Many people ask about what is happening in Haiti, but then check out of the conversation by the time I finish my third sentence. I don’t blame them; it doesn’t really affect us Americans at all. So, I usually have a short-version answer, but the problem in Haiti really is too pressing to be dumbed down. So, today I give you what I want to tell people when they ask what it is we do, the answer that I think Haiti deserves.
All of the factors that led to Haiti being the poorest country in the western hemisphere can be, and are, debated at length. Agricultural experts claim the problem is erosion and deforestation. Politicians attribute every problem to government corruption. Spiritualists blame a voodoo-rich culture. Economists say it is due to low productivity levels and limited job markets. Educators point to a failing school system, based on schools teaching by memorization. Historians look at the country’s past of slavery and point out all the steps from there leading to the current culture. Not to mention the horrible earthquakes and hurricanes they’ve had to face. The sad truth is that all of these experts are correct, these are all factors, and they all need to be addressed simultaneously.
Because of this great need for help, foreign aid has flooded the country for decades, which has been great… for the most part. People are starving and living in mud, so of course we need to help them, but in some areas we actually see mission groups and foreign aid making things WORSE. A latent function of meeting this immediate need is that we have created a generation of Haitians that are dependent on handouts. In areas like Pignon, many start to feel entitled and it keeps them from going out and earning anything on their own. Many people we come across today are products of this system and don’t really know how to work, so they beg Americans. It’s most evident in the 25-40 age group.
Mission Kite String is designed to help reverse this begging and dependency. Instead of Americans coming in and implementing American organizations, we are training and working alongside Haitians to be the change they want to see in their communities. The first of these leaders is John Robert, the developer of Agape International Ministries.
John Robert is a break in the mold. He decided early on that he wanted to get educated so that he can stay in Haiti and help his hometown. After agronomy school he moved home and started investing in land. He did odd jobs like photographing weddings and thatching roofs to acquire enough money to buy chunks of land until he had what is now the Agape property. When I met John 4 years ago, there was nothing on the property but an open-walled stick structure that he was using as a one-room-school and a community church. He said he wanted God to do something big on his land, and we prayed.
A series of events unfolded leading Agape to where it is at today with a school building, farm, guest house, and a church that meets in the same stick structure as four years ago. But John believes God has a lot more to do, and we want to see it done. So, what we are here to do is connect John with the resources he needs to make it happen. We work for John, doing tasks like marketing his guest house, writing out a business plan, imagining different ways to generate revenue to fund the organization, and setting goals to reach self-sustainability. And in a few years, when it does reach self-sustainability, we can step back and watch God bring the community to life.
You see, we typically want to look at work like this in results. We want to count the number of floors poured, houses build, and people fed. I agree that those are necessary, and there are lots of organizations and money handed out to people that need it. But, I think there aren’t nearly enough efforts that focus on sustainability and the long-term results. What ever happened to ‘give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime’?
Agape is this beautiful kite, destined to do great things for God’s kingdom. We are just a string to connect it to the resources it needs.