“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling (pitched His tent) among us.” John 1:14
I was running through the dusty outskirts of town at six this morning when I ran past a “konme” (Haitian grandmother) carrying something on her head when she burst out laughing at me. I was at least 30 yards past her when she let out the deep roar. We are such a strange site, we “blans” (foreigners) to our Haitian neighbors! Most Haitians don’t (need to) exercise as daily life generates more than the 10,000 steps needed for health. Most people walk everywhere, to get water, to get food, and to get “plaka toks,” the aromatic coils you light at dawn or dusk. These coils smell like incense and in a place like Haiti their function is sacred as they help protect the vulnerable from mosquitos that carry Malaria, Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya and more.
Running on the very irregular gravel road is an adventure for me as motor bikes, which seem to be magnetically attracted to me, donkeys (and their post meal remains), people, cars, trucks, irregular rock and dust mark the “main highway.” So as I ran this morning, I was listening to The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns and heard the verse John 1:14 referenced, “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” I realized then that we have been sent here not to fix, proselytize, or judge, but to love, eat with, change the bandages, debride the wounds, bag (ventilate) the babies, treat the sick, and relieve suffering. We are here to dwell among our Haitian brothers and sisters.
Yes our family has “pitched our tent” in a new world. Our routines are very different than at home in Minnesota. For instance, at about 7 am on most mornings, the kids take our coffee pot a short two block walk away to a man who sells coffee from a five-gallon metal drum. It is pre-sweetened and no joke, the entire family now likes coffee. At 100 gourde, we are paying probably double the regular price, but that means we are paying about $1.40 US for 4-6 cups per day. Food procurement is also interesting. We are in a situation that is opposite of Costco – we buy our bread and our meat every day, getting just what we need for that day alone. Our daily bread. Many days our electricity has not worked so freezing meat is out of the question.
We dwell among rooster calls, goose calls, goats, peacocks, the daily burning of our trash, having to knock on our compound door to get in, and managing cold showers at a tenth of the water pressure we are used to. We walk to get our potable water in five gallon containers about once a week. We can hear on any given day or night the Kompa music with its Afro-Latin beat. When the sun goes down the town gets quiet. Few houses have electricity and you can see the Milky Way, Venus and Orion so clearly. People go to bed earlier and so do we. When the sun rises the town takes it cue and rises with it.
It is December 24th, but without cold crisp air, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, shops decorated in red, green, gold and fluffy shredded white paper, seasonal music, the Salvation Army Bells, or hot Chocolate we are not experiencing our cultural Christmas. We live in a world that needs a Savior to come and dwell among us. Here in Haiti my eyes are more open to the world that still needs God with us. Seven children have died in the hospital while I have been here in a month. We rely on dark plastic leaf bags and the warmth of 60 watt bulbs for temperature stability in the premature babies. This is called ‘DEGAGE’ in Creole, literally ‘unobstructed’ or making do with what you have. With no separate neonatal wing (from other babies who are sick and contagious), let alone surfactant (to mature the lungs quicker) our premature babies still die.
When you hear the wail of a mother who has lost her child you long for our Savior to come and pitch his tent among us. When the woman with 45% body surface area burns does not get her wounds debrided in the operating room—due to either her personal choice or due to her inability to pay—you long for the One who heals to dwell among us. It all makes me long for the injustice to end. We long for the uplifting of the lowly; we long for the hungry to be filled with good things, not just in eternity, but in the here and now.
So why are we here in Haiti? Why have we left friends and family and all that feels like home? Two things. We are here to dwell among our Haitian neighbors and we are here to learn what it means when we pray, give us this day our daily bread. We also would like daily electricity, daily freedom from disease, safety from the motor scooters, and clean water too. We know these are not promised to us, but we are promised we will never be forgotten by God. We are promised we are always loved by God. We are promised God’s Spirit will be in us. We are promised that in the end all the forces of evil and even death will be defeated.
And so, on a quiet night in the Judean Hills some 2000 years ago, our Savior came into the mess of occupied Israel as a poor, desperately dependent peasant, to serve humanity, to show what humble power looked like, and we have seen his glory. He pitched his tent in those hills and we have pitched our tent in the hills of Pignon, Haiti.
Dr. Como is a MedSend physician who is now serving in Honduras with his family. “Pitching Our Tent” was taken from an article he posted on his family’s blog last year.