Sunday, December 19, 2010

Home Again, but Something has Changed

After a long day of travel, I arrived back home in Lubbock, TX yesterday evening.  What a different world.  Shiny airport terminals, all sorts of food and shopping in the airports, trash cans that people actually use!  Not that I don't like any of it all, but it makes me think of all those people living in deplorable conditions in Haiti, including the 36 teenagers and 15 or so staff at the orphanage.  People who I may never see again, but have grown so close to my heart.  For whom death and suffering are all too real in their lives, yet somehow, joy and gratitude are much more present too.  I have learned so much from the Haitians, and I can only hope that I enriched their lives as much as they did mine.  It was with a broken heart that I had to respond to the question I was asked over and over that I did not know when I would be back.

My friends in Haiti took such good care of me, and I am so thankful for the time we had to spend together. We laughed, joked, and enjoyed each other.  We argued and got angry.  We were protected from a hurricane.  We weathered political unrest and the fear of violence.  We washed our hands with soap constantly to prevent Cholera.  And as I sit on my comfortable couch, I know they are still enduring all these things.

And sometimes I wonder how they do it.  Many people in the US live in comfort that if they run out of food, they can go to the grocery store and buy more.  If they get sick, they have health insurance to go to the hospital.  If there is violence in the neighborhood, the police will most likely do something about it.  (This is certainly not the case for everyone in the US.  There are people who go hungry here too.  There are people without proper medical care.  There are some really violent neighborhoods.  But it is certainly not as widespread as in countries like Haiti.)  I wonder how the Haitians survive, how they find the will to survive.  But the answer is not too complicated.  I discovered, first, how little materially I needed.  Some clothes and food.  And maybe some books.  And when you don't have all those other things fighting for your attention, its much easier to see the things that really will give lasting comfort.  The people around them.  And their faith and the hope that only God can give.  Through this hope they find the strength to go on.  There were times for myself during the past five months that I was only able to continue what I was doing through the strength given to me by God.

Today in church, we were singing "O come, O come Emmanuel".  I've always thought it was a really pretty advent song, but it struck me differently today, so much so that tears began to fill my eyes.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.


O come Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things far and nigh,
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.


O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.


I hadn't ever really thought much about it, but I always operated under the assumption that this was an Advent song, anticipating the birth of Christ, which has already happened.  Which it is.  But as I sang "and death's dark shadows put to flight," I thought of the shadow of death that still hangs over Haiti, the fear that lives there.  This is also a prayer of petition, asking for the world to be made right.  Because it most certainly is not.  But the refrain is the confident assurance that someday, all that is promised will be given.  "Rejoice!"  God is coming!  It is both remembrance that Christ has come and a declaration that he will come again.  He will come again, and all the things that are wrong in the world will be made right.  And that is great hope for us all.

I'm home again, and something is different.


  1. I think this is something called "survivor's guilt"? I know it must feel strange to be back home. Everything will look foreign for the days ahead but hopefully you will allow yourself to switch gears and embrace the now. Can't wait to see you and hug you. Lots of love and on to the next adventure? Have a good trip to Albuquerque and will talk to you more when we see you. Bring your pictures with you.

  2. Jamie, I hope that you'll continue to grapple with these tough questions and the conflicting realities that you'll start weighing constantly now that you're back in the U.S. I also look forward to reading more of your thoughts on this, so keep posting! :) Merry Christmas!