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Louima Lilite: Haiti, My Beloved

January 20, 2010

This is part of a message he shared at University Baptist Church in Shawnee, where he serves as minister of music, during the morning worship service on Jan. 17. The full message may be found here.

By Dr. Louima Lilite

The average person may find it difficult to remember what he or she was doing on Jan. 12, 2010, at 4:53 EST. For those who were on the island of Hispaniola in the country of Haiti, their memories remain quite vivid because of a tragedy that has left our whole world stunned and speechless. This horrific event has impacted all human beings, but for residents of Haiti and Haitians abroad, it is particularly painful. It is painful because most Haitians have this love-hate relationship with their country of origin. They hate the inefficiency of its political and social systems, but they love it too much to watch it gradually deteriorate.

I, for one, have been grieving since that fateful day because my tie with Haiti goes back to the day of my birth. Not only was I born there, but I grew up in Port-au-Prince, which has been the focus of many news reports for the past five days. The years of my childhood and adolescence provided ample opportunities for me to be well acquainted with sorrow and poverty. I was a young boy when we had to skip meals for a while because of lack of funds. I was there when the Duvalier regime ended in 1986. I lived through the long embargo of the early '90s which claimed many lives for lack of food. Yet, through it all, my mom taught me to rely on God and the truth of His Word. The following verse has been a source of great comfort to me:

Psalm 125:1, "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever."

Friends, when the apostle Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit of God to write in Philippians 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!," it was God's way of telling us that we ought to choose joy and gratitude at every single moment of our lives, whether fun or dreary, good or bad, easy or difficult, because according to Psalm 126:3, "The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy."

Sometimes we can't see anything that's good in our lives. When that happens, we must pray like the apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:18, "That the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which he has called us." What - or rather, Who - is that hope? Christ, the Holy and True One, the Alpha and Omega, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the One who died and came to life again, the Amen. He is our hope. I don't know about you, but that revelation made me realize that I'd better remember who Christ is in the midst of trials; a timely revelation as I was about to witness Haiti's greatest trial to date.

On Tuesday, Jan.12, shortly before 5 p.m.EST, I was in northern Haiti when a deafening 7.0 magnitude earthquake shocked the whole country followed by a long series of aftershocks many of which were on a scale of 5.1 and higher. ... My family and I were to leave Haiti two days later. On the internet and TV, you have seen countless images depicting intense pain, highlighting severe losses, and intense suffering.

It is doubly hard to take when one thinks that Haiti was already at rock bottom before it all began.That morning missionaries and pastors rolled up their sleeves to minister to the numerous needs facing them, women got up very early carrying baskets full of produce to sell at outdoor public markets, some fortunate young children went to school while others roamed the streets begging for "1 dolla," drivers loaded their little tap-taps with too many passengers, others lined the streets leading to the American Consulate to seek a better life in the U.S., and still others went hungry, all the while hoping and trusting that the Lord would provide for them.

Despite the wonderful 20-20 focus of hindsight generously provided by scientists, no one could have suspected that Haiti was going to sink further down into misery. Nonetheless, Port-au-Prince and its surrounding towns have been flattened, looking like plates of partially eaten pancakes at an IHOP or Denny's. A nation that was already at the bottom of the Western Hemisphere's economic ladder has been trampled underfoot. Yet, instead of the barrage of such questions as, "Why Haiti? Why do bad things happen? Where is God? Is there a God? How will Haiti ever recover?" we have been instructed to "be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for us in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

You say, "What?" and I say, "I know." A terrible tragedy just happened, and we're supposed to be joyful, prayerful and grateful? I wish I could say that God's Word had provided a list of exceptions like the Civil War, the sinking of the Titanic, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and JFK, the wars that killed innocent people, the Jewish Holocaust, Vietnam, 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina. If no such provision was made, perhaps emotional turmoil might be a consideration when dealing with the death of a child or a parent, a disgruntled boss, a rebellious youth, a nagging woman, a stubborn guy, a scandal, marital unfaithfulness, embezzlement, bankruptcy, a load of debt, a dwindling 401k, cancer, and the list goes on and on.

... It is normal for a human being to mourn in the wake of a catastrophe. ... We will not mourn as those who don't know Christ, however. We have a Savior who promised to comfort us in Matthew 5:4. We have a Lord who will turn our mourning into dancing again, and One who will lift up our sorrow. We have a Messiah who came to seek and save the lost. We have a Redeemer and Friend who is very familiar with pain and trials and who has overcome death and the grave.

So our mourning will be like that of Jesus over his friend Lazarus. We must cry out to God and watch God's miraculous hand perform wonders before our very eyes. He will restore us and the people of Haiti as we call on His name. When we reach the point of complete depletion, when it feels like we are hitting a wall, the Lord kindly brings us to a place of restoration.

It is this restoration that will give us the strength to help those in need in Haiti. There are numerous charities that help channel funds into Haiti from around the globe, and if you feel led to contribute, I know God will bless your efforts. People are in need of water, food, shelter, security. They have been severely damaged emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually. Kids have become orphans and parents have become childless. The new daily grind involves coping with the stench of decomposing bodies, the desperate search for loved ones, the agonizing wait for aid, the fear of looters, the despairing cries of a hungry and thirsty child, and the pervading chaos of the entire southern part of Haiti. Immediate help is necessary and welcome.

However, I must say that such an approach is not complete. Haiti can only survive if a solid investment is made in its foundation. ... The crumbling of what was in Haiti offers hope for a new dawn but that can only happen through Christ-centered education which will provide the right foundation for the rebuilding process.

Furthermore, the people of Haiti need practical knowledge in order for sound teaching to bear fruit. We need people, Haitians or otherwise, who will commit to train blue collar and white collar workers for a long time. We need volunteers who will teach musicians, pastors, doctors, accountants, and architects. We are desperate for people who will demonstrate the importance of good gardeners, custodians, plumbers, as well as politicians and government officials. Such change does not happen overnight; it takes love, courage, will and perseverance.

While the provision of food and blood is really important now, we want to be sure that we will contribute to the propagation of the life-giving message of the Gospel. That is why we are partnering with Haiti Hope Fund to help fund Christian education programs, seminaries, schools and scholarships for those who have been severely hit by the earthquake.

I still cry, but I know deep in my heart that I have been blessed beyond measure since this period of suffering will produce a much stronger character in me and in you if we choose to believe. I will pray that God will restore all of us both physically and spiritually for His glory. And I will pray that the divine restoration of my beloved Haiti will cause it to regain its former title, "the pearl of the Caribbean Islands."