
bawling over here. Pastor St. Cyr is amazing. I felt all these things too last August! oh my...praying for you guys.
Wendy Hagen - October 10th, 2012 at 12:23 AM
%u201CWhen the earthquake happened, God was still on His throne. If I%u2019m still alive, I have the right to say that God loves us. All I see is God%u2019s grace and mercy for Haiti.%u201D Nuf said. Wow.
A Kansas Sister - October 10th, 2012 at 1:43 AM
You broke me with your words and pictures. Not a negative broken. You broke open a part of me that sometimes closes because of the regular hub bub of our every day lives. I want to take the mop out of that precious child's hands and replace it with food and shelter and books and toys and...a childhood. I pray for hope for Haiti! I pray we won't forget her. I lift my hands in gratitude for souls like Pastor St. Cur, and you too, Jenn! Thank you for taking time away from your babies so you can tell the stories of Haiti's babies. God bless and keep you safe!
Amy - October 10th, 2012 at 5:08 AM
Beautiful, keep it comin'!
Sammi - October 10th, 2012 at 5:16 AM
Thank you for allowing me to experience your trip. Your words and the words of that sweet pastor are so true. God loves us so much!!! We fail to love Him back that way. No matter what happens in the states or in Haiti, God is still on His throne!!! He has our best interest at heart. Thank you for what you are doing serving our Lord in Haiti..God bless you!!!
Christina in Gainesville GA - October 10th, 2012 at 5:43 AM
Good morning Jen - wow my morning devotion was here. To say I'm praying for you and your group seems trite after reading about Haiti as I'm snuggled in my blanket. "The Lord said: I haves lived you with an everlasting live; therefore with living kindness I have drawn you,. Again I will build you, you shall be rebuilt.". Jeremiah 31:3-4 and mercy on his dwelling places 30:18 praying for Haiti praying for you Jen.
Laura Steele - October 10th, 2012 at 6:01 AM
Thank you for sharing the details of your trip!
Thank you for using your passion to influence those
around you. You reveal truth in a powerful , life changing way.
I love it! Praying for your trip!

Rebecca - October 10th, 2012 at 6:06 AM
Thank you for going where I cannot right now. Just now took the opportunity to sponsor through Help One Now. A small thing, but imagine if we all did!
Debbie - October 10th, 2012 at 6:40 AM
Beautiful story, proud of Help One Now and what it is doing as a ministry to the Haitians. Praying for y'all.
Leslie - October 10th, 2012 at 6:52 AM
Thank you for sharing these beautiful stories. I worked in Haiti last year with Mission of Hope and it changed my life. Can't wait to go back. It was so hard for me to explain to others what all I saw and experienced, but your words here sum up so much of what I felt. Thank you for picking up a mop.
Kim - October 10th, 2012 at 6:56 AM
Tonight, a team from my church is getting together. We have a yearly Christmas campaign that focuses on Haiti and then culminates with this amazing gift offering of one after another coming to the front of church with a gift-wrapped box for Jesus filled with coins and checks. I'll be honest. I was feeling a little overwhelmed with the organization and details and time and effort and blah, blah, blah. This post was a clear God (and Jen) reminder to me of why the blah, blah, blahs just don't matter two hoots. Glad to be mopping with you. Serve on, Sister!
joani - October 10th, 2012 at 6:56 AM
Thanks for sharing! Praying for everyone there!
Jennifer Main-Topeka - October 10th, 2012 at 6:58 AM
Wow! How beautiful! Thank you so much for lettings us see this hope with you! Have such a blessed time and may your time there be fruitful! God bless!
Dana - October 10th, 2012 at 7:38 AM
Lump in my throat. Praying.
Joyce - October 10th, 2012 at 7:41 AM
Thanks Jen. What an experience! Thanks for taking us with you.
Bonar Crump - October 10th, 2012 at 7:52 AM
You captured a moment and wrapped your heart around it. And it's good! I wonder if my heart is in good enough condition to see these same things around me. I am encouraged to sift my heart a bit and find what is at my core these days. I'm afraid that my heart will blame the mop and miss the point entirely. Be safe!
Bridget - October 10th, 2012 at 8:04 AM
You are truly an inspiration to me, and I adore the way you allow us into your world.
Steve - October 10th, 2012 at 8:10 AM
I SO get it. Haiti broke my heart the first time I went. I'm going back next February, and I'm dreading it and looking so forward to it at the same time. Hang in there, Jen.
Haley - October 10th, 2012 at 8:10 AM
Unreal. Thank you so much for sharing. So hard to read, and yet moved to mop together. Thank you friend-for being the eyes and the ears for us here to know how to move.
Shauna - October 10th, 2012 at 8:15 AM
Thank you for sharing your journey Jen. This is heart wrenching and I feel God calling me out of my comfy house to mop.
Diane in Flagstaff - October 10th, 2012 at 8:21 AM
My eyes are wet and my heart is ever so stirred. Overwhelmed, I seek God's direction in how to make a dent in this cavern of need. Please keep writing, Jen. I, we, need the stirring!
Jennie Polsgove - October 10th, 2012 at 8:31 AM
You put into words which were hard for me to express some of the feelings I felt when in Haiti just abut 2 weeks ago. I am still processing the sights, feelings I had while there. However, what a blessing to go to a worship service and hear their prayers. Even though I didn't know the language I know that Merci means thank you and I heard that many times in their prayers. Thank you to a loving God.
Kim - October 10th, 2012 at 8:37 AM
What a blessing to be able to "go along" with you on this journey. I have a friend who went to Haiti in the summer and she left her heart there for sure. I will be praying for you on this trip!
Erica - October 10th, 2012 at 8:46 AM
This is a beautiful post and I can definitely relate. My 8-year old daughter and I along with a group of about 20 of us were in Haiti for the first time this summer to minister to children. It was a humbling experience with lots of tears and laughter. One minute your couldn't hold back the tears and the next we were full of joy listening to the children sing! Thank you for sharing and God bless you for your heart of compassion and love!
Annie Barnett - October 10th, 2012 at 9:01 AM
Thank you, Jen. Thank you.
Lisa - October 10th, 2012 at 9:04 AM
God is still on His throne. I love this. Such hope. Amazing.
Melissa B. - October 10th, 2012 at 9:20 AM
I was in Haiti in July. I love this post - and it is SO true. I think all of us "grabbing our mops" will make a huge impact in Haiti (and elsewhere). Blessings!
Todd - October 10th, 2012 at 9:27 AM
You might want to check out paulosgroup.org, they are doing some neat things regarding housing in Haiti. Making sure things are sustainable, and the homes last as long as ours do in the states. Thanks for soaking it up and wringing it out for us.
Carolyn - October 10th, 2012 at 9:37 AM
My heart is in your words. Bondye beniw
Christy - October 10th, 2012 at 9:43 AM
All I can say is pass me a mop! Beautiful post.
Debbie W - October 10th, 2012 at 9:44 AM
Hope in the dirt. I pray we will never forget. Never be the same. Amen
julie - October 10th, 2012 at 9:53 AM
bringing my mop to hope with you.
Donna - October 10th, 2012 at 10:00 AM
Wow. Thank you.
Sharla - October 10th, 2012 at 10:05 AM
Sure gives mopping the floor a whole new perspective.......and what a beacon of light in those children and God Bless the Pastor :)

