As I walked down the dirt path alongside the tall stalks of corn, children ran towards me with peals of laughter. The warm afternoon sun glinted off their dark skin. They grabbed my camera lens curiously. I held it up and clicked the shutter and showed them the pictures I took. They chattered to each other in Creole, giggling as they brushed against my long skirt. They ran ahead of me and towards my friends and the missionary that lead us.
I looked ahead and saw a blue lake framed with green mountains. We traveled down the path, a man leading his giant Brahma cow came sauntering right by us. It caused us to have to jump over to the side and let him pass.
Ahead I heard the beat of the Caribbean-type music playing through an old radio. The road veered off to the right and under the line of bright colorful clothes being hung out to dry. As we followed the path and I ducked under the clothesline that almost acted like a gate to the rural and peaceful village of Olivier.
The sun glinted off the corrugated metal homes, shining in my eyes for a moment. I held my hand up to allow my eyes to adjust. The home was a combination of metal, weaved wood, and tarps. It had to be only 500 square feet. A family sat on their patio, listening to the radio that I had heard a while back. The father sat in a makeshift chair and the rest of the family was scattered across the yard with a raggedy dog that looked up at me as I passed.
They smiled at us and greeted us in French, “Bonsoir!”. I smiled and attempted to return the greeting, but with my Texan accent it sounded more like “BONE SWAY!” They smiled wider at my butchering of their beautiful language.
We had come to hear about the stories of people who had received newly built cement homes from Children's Relief's program Green Door Homes. We spent the afternoon interviewing several families. Story after story, we heard about their struggles that had turned into redemption once they received their homes.
I heard about a father who couldn't provide a place to live for his daughter because the hurricane had ruined his crops. He had no hope over ever being able to provide for her, but when he received his new sturdy home he was able to be reunited with his daughter.
Another family told us that they were happy to have a home that they could finally lock the door and provide safety for their family. They no longer had to live in fear. The father told us about how they now open up their home to other people to bless them because of how they were blessed. They kept thanking us over and over for their home. The father insisted that we have a sample of fresh coconuts from the tree in his yard. We stood in aw as his son scurried up the tree and cut some down for us.
Over and over I was overwhelmed with the gratefulness, hospitality, and joy of the Haitian people. They took such pride in their new homes. They praised God for His providence.
As I walked down the paths of the small town of Olivier and saw the joy in people's eyes despite their lack of modern necessities, I realized that life doesn't require more things to have joy. To have joy, you must simply find contentment in Christ and show gratitude to Him.
When I look back on my time in Haiti, despite the government's oppression of its people that caused the civil unrest and riots that delayed our coming home, I will remember that afternoon in Olivier, the peace, and joy that I experienced there with its people. That is the Haiti I know, that is the Haiti I love.