Haiti is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and I’m not sure I have spoken that truth often enough.
Four years ago, I traveled to the Artibonite Valley for the first time. I was naive and sheltered. Bless my heart. In fact, my earliest blog posts make me cringe because I know and understand things now that I was completely oblivious of at the time. I don’t delete those blog posts, because it was a genuine and real part of the transformation and sanctification that God was doing in my heart at those times. I keep those posts because someone else is in those early stages of short-term missions and she will relate. Somewhere, someone else is learning and growing too.
Since 2014, I have visited Haiti three times. I have spent a total of 25 days of my life in Haiti. This doesn’t make me an expert on the country or the people of Haiti. Yet, perhaps many people haven’t had the blessing of 25 days in Haiti.
I should have spoken long ago about the beauty of Haiti and the strength of my Haitian friends. I suppose I didn’t understand how necessary those statements would be. I will say now what I can only know is better late than never. Hear me loud and clear.
Haiti is the most aesthetically, naturally beautiful place I have ever seen.
I have seen manmade beauty like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco and the Arch in St. Louis. They are stunning works of architecture.
But God made Haiti beautiful.
God made the mountains look blue and purple from afar. God made the trees that hold bananas. God made the bright sunsets and sunrises that glow across vibrant fields of green.
I know the names of the girls in this photo. One of their mothers is my dear friend, Claudi. I have been invited into her home and have shared time reading the Bible, learning with Claudi and her daughter. We have colored together and laughed together. They are a beautiful family.
God made my friends in Haiti beautiful and strong.
My precious friend, Claudi and are I kindred spirits. Claudi and I have a similar sense of humor. We are both elementary school teachers. We are both mothers. We both provide our children with meals and clean laundry. We both teach children long division and grammar. Somehow, Claudi also manages to work another part-time job as a trained massage therapist. Her husband works a full-time job in a factory and has a side business painting beautiful portraits of people and landscapes. We both worship Jesus. We both laugh loudly. We both love to sing. We were born in different countries, and that may be the only difference I can find. I suppose she works harder to gather her water. Her water comes from a well in her front yard. She has shown me how it works! It’s amazing. My water comes from the faucet in my kitchen. I hope that I would be as steadfast and faithful as Claudi if my family lived in Haiti. She is a true super mom. At the core, we are so much alike. If we lived in the same town, we would surely be meeting weekly for coffee and Bible studies. We have cried and laughed together. Claudi’s smile is radiant! She is the epitome of strength that comes from joy in the Lord! She adds beauty to the world around her. Claudi has a beautiful life in a beautiful country.
My dear, dear, dear friend, Efwa was an elderly disabled man. In my country, he would have had the luxury of government assistance called Disability. He didn’t have that luxury in his country. Many people around the world do not have this luxury. So, Efwa worked hard. He walked over a mile every day on crutches to the missionary compound of Project Help Haiti. He sat on the sidewalks of the missionary homes, outside the kitchen, and on a bench by the guest house where short-term missionary teams made him smile with their starry-eyed enthusiasm. Efwa sat with a machete in his hand to cut weeds around the sidewalks. He brought beauty to the compound through the cutting of weeds and through the singing of songs. When a full-time missionary, Bim, fell inside her home painting the walls, Efwa heard her cries and with the crutch under his arm, he hurried to find help for his friend. Efwa sang. Efwa sang, “Trust and Obey,” and, “There is a Fountain.” He taught me the meaning of the word, “Pita,” and laughed kindly when I thought he was requesting a slice of pizza. Efwa had the work ethic to walk a mile. Efwa had the dignity to keep working when others would not. Efwa had the heart to sing. It has been two years since Efwa met Jesus. I rejoice to know of his salvation and that he is singing for Jesus now. His painting, a painting he was very proud of and saw with his own eyes, hangs in my living room as a reminder of the life Efwa lived. When Efwa came to his friend, Bim’s rescue, he was simply practicing the words he preached, “If your brother needs help, it is good to help your brother.” Efwa was strong.
Trust and obey for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”
My friend, Loveline is hilarious and beautiful! Her eyes twinkle when she smiles. She is fashion-forward, always changing her hairstyle and wearing the most stylish jewelry. Her makeup is flawless. She lights up a room with her outgoing personality and young beauty. Like any girl in her late teens with a congenial personality, she has hopes and dreams and a bright future. She sings beautifully. Her laughter and love for people are contagious. Her dance moves are always on point. She studies her Bible, spends time with friends, and listens to music. Loveline is absolutely gorgeous.
Loveline, Miracle, and I. Miracle is awesome, too, by the way. She is much like Loveline. These girls know how to have fun and lead happy lives full of friends and good music.
My friend, Guerold is a doctor. Guerold is intelligent. Obviously, right? He’s a doctor. He’s clearly smarter than I. He is a faithful prayer warrior, always remembering friends with a heart of love for others. When I post prayer requests on Facebook, Guerold is often one of the first people to say, “I’m praying, my friend.” He is often asking, “How is your family?” and offering to pray for my people. And listen, I’m going to share a picture with you now and I cannot explain the goofy look on my face. I’m just vain enough to give you a disclaimer, though. I attribute my face in this picture to two things. First, I love Haiti and I’m truly this excited when I am visiting there. Also, the heat. Haiti is a more tropical climate than I am accustomed to. I am a wimp about the heat in Haiti. I cannot deal. The Midwest in July hath no fury like June in Haiti. This is my humble opinion. I think the heat went to my head right before I took this picture. And now, my only picture with Guerold, thus I present to you my crazy face. Why, Courtney Stanford? Why must you make such faces in pictures? Oh, the mystery of it.
I love the people of Haiti. I love their country for so many reasons. I could go on. I could write a million words about God’s goodness in Haiti and the beauty that HE created. I’ll save you the time of reading my millions of words, and give you more like a thousand to chew on. Please hear this message: Haiti is precious to me.
God made Haiti beautiful.
God is not done with Haiti.
God is not done with our hearts, either.
And maybe some hearts need to know this, need to see this: Haiti is a beautiful place.
I’d dare to say that some of us need to visit places like Haiti more often.
I see God at work in Haiti.
I see what God has already done.
I see the astonishing beauty He created more clearly when I look at the natural wonder that is Haiti.
These are the stories, the pictures, and the words I should have been sharing all along. I thought the world needed to hear a different narrative. I thought I had a responsibility to encourage you to see the needs, so that you might want to sponsor a child or go on a mission trip. Those are good things, but that was story is an incomplete narrative of Haiti. It was a partial truth, because I didn’t understand what I can clearly see now. I may have been partially correct, but I know I was partially incorrect. I should have shown you the beauty, strength, and glory of Haiti all along.
I can see the beauty of Haiti.
May God give us eyes to see the beauty of His world. May God give us words to stand and declare beauty.
For the beauty of Haiti and the glory of God who makes beautiful things.
From my heart to yours,