I was given the opportunity to study the people, history and culture of Haiti a few years ago for Cross Cultural Counseling while in graduate school. Each group in the class was given a region of people and had the responsibility of teaching the class for over two hours and constructing a large research paper. The purpose was to better understand the culture of the people groups in the regions and those who lived in the US so that we, as counselors, could better help members of those cultures we would interact with in our field. Our group was assigned the people of the Caribbean (I know, real tough...actually it was!). We selected the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Haiti as our countries to focus on and I was to become the group's expert on Haiti.
It was the major assignment of the semester, a huge percentage of our grade and my group was counting on my participation for a third of it so I poured myself into studying these people. At the end of it, I was ready to move to Haiti, join in one of the communities and minister to this nation. I fell in love with studying these people. I had the opportunity to interview a student I had met at school who was from Haiti. We talked for over two hours about his home and he and his wife shared with me who the Haitians are. He told me to know the people of Haiti, I must first know their history (I love that kind of thinking) so he started from the very beginning and brought me to where they are now. They are a people of poverty because they don't look to the future. They are also a people that have faced terrible political upheavals and uncertainties that threatened their historical way of life, whether for worse of better didn't seem to matter. But what struck me was the most was that they are a people who value community. I asked my friend what a counselor would need to know to be able to effectively help a Haitian. He and his wife both agreed a counselor would never get the chance unless they lived with the people, in their community and earned trust over the years. In Haiti, they take care of their people. My friend told me that each meal was prepared with the anticipation that anyone may stop by to join the meal. If someone moved from Haiti to the US (usually with the intention of sending money home to take care of their family), it didn't matter if they knew anyone living here because they would quickly meet another Haitian through connections back home and they would be brought into their community.
All of that to say, I am so sad as I watch the devastation that an earthquake left on this nation. It is impossible to know the death toll and the number of people who are injured. But what really breaks my heart is seeing the look of hopelessness and fear on the faces of the survivors. For the most part Haiti is a lost nation, searching something to believe in. My friends shared that often Haitians are open to all forms of religion, and one might say he is a Christian, Muslim and Buddhist while participate in other forms of spirituality. They don't choose to believe one way. And now, they desperately need the peace that God provides, that isn't based on works or blessings or curses. That is my prayer right now, that the people of Haiti would begin to experience God's peace in this time and understand His love for them.
***And just a quick response to Pat Robinson's thoughts (he says this happened because God is punishing the Haitians for the pact they made with the devil so that they would win in their revolution from the French centuries ago): While there is some truth to the pact he referred to, it is likely much of it may be folklore. Regardless of that, Robinson's statement does not match who I believe God to be. Mr. Robinson seems to often forget that he, like all of his, are sinners in need of God's grace. Jesus did not spend his time cursing and destroying the people living in sin. Rather he loved them first and met them where they were for them to know him. In fact it was the religious leaders that Jesus corrected and dealt harshly with.