Having grown up outside the city working on neighbouring farms, as well as delivering feed for a number of years, I experience a sense of comfort and security within the familiarity of rural settings. I don’t pretend to be an expert in any field of agriculture or related industry but I do admit to having a fascination and interest. So, when opportunities present themselves to partake first hand in the experiences of ‘farm life,’ I gladly join in. Be it climbing into the cab of a brand new John deere, chewing a mouthful of freshly harvested wheat or slopping through the mud at the annual plowing match, I’m always game.
You can imagine then, how keen I was to experience ‘farm life’ in Haiti, when on the second day of our adventure tour, we boarded the back of a pickup truck and headed for St. Marc to see the cooperatives. Having travelled to developing nations before, I was expecting to see a different way of rural life than what I was accustomed to. I was anticipating the many tiny garden-sized fields cut out of the jungle sustaining meagre crops. I was expecting to observe many men and women, with bodies and brows glistening in sweat, working by hand in their fields under the hot, tropical sun. I wasn’t surprised as we neared the village, when children of all ages, dressed in soiled, tattered clothes chased our vehicle into town playfully trying to catch a ride on the bumper.
I wasn’t surprised. That’s what we expect to experience in a country like Haiti. That’s why so many organizations set down on the shores of Haiti, in attempt to bring help and the message of hope to these struggling people. Though well intentioned, we, perhaps, have not communicated the message that we had desired. In our eagerness to help, we have often hastily imposed our ‘new” and ‘better’ ways of doing things. We march into their culture and their lives smelling of affluence and privilege. We impatiently tear down their ‘old’ and replace it with our ‘new,’ all the while shaking our heads in disbelief, wondering how things became so backward. “We are and you are not,” “We have and you have not.” It is a message that I believe is incompatible with Jesus’ Gospel.
After spending time listening to Janet Bauman, FIDA’s Country Manager/Team Leader in Haiti, and to members of the cooperatives, I learned that another message is being communicated; one which is being whispered deep into the souls of these Haitian farmers. It is the message of the Creator to His creation. It is the message that we all long to hear spoken from the mouth of our God. It is the message, “I have not forgotten you.” These words were shared during a potluck supper in the remote mountain village of Fond Baptiste by a cooperative president. He was thanking God for sending FIDA to his village. He was thanking God for loving him enough to lift him out of his despair by breathing hope back into his life. No one wants to be reminded of what they don’t have or what they can’t do. Instead, people want to hear that they are precious, respected and full of God-given potential. I am glad that this is FIDA’s message to Haitian farmers… that each has God-given potential and each can realize it!
Whether by helping an adult farmer learn to write their name for the first time or by enabling a family to send all their children to school through the introduction of better yielding crops, FIDA is working to help the beautiful, unique people of Haiti become all that God created them to be. This is what we believe God is calling FIDA to do and it is in this way that we are asking you to be our partner.
Ron Weber on his Haiti Adventure Tour