Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.Romans 12:15, ESV
Right now we weep with our Haitian neighbors.
The Aug. 14 Haiti earthquake devastated the southern part of the country where over 17,000 children in Compassion’s program live. The latest reports from our Compassion Haiti National Office indicate that 6,000 Compassion-assisted children have been displaced, and at least 46 child development centers have been damaged or destroyed. If you sponsor a child in Haiti, I know you’re probably agonizing as you wait to hear about their well-being.
My first reaction to the news of the most recent Haiti earthquake was to lament and ask, “Will Haiti’s suffering ever ease? Will the Haitian people ever have enough time to rebuild before another disaster or conflict sets them back?” It reminds me of a Haitian proverb I heard while I was there in 2014: “Beyond mountains there are mountains.” It means that just when you think you’ve solved a problem, another one appears.
But it occurred to me while working through my emotions that I might be weeping FOR my Haitian neighbors rather than WITH them. I think there is a difference, albeit subtle. For so long the rest of the world has seen Haiti as a nation to be pitied — little more than a sad charity case. Of course, as an organization that works to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name, we cannot ignore the fact that Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. That’s why Compassion partners with sponsors and Indigenous Haitian churches to help children and their families there.
But Haiti is more than that. It’s also rich in culture, natural resources including oil and gold, and tropical beauty. So when I started thinking about what it truly means to weep WITH my Haitian neighbors, I immediately thought of the meaning of compassion. The Latin prefix -com means with, and passion (pati in Latin) means suffering or enduring. The word compassion literally means to suffer with.
So how do we weep with our Haitian brothers and sisters and show true compassion? I think it starts with being brave enough to see things from their perspective without offering judgment or answers. Imagine what it’s like to see a loved one die or not know whether they’re alive. Imagine what it’s like for your home and belongings to be destroyed. Imagine what it’s like to lose your means of income as your community is thrown into chaos. It’s hard to let our hearts break open like this. But we must.
Looking Ahead by Looking Back
Even as we allow ourselves to be brokenhearted with Haiti, I’d like to share a few photos and stories from a brighter time in the country — as a reminder that Haitians will once again have reason to rejoice. I traveled there in 2014 with Compassion Magazine to report on the progress since the devastating 2010 earthquake, which affected a different part of Haiti than the Aug. 14 quake. Our team visited dozens of schools that Compassion donors had helped local Haitians rebuild since the disaster.
Here Sylvio feeds a vitamin drink to his daughter Neisha at a church in Haiti. They joined Compassion’s Survival Program a few years after losing their home in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Neisha’s mother was injured during childbirth, so Sylvio had to stay home to care for her and Neisha rather than work at a job. After he was connected with a church in his community, he started taking Neisha — who had been malnourished — to the church building for vitamin drinks, medicine, health checkups and playtime.
Eriner started a popular bakery in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after participating in a small-business program offered by Compassion’s church partners after the 2010 earthquake. Haitians lined up to buy his freshly baked rolls, bread loaves and other goodies. The business provided a steady income for his family, including his daughters in Compassion’s program.
Our Haitian partners built this gorgeous school and child development center using funds donated to Compassion after the 2010 quake. Over two dozen schools were built in Haiti using the gifts. Many of Compassion’s centers in Haiti double as schools for children, which is a unique and necessary approach because public schools don’t often provide quality teaching and private schools are too expensive for most families.
This is Erickson, a youth in Compassion’s program, and his parents, who lost their home in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Erickson’s mom was trapped under rubble for days before help arrived, and Erickson helped keep her alive. With the help of their local church using gifts from generous donors, Erickson’s family received a new home and started a shop selling purified water in their community.
Weep and Rejoice
I hope this gives you hope that Haitians will once again rejoice, and when they do, we will rejoice with them. Until then, we continue to weep with them — to imagine without judgment what life is like for them right now; to listen to their stories; to share words of encouragement in letters to our sponsored children; and to equip our Haitian church partners in their disaster relief efforts. Join us to stand in hope with Haiti.
Photography by Chuck Bigger and Erick Jura.