Joan - October 10th, 2012 at 10:15 AM
You have eyes to see, a voice to help us to hear, clearly, but we have to add our part too. What will it be for me? what will it be for us? Oh Lord, that we would see all this through your eyes, through faith, through compassion, through love such as your love for us.

Ashley Gray - October 10th, 2012 at 10:19 AM
Jen,
This is beautiful. I traveled to Haiti in February and experienced so much that I could not put it in words. There is so much ruin, so much devastation, utter poverty, yet there are pockets of hope. Pockets of hope found in the grateful smile of a little boy who stuffs crackers in his pockets, the laughter of a little girl as you tickle her and hug her, the sounds of children filling the church with "Jesus Loves Me" in Creole.
Thank you for writing this- you've said exactly what I was feeling in my heart and couldn't express.

Barb - October 10th, 2012 at 10:20 AM
My husband is currently in Haiti as well. He is building an orphanage. I can't wait to show him this blog when he returns. Looking forward to hearing about the rest of your trip.
Christa - October 10th, 2012 at 10:24 AM
There is hope there. I felt that same thing when we were there last November. We came back to the states on Black Friday. Talk about culture shock. To go from so little but making it work, to a sickening abundance and still desiring more, was enough to make one sick. However God gave me immense thankfulness for His provision and a fire to help out of that bounty that HE has given us. I came back with a desire to give Him back His stuff and use it way better than I could ever hope to.
Julia - October 10th, 2012 at 10:47 AM
beautiful. praying for that little girl.
Catherine Besk - October 10th, 2012 at 10:49 AM
We are ready to mop with you! Love you Jen and your heart for Jesus! I'm outraged right alongside you.
Elizabeth - October 10th, 2012 at 12:17 PM
I have traveled to Haiti three times and our fourth child is Haitian, but I have never been able to express what I experience while in Haiti. Jen, you have given my heart for Haiti words, and I am grateful.
Anne - October 10th, 2012 at 1:25 PM
Beautiful post, Jen. Thank you so much for sharing.
Tami - October 10th, 2012 at 2:14 PM
whoo hoo! go people, go! get out there and love people who live in other countries! yea!
Jen - October 10th, 2012 at 2:17 PM
Jen - I sit with tears running to my elbows. I have no words yet. I might soon. I just left Honduras in February after almost 7 years there as a missionary. I can not explain to you what these words did to a weary broken heart who felt like maybe there just was nothing left in me to "mop the dirt" anymore. What an absolutely perfect analogy. What rose up as I read though was a heart that wants her hands in the mess, who wants to refuse to sit back. I was afraid the spark of all of that might be gone forever in the middle of a VERY broken heart. I feel hope rising - even within my own heart as I read your words. THANK YOU SISTER!!!
Jen Hatmaker - October 10th, 2012 at 8:14 PM
So dear, Jen. Thank you for sharing this precious word. So much love to you, sister. Mopping right alongside you, faithful one.
Kay - October 10th, 2012 at 4:27 PM
I have never been to Haiti, but I work with children in Uganda and have moments like this and I feel the same way. Sara Groves sings a song that I absolutely love, and I kept thinking of it as I read this post.
The chorus says,
"oh, tell me what you know
about God and the world and the human soul
how so much can go wrong
and still there are songs"

