There’s a phrase I’ve been hearing thrown around on social media in reference to escalating humanitarian crisis in Haiti:
It’s the idea that the news out of Haiti is so consistently and progressively tragic that (it is argued), people are tired of hearing about it. Now, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that my role (Director of Partner Development at Healing Haiti) creates a degree of bias against Haiti Fatigue. Be that as it may, I wanted to offer four thoughts about why we (and especially the Christ-followers among us) might want to consider avoiding the temptation toward apathy, which I believe is implicit in a concept like Haiti Fatigue.
Pursuing The Impossible
It is difficult to study the life of Jesus and not walk away (at least a little) perplexed. After all, Jesus had access to every available molecule of miracle packed into our Universe. Which means, Jesus had every option to assert and endlessly retain universal political power. This is why Satan’s wilderness temptation of Jesus was, in many ways, absurd—all of the things offered to Jesus were already within His grasp. He didn’t need the Devil’s permission to take hold of them.
But if Jesus’s aim was political domination, his preoccupation with people like Zaccheus, the Syropheonician woman, the Samaritan woman and the well, and every broken and discarded person who begged Him for (and received) a healing were a waste of time.
Because why spend time making heartfelt connections with people who lacked even a shred of political power?
Jesus’s reason: love.
The life (and death) of Jesus is a testimony to the true aim of his earthly existence. Jesus himself explains his aim in Mark’s gospel:
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
Jesus is both acknowledging and subverting a pervasive belief in the ancient world. People who were physically sick were considered cursed by God, and therefore unrighteous. And so Jesus, as God-in-flesh, makes it a point to spend the majority of his ministry caring for these cast-aside people. In doing so, Jesus reveals both a pattern and power His followers were invited to replicate.
In short, we’re called to go into seemingly impossible places, wield whatever measure of faith we’ve been given, and watch God do the impossible. Instead of feeling fatigued by the flood of tragic news coming out of Haiti, perhaps we ought to be inspired? Like a moth’s impossible journey into the center of a burning flame, what if we allowed the Spirit to lead us into the impossible places?
The Deeper The Darkness, The Brighter the Light
In the prologue of John’s gospel, the writer provides an important bit of foreshadowing, highlighting the final result of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection:
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
“Light” and “dark” have an interesting relationship with one another. That’s because while darkness is creation’s default (sheer darkness makes up about six times more space in the Universe than light), light holds all the power. For example, consider the amount of space a tiny flashlight unleashed in a starless, moonless night can illuminate.
Jesus’s prayer on the eve of his execution is found in John 17 and includes these words,
“As you [Father] sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (v. 18)
By implication, the “them” Jesus is referring to is you, me, and anyone who would choose to follow Jesus. Which means that we are the inextinguishable light that has been specifically sent into dark places with the promise that whatever love, generosity, mercy, and compassion shown we shine forth will inevitably cause the darkness to cower. The deeper the darkness, the more the light changes things.
So let’s run boldly into the darkest corners of our planet. Let’s shine brightly with whatever resources God’s grace has entrusted to us.
Offering a Mirror to the Watching World
By lifting up Haiti (especially amid its darkest moment) to the watching world, we are providing an opportunity for those of us who live in comfort and convenience to recognize that many of the blessings we enjoy weren’t a product of our own ingenuity or persistence. There isn’t a one-to-one correspondence between effort and success.
There are two important takeaways from this realization.
First, grace. When we acknowledge that we are no more deserving of our everyday comforts than the single mother living in Cite Soleil, we are better positioned to understand everything we have as grace (i.e. a gift from God). And by acknowledging the pervasiveness of grace in our lives, we’ll begin to hold more loosely to the blessings in our lives, because ultimately, all that we have is on loan from God.
Second, we’ll come to recognize the absurdity of national borders. By this, I mean that we did not choose to be born into a middle class family in the suburbs of a city in the most prosperous nation in the history of the human existence (i.e. America). We did not audition before we were born to reap the benefits of an inherited convenience. In the same way, a young child who moment-by-moment faces the pangs of hunger and the exhaustion of malnutrition didn’t choose to be born into the urban warzone that Port-au-Prince has become.
Our sheer “luck” is an invitation to deep generosity.
We’re Missing the Full Picture
Make no mistake, Haiti is a broken place–politically, environmentally, psychologically, economically, and more–but the world’s perception of Haiti being an exclusively hopeless place is in part the product of the stories we choose to tell about Haiti. “Haiti fatigue” may not be as widely felt if we decided to tell better stories about the country so many of us love.
Because, despite the heartbreaking challenges facing Haiti, every day a number of things continue to happen that don’t make the news: babies are born, hungry mouths are fed, doctors successfully treat the desperately ill, and the people of Haiti reveal their grit and determination against seemingly impossible odds. And despite countless images of smoldering roadside trash, dead bodies blocking traffic, and armored police vehicles engulfed in flames, there are pictures missing: the crystalline beauty of Haiti’s Caribbean shores, Haiti’s tree-lined mountaintops, mothers raising loving children, and Haitian churches shining forth the love of Jesus.
The world needs to wake-up to the horrors afflicting Haiti, but we also need reminders of Haiti’s profound potential. Because, after all, each of the 11 million people who call the Western half of Hispaniola their home are, just as assuredly as us, made in the image of God.