Nadia Odjo and her husband lead a small church in Haiti. They went to visit the disciples in Les Cayes, which was badly affected by Hurricane Matthew. This is where HOPE worldwide will be hosting Haiti HOPE Youth Corps in July 2017. Make plans to go and serve!
Last weekend, my husband, Jo and I took a trip to Les Cayes (one of the most affected areas by Hurricane Matthew) to visit with our brothers and sisters who live there. Since I like to write to process my thoughts and feelings, I want to share some of those thoughts with you.
Jo and I packed our truck with what we could find around our compound that could be useful to someone who is in a disaster area. It wasn’t much but we figured whatever we had would be useful (sleeping bags, tents, water bottles etc.) and we set out to go encourage our brothers and sisters in Les Cayes. When one part of the body hurts we all hurt (1 Corinthians 12). We wanted to bring them the love and greetings from our church in Jacmel.
It had rained really hard the day before in Jacmel so the next morning since the rain had stopped we decided to move forward with our plans. The sky was overcast but it was a glorious day. We went down the mountain as usual and it was uneventful: A little bit of nausea from all the sharp turns, some fog, and the gymnastics of going through the mountain on market day. But as we made our way toward the southern highway we noticed that it was raining. We weren’t very concerned about the rain because it’s typical for this time of the year and we were in a private car with an experienced driver.
The more we drove the harder the rain seemed to get. We were going to visit our brothers and sisters who had just been hit with a Category 4 hurricane; a little rain was not going to keep us from getting there. So we decided to call Fleurette (the women’s leader) to let her know where we were and when to expect us. When we finally reached her she said that she had been trying to call us all morning to tell us not to come because it had been raining for several days. We were already halfway there and we were certainly not going to turn back, so we pressed on. As we drove along the coast we started experiencing some flooding.
At first it was nothing major. However, the floods got more and more intense, so intense that we worried for our lives. We feared getting swept into the ocean. At times we couldn’t see in front of us or behind us. Water was gushing from the mountain and the ocean was raging on the other side. We were scared. We prayed and considered going back but our driver insisted that we move forward in order to get to higher ground. Moving back would have put us in low lying areas which could be even more dangerous. Cars and trucks were getting stuck and breaking down on the side of the road. Public vehicles were unloading people and turning back others just parked. At times some benevolent young men were standing in the pouring rain and in the flood zones to direct traffic. Some walked on the side of the road so that the cars could see the depth of the water. It was awful!
As scary and as intense as our experience was, it was nothing in comparison to what some of the locals were going through. The houses were flooded. People were lined up on the side of the road trying to leave their flooded houses yet there was no place to go, no one to help them. Some were walking trying to get to higher ground, others begged for rides.
We let as many of them as possible pile up in the back of our truck; as some of them reach their destinations, others replaced them. We picked up a mother and her son, and then another woman hailed us. When we stopped she ran to her house and came back with four other people carrying a little suitcase and sacks full of their belonging. As they huddled together in the cold and pouring rain, I prayed in the car. My heart broke within me. “Why God”? “Why”? I was so sad, I was hurt, I was angry, I was discouraged, I felt powerless. It was the most pathetic scene I had ever experienced. And I hadn’t even reached Les Cayes yet. By the time we made it to Les Cayes it was evening. The group of five, who were the only ones left in the back of the truck were so grateful to us. They kissed me, they kissed my husband, they kissed our driver and thanked God for our help. Jo and I were both in shock; my heart was a bleeding mess. How were we going to encourage the brothers and sisters the next day? We needed God in order to process this experience.
I was a political science major when I was in college. I wanted to change the world, and I especially wanted to change Haiti. The temptation to view this experience in a worldly sense was so strong in my heart. I needed to anchor my soul onto something that even this flood couldn’t move. I turned to John 11 (I had just finished reading the book of John) and read about Mary, Martha and Lazarus. I am so amazed at how God anticipates our needs and prepares us to face the most difficult of situations. I am so glad I can process my experiences, my thoughts and feelings through God’s Word. I am so glad I can hold on to his promises. Without that, I think I would come undone. Here are some of the truths that I am holding on to:
Bad things happen to good people. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were very close to Jesus, they were great disciples, they loved Jesus and he loved them. Yet despite their closeness to God and to Jesus, he allowed their brother to die.
God is not necessarily punishing us. God loves the church in Les Cayes and they love him. We may not be of this world but we are in the world. As a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, we live in a decaying world and we possess a decaying body. We, like everyone else are subject to diseases, to death, to natural disasters. We will face wars, hunger, poverty and other ills that plague this world. It’s a fact that we have to live with.
