As the “in county” trip leader for this year’s trip to Haiti my experience was quite a bit different than the previous year where I was a team member with Pastor Samuel as the lead. In contrast to last year, this trip was more focused on the team and their experiences. My self-reliance and introspection from last year was overtaken by keen observation of how the group was interacting and taking in the experience. While traveling I was conscious of the safety of the group and our adherence to our “development creed”- “first, do no harm”. We needed to consider fully the consequences of our actions – mistakenly creating barriers to relationship building, or fostering a dependency of the Haitians on missionary efforts. Of course, I also wanted to ensure we were good guests and stewards of the CODEP facility and thusly we worked hard to keep the place clean and pitch in around the grounds while following the rules set forth by our host and CODEP Director, John Winings.
During our small group meetings in the evening I enjoyed listening to what was learned and also how we were able to connect the daily devotional passage to the Haitian people or the experiences of the day. The group was additionally blessed by having John Winings with us each evening during our group discussion. John has a tremendous heart for the Haitian people and had become very proficient in Creole. Additionally as a minister he had learned about the Haitian perspective of the Christian faith and the Haitian Creole translation of the Bible. As an illustration of this, one evening while reviewing our devotional John pointed out a basic difference in our view of God versus that of the Haitian people. For us our God is a God of Joy and Hope in contrast to Mercy and Justice in the perspective of the Haitian people. To help us understand John shared this concept through the parable of the good Samaritan where in our culture the lesson shared by Jesus is to help those in need. Because of the tumultuous history of the Haitian culture, including slavery and death from natural disasters, it is a common viewpoint that in the story of the good Samaritan the Haitians represent the traveler in the story. In the Haitian perspective someone (missionaries) will come to help (charity, aid, development) them. This hit me like a ton of bricks and cemented what we had been studying about “development versus charity” and also how cultural perspective can result in vast differences in how we experience our God.