Letter to Jacob Kushner

Dear Jacob,

I have read several of your writings about Haiti and I am gripped by the sense of disappointment they convey. You must be a fine journalist to be able to keep any tone of bitterness out of your writing. But I can still perceive disillusionment in your words and that is why I am writing to you – to offer some respite from what reads like a world-weary sense of regret about the plight of the Haitian people. Everyone who serves in Haiti needs encouragement from time to time.
When you are down in Haiti on a future trip, please come stay with us at the Fond Blanc orphanage, and enjoy a small piece of Haiti that is thriving. We are a small group that has been dedicated for the last 10 years to the work of assisting in the upbringing of about 73 Haitian children (and more recently, the schooling of an additional 400 or so kids who live nearby). I don’t really think of our work as anything special, but we are still there and the Haitians we serve are doing quite well. In light of all the broken promises – and broken lives – you report on, it occurs to me that you might like to experience some of that.
I don’t want anything from you – not for myself or our organization or even for our Haitian friends.In fact, we would probably decline anything a journalist could offer. I simply want to offer you an opportunity to be renewed by evidence that some promises are being kept, some Haitians are being helped, and there is hope in Haiti.
You already know how remarkable the Haitian people are. Their resilience in the face of a terribly hard reality has been both among their most encouraging characteristics, and also perhaps one of the things that has contributed to the perpetuation of their misery. If that sounds counterintuitive to you, consider this: Do you know of a people – in the western hemisphere at least – who manage better at mere survival? That is, people who can live so persistently at the edge of absolute destitution for interminable lengths of time, without ever seeing – or crafting – an improvement in their circumstances? If somebody were to give out awards for simply not dying, Hatiians would be among the top contenders. And I say that with a bittersweet reflection on what I have seen over the last 10 years. I always hope that today is the day when they finally say “enough!” and decide to get busy living, instead of simply surviving.
I am sure you would agree that the brokenness and dysfunction in Haiti is almost beyond comprehension, particularly by the American mind. I cannot tell you how to fix Haiti, but then, I am not trying to fix it. My goal is simple and clear: I serve God by serving “the least of these [His] children” in our little orphanage and school; and in the tough moments I am sustained by the joy in the face of a child who is fed, clothed, and feels safe today.
I don’t know you, or how you think and operate in the world. I make no assumptions or judgments (except about the weariness), and I am not here to change you in any way. But I can tell you that we could never have managed to do what little bit we do if we came at it from a secular, man-can-solve-all-his-own-problems perspective. It has been a relief to simply do what we are called to do and to trust the Lord in all else. Maybe a small scale, bottom-up strategy can offer real help where governments and big NGOs have failed so spectacularly.
Well intentioned people frequently volunteer suggestions to me on how to “fix” Haiti. But on my first visit to Haiti, surrounded by destruction and death, I understood that we cannot ask a person to change their behavior when practically every moment of life is already consumed by a 24/7 struggle against death. At Fond Blanc we do what we can to provide a small margin for real life to establish a toehold. Perhaps the children we serve will be part of a generation that will bring fundamental change to Haiti in the future. And just maybe they can offer a measure of hope and joy to a journalist-witness whose own supply has run a little low.
I have been thwarted in all of my recent attempts to head down to Haiti, but the bright truth is that they are coping better now on their own than they were when we were ever-present. And we continue to send support even though we cannot send people at this time. Anyway, on behalf of our little organization and our Haitain friends, I invite you to come visit and be refreshed anytime you can fit it into your schedule.

Bondye beni ou,

Paul Young
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