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Haiti, the Beautiful

Haiti, the Beautiful

“We carried him together, for five hours through the night, to get him here. In the mountains, there are no motorbikes, no vehicles. So we walked, quickly. He was draped over our shoulders,” she said, looking down lovingly at her son, sprawled across her lap. I imagined their journey in the dark of night, traversing the jagged hills, the rocky paths, over the mountains behind Cabaret. Their silhouettes moving with purpose against the nighttime sky, underneath a thick blanket of stars. A mother, a father, huddled together, swaddling their son close, carefully transporting him to a cholera clinic. Boundless love.

A moving image appeared in my mind as I listened. Mary and Joseph, carrying their baby son through the silence of the night, over the mountains of Bethlehem. To me, the resemblance was striking. It resonated within me as I watched her tender, quiet care envelope her ailing son.

My adoration for her was instant. Mary Louise. Deep, brown eyes, bottomless with affection. A radiant smile. Merciful spirit.  

Her son Schneider lay lethargic, quite sick. He has cholera, but something else was wrong. It dawned on me that she must not realize he has Down’s syndrome. How could she know? She didn’t see him as different.  And it wouldn’t have mattered to her anyway.

She doted over her son, caressing his face, his arms. Her husband came into the tent and moved in close to them. She glanced at him with sincerity. If I could pen this moment of love so that it would capture the fluidity, the movement, I would. It left me speechless. Tears welled up in my eyes.

As I thought about what I should share on Haiti, I considered the election riots this week, the calamities and unrest outside our clinic walls. I could have written endless thoughts on this country’s corruption, or the miserable effects of cholera. But you can read about that anywhere; there is no shortage of words depicting the chaos that has been unleashed here over the decades. But today, I chose the simple story of Mary Louise and her quest to save her son.

Because this is my Haiti.

What do I see when I encounter Haiti? The resolve of a mother. The gentleness of a father. The grace of a daughter, the spirit between two sisters. Connectedness. Dignity.  Love, eternally. These people have made a home deep within me, and I will never be the same.

When I look at Haiti, I see Christ living out His ministry, moving among the people. Our hands, our words, an opportunity to be an extension of his embrace. His work here is far from done.

I see Him manifested in a Madame Pierre, a mother I just watched pray endlessly over her son. Her words and hands moving over his body, touching his head, then his chest, then his legs. He fitfully tried to rest, fighting for his life as the bacteria took over. She knew the depths of her God. She trusted that prayer is powerful, and it poured from her, over her son. I entered into His courts with her, as I watched her plead for his life. “I pray, because Jesus is the only doctor that can heal him,” she said softly in Creole, eyes closed, attuned to nothing else but his healing. It was captivating. Her unwavering spirit, her beauty, fell over the tent today.

Haiti is certainly a place of extremes. Chaos and calm. Heartbreak and hope. Harshness and tenderness. They are at war each day.  And I feel it daily within me, these conflicting forces. My heart is often broken. My heart is always full. Eternal optimism against the marred reality of survival.

But in a place where everything feels so inherently wrong, I have uncovered hope. And my message is that I didn’t need to go very far to find it.

Haiti, you are beautiful.

Roseann Dennery is a relief worker with the faith-based relief and development group Samaritan’s Purse. She resides in Haiti, and has a passion to unveil the beauty and resilience of the Haitian spirit through her writings and photos.

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