When it comes to talking about life's challenges, Haitians don't pull any punches. They don't gloss over hard realities. They don't rely on shallow platitudes to help them feel better.
They know, perhaps better than anyone, that ignoring pain doesn't make it go away. Shifting the conversation to something more appropriate, something more comfortable, helps no one.
On Monday I spent a few hours listening to testimonies of Compassion-sponsored children, teens, and staff who had suffered injuries and lost parents in January's earthquake.
I heard stories of children who were trapped and despairing of rescue. Stories of teens watching their siblings and parents die. I met a three-year-old who, as a twenty-four-month old toddler, had his arm crushed by a wall and then amputated (could you imagine?). One twenty-something stood up and told of losing his mother and fiancé, the two most important women in his life, in one fateful minute on January 12.
They were hard stories to hear. Some brought back memories of my own tough experience in the earthquake. Most reminded me how minor my suffering was compared with the suffering of these kids, these teens, and all the people of Haiti.
But there were messages of hope as well. With every story our Haitian brothers and sisters talked of God's place with them in suffering.
"If you are alive today because of God, don't give up. He has a plan for you."
And "This has been my year of suffering, but God knows. God knows. Suffering is just part of the package."
And "Today we celebrate life! Take a deep breath. How did that feel? It feels good, doesn't it? We're still alive, and that is worth celebrating. Thanks be to God, and hallelujah for Haiti!"
And "The Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Haiti will not perish."
I held it together during most of the service. I certainly shed some tears during some of the stories, but overall held my composure. Not that there's anything wrong with crying, but I didn't want my blubbering to distract people from the matter at hand. I had distracted enough attention for the day.
But then, right when I thought I'd spare these folks a messy crying scene, a young teen stood up to sing. And before he sang, he said these nine simple words that undid me.
"I lost my mother. She was all to me."
As he launched into a passionate, beautiful, all-heart rendition of "Hallelujah, I Have Jesus," my tears started to flow. Music is made richer by experience with pain, and the depth expressed in song by this sweet young boy showed suffering beyond his years. Yet the overall sense was love, hope, and faith. There was even joy in this song. Faith in Jesus was not a casual experience for him, it was his very breath. And I've seen this everywhere I look this week.
Hope for our friends in Haiti doesn't mean pretending the hard stuff isn't happening. Hope for Haitians comes from true, trial-tested faith in God's promises, faith in Scriptural truth, a real expectation that someday suffering will end, and a breath-by-breath reliance on God's love.
Do you want a faith like that? I know I do. We could learn a lot from our Haitian brothers and sisters. Please continue to pray for Haiti.