Looking back on my time in Haiti, it seems crazy how much has happened. I moved to Haiti in 2018, and I’ve been there through a handful of peyi loks (nationwide lockdowns), counteless protests, and several bouts of political and gang-related unrest. I’ve felt the heartbreak of watching friends-turned-family go through tremendous suffering, but I’ve also felt the joy of celebrating their triumphs.
I’ve been in the lowest of valleys in Haiti. But I’ve also reached the mountaintops–those sweet, often quiet, moments when the overwhelming contentment and joy almost made me forget the sweat and tears that got me there.
Both the highs and lows have brought me to my knees in prayer more times than I can count. I’ve woken in the middle of the night with the urge to pray over a situation, scenario, or person on many occasions. Through it all, my prayer life has grown stronger…
Or, at least I thought it did.
In July 2022, as I listened to my friends describe the unspeakable violence a gang had unleashed on the streets of Cite Soleil, my heart crumbled. Homes that I had visited, families I’d served, and friends that I ate meals with were no longer there.
And while these horrible attacks just started to wake the world to what was happening in this corner of Haiti, the people of Cite Soleil were at the end of their ropes. These attacks came after almost two years of increasing gang violence. While the rest of the world just started opening their eyes, I had friends calling me in tears asking “When will it end?”
So much more has happened in the year since these devastating attacks- not only in Cite Soleil but throughout the country of Haiti. But, I can now see that the time of devastation in Cite Soleil was a catalyst in my life, stirring up something different in my spirit. I was angry and bitter, not only because I was listening to my friends describe their suffering, but because the rest of the world had no idea.
As an American living in Haiti, it’s hard for me to reconcile my two worlds. I certainly understand why most Americans may not know what’s happening in Haiti; the island nation simply isn’t routinely covered by our national media. But as I witnessed the tragedies in Haiti unfold in front of me and heard the cries for help firsthand, I felt myself begin to grow bitter.
I was raised to believe in God’s goodness and power, that He loves and cares for us. And, make no mistake, I still believe this. But, in the wake of the spiraling violence in Cite Soleil, I found it difficult to reconcile God’s goodness with Haiti’s suffering.
I’m grateful that this tension has actually fueled a deeper, more authentic prayer life. I certainly could have had the opposite effect.
I’m no longer interested in praying flowery prayers that elicit “amens” from fellow believers, because I’m learning that sometimes the most honest prayer is:
“God, please help”
“God, I’m so angry!”
“God, why aren’t you making this stop?”
And while these prayers are simpler, less fluffy, and perhaps maybe a bit harsh…they are also honest.
Scripture tells us that God knows our hearts (Psalm 44:21, 1 Samuel 16:7). And while I knew this to be true, my prayer life wasn’t reflecting it. I came to realize I was approaching God with beautiful language, with the words I thought He wanted to hear from me. But in my heart, I was harboring anger and confusion. I wasn’t approaching Him with an honest heart (as if He didn’t already know I was angry and doubting).
Why would I withhold my heart from the One who made me?
Did I really believe that Jesus (the one who suffered and died for the people of Cite Soleil) didn’t feel the same anger and sadness I do?
If we’re willing to entrust our eternity to Jesus, why not our honest feelings, especially our anger about the pain those we love are experiencing?
One year removed from those vicious attacks in Cite Soleil, I am still without answers for why this happened to an already suffering people. I have no idea when the violence might end.
But my heart has been changed. As I became honest with God about the hurt and anger I’ve felt and invited Him to heal me, He has. showed Him my heart, I invited Him in to change and heal the aches, the hurt, and the anger. His faithfulness has given me a depth of peace and trust I’ve never experienced. Today, my faith is stronger than ever before. And I know, beyond any doubt, that His heart breaks more than I can imagine what the people of Haiti are experiencing.
I’m grateful that I serve a God who welcomes us to boldly approach Him with honest prayers. May we live with hearts open for all that He has for us!
Post by Alicia, Long-Term Missionary with Healing Haiti
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