Joel Rothe, pastoral intern at Abiding Hope in Littleton, CO, traveled to Haiti with HTF in January.  Here he shares how his story and HTF’s story are unfolding together. You can find his original blog at https://joelrothe.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/thoughts-from-haiti/

For me, the most difficult part of returning from a trip is figuring out how to share about it.  Especially when the trip includes not only memorable or fun experiences, but is layered with complex relationships, human frailty and injustice.  A few photos on facebook and accompanying captions just can’t get the job done.  So hence, a blog and some room to share some stories…

Last week I traveled to Haiti together with 10 other students from Trinity Lutheran Seminary, President Rick Barger, his wife and three representatives of Abiding Hope Church including Pastor Doug Hill.  We traveled not on our own, but with the Haitian Timoun Foundation (HTF).  Timoun means “Children” in Haitian Creole.

HTF partners with and financially supports Haitian-led organizations which are located in various parts of the country, and its mission is “fostering hope and sustainability with dignity.”  We did not travel with HTF to take a tour of the poverty that exists in Haiti, or to go to “help” Haiti.  Our travels were geared towards participating in authentic relationships with Haitians and the organizations that HTF partners with in order to learn from them and to be changed and transformed by the experiences we had with them.  In return, we are challenged to ask how we can participate in the ongoing transformational work that is already happening in Haiti and other impoverished nations around the world, as well as how do we bring others into the stories and experiences.

There are many unhelpful ways to travel into impoverished communities, and I don’t claim that we traveled perfectly, but I do believe that our travel was marked by mutuality between us as Americans and the Haitians that we spent time with thanks to the years of relationship building that HTF has already been participating in.

And more than being consumed by images of hunger, poverty, lack of sanitation, deforestation and dehumanization, our travels emphasized the stories of hope and resurrection that were happening all around us.  The organizations we spent time with are effectively empowering women and children through strategic economic assistance, education, accompaniment and support.  And even more, we were able to see how the rhythms of life for Haitians, the communities they live in and the support and generosity they offer to one another may be more real and life-producing than the individualized, self-determined and privileged ways of life that I participate in at home in Littleton.

So over the next couple of weeks I plan to share stories and experiences of how I’m being formed and re-formed through this experience.  And tentatively I have four areas that my reflections seem to be gravitating to…

Authentic Relationships.  What was it like to participate in relationships that were bigger than myself?  What were the marks of real relationship building?  What grounded and provided a foundation for the relationships we encountered?
Witnessing systemic oppression.  What does it look like to become aware of our own privilege, and how a country like Haiti has been impacted for centuries by the systems that benefit me?  How do I respond to such an encounter?
Witnessing new life and hope.  How are Haitians experiencing real change in their lives and their communities?  What is bringing about that change, and what are the appropriate ways we participate in it?  How is God bringing new life out of systems that perpetuate death and oppression?
Transformational curiosity.  How does such a trip and the relationships I entered into, the stories of death and resurrection, begin to reorder my own life, relationships, attitudes and priorities?  How can I participate more fully in the vision God has for the world, where all people can experience the fullness of life.  How does my life need to change so that change can happen in the world?

But those are just the questions to help organize my thoughts.  I hope the stories themselves will be what engages you – because I know they have captured me.

More to come…