We sit and talk on the step under the warmth of the morning sun. I strain to hear her over plastic dumps trucks hard at work and children’s laughter filling the yard.
She finally asks. I was hoping she wouldn’t this time. Hoping she just came to visit. But she asks still and that is okay. She needs money, again. She has scrapped up enough for her daughter’s school bills, but needs a little more for supplies. I ask about her aunt, the one living in Miami whose sporadic generosity determines the bulk of decisions she makes in her life. She shakes her head. Nothing from her for a while now.
I am weary, at a loss for what to do. I have helped here and there, but deep down, I know I am not really helping her. And what is worse, she is learning to live only for the band-aids she can scrape up.
I sit quietly for a while, thinking, praying. I know the statistics. I wonder to whom and to what she will turn if desperation begins to tighten its nasty grip. I agree to give her some money, but we talk long. I remember the words of hard-working, middle-aged Haitian friends who say that there is work to be found for the one who really seeks it. I ask her gently if she’s seeking. I search her eyes as she looks away. Knowing that she swallowed a piece of her dignity in coming to ask me in the first place, I don’t want to push the issue. I give her the money and tell her that I know I don’t really understand what she is going through. That I really cannot relate to the struggles of a 23 year-old single mom. But I do care.
The back door opens. Papo comes to play and my little boys’ English ramblings turn to Creole at the slam of a door. I smile. They play and we love Papo. We paint. Luke teaches him how to do a puzzle; Silas shows him how to flush the toilet.
Papo is eight. His mom: twenty-two. I do the math and my heart aches. The boys get to work making paper airplanes and I start on lunch. “Mama…” I look down at my compassionate four year-old. “Papo said he’s hungry and his mom isn’t making food for him today. Can he eat lunch with us?” I love his simplicity. “We’ll see bud, okay?” He returns to his paper airplane and I throw another cup of rice in the pot and cut the chicken a bit smaller. I quietly go about my work, my mind wrestling again with the complexities of poverty.
I wonder what is better, to feed the boy or teach his girl-mom to care for her son? And yet I know, that at the end of the day, at the end of the line of careless choices and irresponsible living, it’s poverty’s children who suffer its consequences. Even deeper down, I know that without the grace I have received, that girl-mom could have been me.
These are the tough questions we face each day. These are the questions we don’t always have answers to. But we continue to wrestle, think, pray, seek and learn. How do we love God and love our neighbor in this deeply rooted, tangling, thorny mess? How do I tell my neighbor about Jesus when her mind is preoccupied with survival? How can we give without destroying dignity and squelching desperation’s drive to find work?
We give ourselves. We roll up our sleeves and jump in. Their problems become our problems and their toils our toils. Together we push and we pull, we sweat and we hurt. And at the end of the day our heartbeat is to make disciples and our prayer is that this earthly toil will birth greater things, eternal things.
Development and discipleship: in the fabric of our lives here in Haiti, the two are so tightly interwoven. The kingdom of God to which we belong is both for today and for days to come—and for when our days are no longer. Christ our Redeemer is our hope for today as well as tomorrow. So through development, we pray that doors might be flung open wide to make disciples. And through discipleship, that we might develop followers of Christ who understand that the Gospel has everything to do with everything.
Side by side, we live and work together. And we pray that when the Savior beckons “Come”, they might leave it all to follow Him.