The most dedicated and passionate ministry leaders here in Haiti told us that we should not try to meet every need, because we would never be able to meet every need. They cautioned us against giving out our phone numbers, addresses, and Facebook information to people that we meet here, because they would continue to contact us with needs that they had. But there would be no end to the needs.
Miriam has been serving in Haiti for 35 years. “Just remember this,” she said, “they survived before you got here.”
It reminded me of something Jesus said. “The poor you will always have with you.”
This is not to say that we should not be compassionate toward the poor. Of course we should. And this is not to say that we should not regularly sacrifice our luxuries in order to meet their needs. We should. This reflects the heart of God, as Jesus also sacrificed Himself for us.
But this reminds me of our even greater purpose. Our purpose is first to rest in the grace of God. Our primary purpose has less to do with what we need to do, and more to do with what God has done. If we start with a purpose of us giving to others, before realizing that we also are in need of what only God can give, then we can never do enough. But if our first purpose is to get the grace of God, then we can be satisfied in that.
Then, when we receive the grace of God, God fills us with a joy that we cannot keep to ourselves. We want to share it with others. We want to help the hurting. We want to comfort the sorrowful. We want to feed the hungry.
In other words, the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second is like it: to love your neighbor as yourself.
In the Haitian culture, holding hands simply communicates, “Let’s walk and talk together as friends.” It’s common for grown men to hold hands walking and talking as well.
We often walk the alleys of the villages we’re ministering in so that we can meet people and invite their children to come play games with us in the mornings. As we walk, children inevitably begin walking along with us as well. And it doesn’t take long before every single one of us is holding hands with two Haitian children, who took our hands as we walked. To them, it is a great honor for us to hold their hands, because they see white Americans as rich and important. So when we hold their hands, we validate that they are worth our time and attention.
It’s interesting that although they are the ones in poverty, needing to be shown love and acceptance, they approached us with this loving and accepting physical contact, which then in turn blessed them when we reciprocated.
In America, we are often so consumed with how we ourselves are doing, that we forget to bless those around us. We should go out of our way to help people, to love them, and to put their needs above our own, because God, though Jesus, has given us so much, that we might be a blessing to others.