It is hard to know where to begin with todays blog. Our day today has been what short term mission is all about. It is unpredictable, exhilerating, emotionally draining, frustrating, slow paced then fast paced, tedious and fantastic all at the same time.
As is often the way in the third world when the pastor says he will arrive is not necessarily the time that he will arrive. Today though he had good reason for being late. Friday is a trade day on the border between Haiti and Dominican Republic. In effect the border moves and thousands of Haitians are allowed across the bloody river bridge to pile into the custom made market on the Dominican Republic side to buy everything (and I do mean everything) they need either to sell or to use for the next few days.
Our job today was to go into the market with the ladies of the church and purchase all we needed for the Big Meal on Sunday. The market is truly hard to describe in words – you really have to be there to be honest – but as I walked round and through the heaving mass of humanity and carefully picked our way around the stalls selling everything from scotch bonnet chillies to clothes and shoes to fresh cut chicken feet a number of things occured to me.
Economics – This was actually my second visit to the market and it allowed me to take some time to think about what happens here. The Dominicans sell everything to the Haitians and as a result they set the prices and the Haitians simply have to live with that price or simply not live. The big custom built market is full of everything you need for life and there is plenty for everyone. Out the back of the market the Haitians try to sell on their goods to other Haitians trying desperately to eek out enough money to survive till the next trade day and have enough to buy from the Dominicans then so the cycle can continue. The only people getting rich are the Dominicans and the Haitians are trapped in a cycle that isn’t all of their making. As a charity on a small scale we need to reesearch more about this cycle and see if there are ways we can help a small number of families to break free from it. It won’t be easy. We are up against a beast here and a Dominican policy that doesn’t have trade days everyday so they can increase the desperation and demand and therefore drive up price.
Pride and Smiles – One of the things the market visit debunks is the myth that people in the third world are poor because they simply don’t work hard enough. If anyone from the west had to do what these people do just to survive they would simply lie down in the dirt and give in. What the Haitians do, with a joy and laughter and smile that ill befits the setting, is to get up and push on through. There was joy in this place, despite the dirt and the smell of rotting food and excrement and the chickens and pigs wondering everywhere and the poverty. There was pride too. I watched amazed as a lady carefully stacked her 10 aubergines on her whicker mat making sure they looked as good as possible for sale even though by then the market was coming to a close.
Jesus Here – It is strange in the extreme to be here at this time of year. It doesn’t feel like Christmas really but then as I walked around the market I thought about what Christmas is supposed to feel like. Certainly the first Christmas was much more like this that what we have in Scotland. Jesus Christ would have felt comfortable and at peace with this place, these are the people he would have called friends. He knew what their poverty was like, he knew what it was to be discriminated against by the powerful nation in the region, he knew what it was to eek out a living in the dirt. These people are made in the image of God and he Loves them dearly and he feels their pain. In the midst of all your Christmas celebrations this year please take some time to pray for the land of Haiti, to pray for the women and her aubergines, to pray for the Dominicans, to pray for Mission International and the work we will do here. But most of all remember that our Lord Jesus Christ – the God of History stepping into history, the God of Heaven stepped into this market place, born as a baby and he endured it all because of his love for you and for all the people in that market place today. As a result for those who love Jesus, there will be a day where there are no more tears and no more sadness and no more discrimination and no more poverty. Come Lord Jesus Come.