Thank you for sharing that struggle.
Mike - October 10th, 2012 at 6:28 PM
That is so powerful!
Sara - October 10th, 2012 at 7:57 PM
Oh, Jen. I was there in July and it has all come flooding back. Thank you. I hate that I've fallen so easily back into American life. Soak it up, girl. As soon as you leave, you'll want to be back.
rachel - October 10th, 2012 at 9:37 PM
oh my.
this post grips my heart.
beauty in a broken world.
glimpses of God in the chaos.
Sara- Rockin' Oily Momma - October 10th, 2012 at 10:19 PM
This is such a great post. I just found your site. I pray that one day I will be able to go to a country like Haiti and minister. You are amazing!
deb - October 11th, 2012 at 2:30 PM
I have been to Haiti 3 times.
Felt this way each and every time.
Thanks for being my thoughts and feelings....
And most importantly...my words.
Awareness...God's grace...Hope.... our reasons to mop!!!
Blessings.

Melissa - October 12th, 2012 at 3:01 AM
Thank you so much for sharing this. I did a trip to the Dominican Republic in 07 & this makes me want to go back. I am so amazed buy that pastor, but at the same time I understand why he left Florida and is there. I understand the hope. Reading this renewed my faith. I want to go! Thank you.
Eponymrevival - October 12th, 2012 at 7:57 AM
Inspiring! I love being a part of a journey!

Lucille - October 13th, 2012 at 5:56 AM
Thank You for sharing, I will share this with our church group. Really want to help, the children and people.

Bob Wright - October 15th, 2012 at 8:52 AM
Jen - Jamie and I got to meet Pastor St. Cyr yesterday at The Journey in St. Louis. What an amazing saint with an incredible heart for people!
Name - October 18th, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Love it! Women sweeping their dirt floors and front "yards" humbled me indeed. I can't wait to go back to NW Haiti next year!
Evelyn - October 29th, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Wow. Ouch. Just... thanks.
Debi - November 6th, 2012 at 8:11 AM
i love this. this is hope!!! i am 'mopping dirt' in roatan, honduras.
Debbie - November 14th, 2012 at 11:18 AM
Blessings to you all, especially Jen for your blog and your work in Haiti. I applaud your charitable works but I also feel as a lasped Christian, that so often justice work is missing from most churches in the US. Churches spend inordinate amounts of money sending a "mission team" over to a poor country like Haiti and think they have accomplished so much. Lifting people out of the extreme poverty that is rampant in Haiti will require justice work. If all Christians (or heck, just 50% of them) used their voices to speak for the voiceless in Haiti, used their political clout to work for things like debt cancellation and increased funds for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and really got serious about working for justice as the Bible suggests, they could change history. But, sadly, most Christians think it is more important to buy a sandwich at Chick-Fil-A and protest the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act or support "Christian" politicians like Todd Akin whose crowning achievement as a representative was passing a law that keeps "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Somehow, I think God is scratching his head and thinking, "Wow, kids in Haiti are mopping dirt and living in tents and you all are worried about your pledge?" If you want to work for justice, go to ONE.ORG
Spiritual Revival - December 28th, 2012 at 3:56 AM
Last awaking in god is wonderful spiritual awakening.
Kathy Schwanke - January 2nd, 2013 at 7:54 PM
I think much of what we do here in the States is just like mopping dirt.
We are as needy, we just don't know it.

Steve Tanis - May 7th, 2013 at 2:44 PM
I read The Bearfoot Church and it revolutionized my life, mission and my role as a church leader. This was the first blog post I had ever read, and will be the first time I comment on a post. It is hard to describe the emotion I felt as I read this and realized how little I had done in my own life and ministry to bring awareness to matters of justice and mercy. I mean, I gave money to the Cooperative Program, through our denomination, and felt like I had done enough. Praise The Lord for your gift of writing, that has inspired me to do more than just give money, but to be confronted with the need for global justice.
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