When bad things happen, hold on to our faith. God is still in control. Martha never wavered in her faith. She believed that Jesus was the son of God, the Messiah that was to come. She did not allow the death of her brother to cause her to doubt or to get bitter. “Why did you not come sooner? You were so close; I sent for you, I told you he was sick. You have the power to heal why did you not come to heal him? Are we just not that important to you?"
Jesus is still Lord of everything. He has power and dominion over our bodies, over natural disasters, over earthquakes and floods. He is in control. We need to go to him. I need to go to him. When politics fail us, when there is drought or floods or hurricanes and earthquakes God is still in control and he is still Lord.
Jesus cares for us. John 11 is the only passage in the Bible where it explicitly says that Jesus cried. Jesus knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead yet he was heartbroken when he saw Mary cry. The people said, “Look how much he loved him." He saw how much pain they were experiencing and it broke his heart. We have a God who loves and cares for us (I Peter 5:7); we have a God who has feelings of love and compassion towards us (Jeremiah 9:1). His heart is full of love for us. His heart is full of love for me. Jesus cares for Haiti. He cares for Haiti more than I can began to care for it. He cares for all these flood victims. He’s concerned about them. He hears every sigh and sees every tear they cry. He cares for all the brothers and sisters who lost everything they own. He hurts for them.
God allows things to happen for his glory. Jesus allowed Lazarus to die because he knew that God would be glorified. He wanted for people to know that he has power even over death. He wanted them to have a prelude to what was awaiting those who trust in Him. He wanted them to know that even death would not have a hold on him. Some of the Jews finally believed that he was indeed the messiah. This miracle set in motion the Jews decision to have Jesus put to death without which we would not be saved. I don’t know exactly how, but God is going to be glorified in this situation. Brothers and sisters will come together in ways never thought possible to support each other. We will have an opportunity to serve and minister to other people. Hearts will be opened as a result of all this. Family members will be won to Christ.
I was encouraged by the Word and was now in a position to help others.
On Saturday, we spent the day visiting people. We visited the family of one of our brothers in Jacmel who lost his house in the hurricane. After visiting with them, we spent time with Volvick and his wife Fleurette. We went to see what was left of their house and tried to help a little bit. But what substantial help can you give when someone’s house is still full of water, without a roof and it’s still raining? We laughed a little bit and listened about the whole ordeal. My husband and our driver dug a hole in the wall in order to drain the water, the guys raised a file cabinet from the water and attempted unsuccessfully to kill some mice that took shelter in the house. Then we took them to lunch and had an encouraging discipling time. Afterwards, we visited more Christians and went on a tour of the city before retiring for the evening.
On Sunday, we got to church a little early to fellowship. It was so great to see and hug each other. The churches in Jacmel and Les Cayes have a relationship, so it was like being with family. I was quite encouraged by the warmth, the love and positivity of each and everyone. It was hard to tell that they had just been through a major disaster; everyone was happy and looking beautiful. To tease one of the sisters I said, “You look great! You all look better than I do and you’re coming from a disaster area.” Her response to me was one of the most profound statements anyone has ever said to me. She said “Sis, our houses are disaster areas but our hearts aren’t.”
My husband shared John 11 with the congregation. It was very encouraging. Afterwards I asked to meet with the sisters. As a counselor I understand how important it is to take time to process our thoughts and feelings especially after such a traumatic experience. We sat in a circle and I began to talk. We were around 15 women. Here are some of their comments:
"Now I am at a shelter. I lost everything but I am so grateful for the kingdom and for the way everyone has been so concerned about us. This morning one of my children told me that today they may be distributing food at the shelter, but I did not want to miss church, I wanted to be with the Christians, I know God will provide me with food." – Islande
“I have been a Christian for 17 years; the thing I am most grateful for is God’s kingdom. People you would never know or meet or have a relationship with, yet they are you brothers and sisters. For example where would I meet an Asian person? But Charles came all the way from Indonesia to see us. Patrick came from Mirbalais to visit us and Jo and Nadia are here from Jacmel. These people don’t think too highly of themselves." – Fleurette
“I am so grateful for God’s kingdom. My house was destroyed as well we went to another house and that was destroyed too. The next day I wanted to cry, but I thanked God for my life because we could have died. A woman who has a house that she’s not using emptied a room in it and told me that I can stay there as long as I need to, until I can fix my house. I was so touched when Jacques and two other disciples came to see after me. My family said, 'Now that’s a church! They came through all this to come and see you.'" – Maryse