As I sit here writing this blog, I stare at the glass of clean water that is sitting in front of me. Every time I pick it up to take a drink, I am reminded of how blessed I am to have a clean, purified cup of water. All I had to do was walk to my refrigerator, open the door, pull out my Brita pitcher (a purifying system all in one), grab a glass, and pour as much as I wanted. As much as I want? Really?? I can have as much water as I want? The faces of the people in Haiti run through my mind as these questions penetrate my heart. I think over my morning and how much water I use. I get up, go to the bathroom, wash my hands, take a shower (a hot shower might I add and for as long as I want), brush my teeth, pour me a glass of water to drink, make my breakfast, wash my dishes, start a load of laundry (in a machine that actually does all the work for me), wash my hands again, pour me a bottle of water for the road, and this is how much water I have already used and that is just within the two hours of my morning. We don’t even think of how vital and precious water is to our day; that thought never seems to cross our mind. The word “water” has so much value and we throw the word around as if it is nothing. Can I get another glass of water, please? And can I add to this that most of us don’t even like water. We think it is plain and boring so we have a soda instead or buy flavored sugar packets to mask the taste because we know that as our doctor says, you need to drink 8 cups of water a day for your health. I have been fighting these thoughts and images ever since I have returned back from Haiti a week ago. It has been so hard to pour myself a clean, pure glass of water and every time I do, I am praising God for it.
I want to share with each of you an incredible experience that God took me through while I was in Haiti and it all has to do with “water.” To give you a little background, according to Healing Haiti, only 30% of Haitians have access to clean drinking water and children die everyday from malnutrition due to the parasites that infest their drinking water causing them to have diarrhea and lose vital nutrients. The people living in these slums have no toilets, no running water, and no electricity. On Thursday, May 19, my team and I had the incredible opportunity to deliver 10,000 gallons of chlorinated water to Cite Soleil, the poorest slum in the western hemisphere. It all began by riding in the “Tap Tap” (the mode of transportaion in Haiti), the scariest ride of my life! Haha! We had so many people piled into the back of this truck while our driver took us through the tiniest street full of people, children, dogs, pigs, chickens, and goats. We almost didn’t make it through. I have never experienced anything like it before, but all in all it was a GREAT experience! While riding in the back of this truck, I noticed the true condition of Haiti, devastating poverty. The people and families that walked the streets had one mission on their mind, to go to the market with what little money they had and purchase the cheapest food they could to tide their bellies over. Normally, the meal consists of rice and beans; mainly because it is the cheapest thing and rice is a filler, it makes your belly feel full. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was no schedule in Haiti. The people there know no different. Their day is like any other day, with one question, am I going to be able to eat today? Will I have just enough money to feed my children? Here in the US we don’t suffer from starvation but we suffer from chronic stress because we fill our day to the max; we have places to go, people to see, things to do, hobbies to make, Starbuck’s coffee to drink, and we never have time to stop and think, “Wow, I am blessed! I don’t have to worry about having food to eat (if I don’t cook, no worries, there is a drive-thru down the street).” Even though at times we think we are without, we are never without. The people in Haiti go without everyday. While we finish our dinner, there is a hungry tummy that goes to bed every night without food and water. This little hungry belly is what drives me to action.
As we entered the slums in Cite Soleil, the smells of trash, urine, stool, disease, filled the air; contaminated water was evident everywhere. The driver of the water truck blew his horn. Try to imagine this for a second, hundreds of little, malnourished, disease-stricken bodies running with every ounce of energy they had, holding in their hands an empty bucket. They knew the water truck had arrived and they could finally have something to drink. I could not believe what I was seeing. The people came from everywhere, bucket after bucket in hand, for clean water. I stepped down from the “tap-tap” and the scene was so overwhelming I had to turn my face and catch my breath as I cried and cried. I had never seen poverty before like I saw it that day in Cite Soleil. I wish I could describe every vivid detail to each of you reading this but there are not enough words. My friend from Healing Haiti came and put his hand on my shoulder and asked if I was ok. I couldn’t hold back my tears. He told me, “Lauren, God is calling you. He is breaking your heart for what breaks His.” Children began to run up to me and reached for my hand. They were starving for attention, for love, for a life beyond the poverty they were trapped in. Each child was lucky if he or she had on clothes; a lot of them ran around naked, with no shoes, filthy. I picked up one sweet little girl and held her in my arms. As I placed my hand on her chest, it was like pressing on bubble wrap. Her lungs were filled with mucous and her back was broken out with some kind of infection. She looked me in the eyes and touched my face with a big smile. On the outside she carried a smile but on the inside she was screaming for help. I tried to hold back my tears but I couldn’t. They fell and as they fell the little girl I was holding tried to catch each one. It was sweetest, most life-altering moment. After I loved on some children, my attention was turned back to the line of people with their buckets. We grabbed the huge hose of water and one by one we filled the buckets. As I was filling the buckets I prayed for God to fill me up, just like we filled this water truck, so that I can pour out to these people. “Lord, I want to be a vessel that you can use; fill me up so that I can pour out.” The people fought for their place in line, this bucket of water is what would keep them alive for a few more days. What would you do if you had ONE bucket of water for an entire week and that was it? How would you use it? How would you have to alter your life?
Over to the side, as I took a break from the hose, I helped each little child place the bucket of water on tope of their head so that they could take it home. It was amazing. That bucket of water probably weighed at least 40 lbs and these small children were carrying it on their head. One little girl grabbed me by the hand and put my hand on her bucket of water. She wanted me to carry it to her house. I grabbed a team member and we walked together back through the slum to this little girls house. This house was made of sticks. Trash was plastered on the sides to cover up any small little holes. The smell was unbearable. She invited me in and as I stepped inside, the floor was dirt and I was standing in water. She took me to her little corner where she slept and again I had to fight tears like never before. This heavy feeling came over my chest, almost like I couldn’t breath. “You really sleep there?” I thought in my mind. She had no bed; just a dirt floor, a small blanket, and a stone rock for a pillow. In this moment I wanted to give everything I had away. I wanted to take each little child home with me and let them sleep in a nice, warm, clean, comfortable bed. I was broken beyond words.
I saw so many more things that day, which I will continue to write about, but I pray that each word here penetrates your heart and gives you a longing desire to DO something.
James 1:27 “Pure and Genuine religion in the sight of God the father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt.”
Isaiah 6:8 “Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for me?’ I said, Here I am…Send me!”
Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good. Seek Justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”
Isaiah 61 “The spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the broken-hearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.”