The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1.5)
Sixteen days ago, I arrived home from Haiti. I brought home several hundred digital photos, a pound of whole dark roast coffee beans, and a deeper understanding of the nature of God. I left behind part of my heart.
I’m planning on posting several entries about my experience in Haiti, but when I sat down to decide what to write about first, one image came to mind. Sadly, it isn’t a physical image, but a memory that I can describe only in mere words.
On Monday, Jan. 2, two days before we left Haiti, our team accompanied Mrs. Sarah, the missionary with whom we were working, to downtown Jacmel, a city on the southern coast. We’d spent most of our week with the teachers at a nearby school or attending church services at Hosanna Ministries or spending quality time together at the mission house, so our team was pretty excited to see the actual city. Even with all the tragedy and poverty Haiti has experienced, beauty remains:
The French Quarter of New Orleans was modeled after Jacmel, and some of the older buildings are magnificent.
It’s all so very Caribbean. I love it!
We drove through downtown, perilously found a place to park, and headed to the market. Naively, I had imagined a scene similar to the market in downtown Charleston, but poorer and dirtier. Surely among the food vendors, someone would be selling crafts and jewelry. My mental image was so far removed from reality.
I have no pictures of the Jacmel market because, first, I was afraid my camera would be stolen in the crowd of people and, second, I felt like taking pictures would be exploiting these Haitian people somehow. The market was the dirtiest place I’ve ever been to and far worse than I could have even fathomed. Rotting food covered the ground, mixed in with trash and standing water. Raw meet sat on the tables, covered in flies and filth. Vendors packed every available space, trying to sell anything they could, and everyone stared at the white people pushing through the crowds. A few people greeted us in Creole, but most glared or murmured or cackled.
This scene, in the midst of this beautiful city, just one block away from the most beautiful ocean I’ve ever seen!
(This beach is actually a few miles away, but you get the idea.)
I couldn’t remove the scene from my mind. Never before have I seen a more perfect analogy for the kingdom of God. God created perfection, a beautiful Eden, a Caribbean island with white sand beaches, palm trees, balmy weather, and water the color of jewels. And man’s sin and filth has the potential to destroy such perfection. But if I walked away from the market, I could leave behind the sin and filth and witness God’s glory once more. I could leave behind the darkness and return to His light. This is image that I have not been able to stop thinking about since I left the market that day.
In Haiti, I felt much more sensitive to the distinction between darkness and light. In the United States, we’re comfortable, we’re complacent, and we don’t often believe that demons hold so much power. In Haiti, though, I met people who’d been possessed or oppressed by demons, and I heard testimony of those who’d been redeemed. Supernatural beings–be they divine or demonic–hold incredible power in Haiti. Those who’ve accepted salvation seem to radiate so much peace and light, but those who still live in darkness appear so defeated. The market in Jacmel and the streets of Port-au-Prince reveal so much destruction, at odds with the beautiful skyline and coast. The kingdom of God perseveres, even while others remain enslaved to sin.
God is moving in Haiti. He is calling His children to Him, and He is sending others, like my team, as his emissaries. I cannot deny that God called me to spend that week in Haiti, and I’m praying that He’ll send me back there again. Meanwhile, may I continue to testify about what I’ve seen in Haiti so that the name of my Father may be forever exalted!