Haiti snuck in as a most unexpected visitor. My heart cracked to make space for it. Vulnerable and achingly beautiful, its vivid colors play in my mind, dancing in the brilliant sun on naked hills.
Before and after I visited early this year, I read everything I could to try to understand how such crushing poverty can persist a mere 1 ½ hour flight from the US. I read one account after another, tracing Haiti’s history from the early 1800’s to today. My questions, like the sampling below, can’t seem to chase down answers:
- How could a country suffer such catastrophic unnatural consequences to a natural disaster? Yes, the earthquake registered 7.0 on the Richter scale, but decades of poverty-induced susceptibility and helter-skelter construction surely yielded more power to the quake than it deserved.
- How can it be that Haiti’s government has yet to intervene to halt deforestation that strips 80% of its terrain bare?
- How can so many successive regimes come to power through violence and oppression?
I’ve scoured a small library of books and internet sources, but my questions only increase, rattling around in my heart and carving fissures in their wake.
But also lodged in these cracks are memories of people I met in Haiti, people like:
- Chredrick Caneus, Young Life Haiti’s National Director – Within hours after the earthquake struck in 2010, leaving his home dangerously damaged and many friends and family members unaccounted for, he welcomed thirty Young Life kids to the building that doubles as his family home and the Young Life headquarters and cared for them for a week until they could make their way to rural homes.
- Julie Scott and her family – founders with Chedrick’s family of Good Shepherd School, refuge and source of education for Port au Prince slum kids for 25 years. Julie also serves as Young Life Haiti Country Developer.
- Noyo Cherisma – Young Life staff-worker who almost lost his life in a random shooting after a Young Life meeting, and emerged from the shadow of death even more impassioned to use every moment of his life to tell people how good God is, especially kids.
As I mull over these cracks in my heart that refuse to heal, I dig deeper and discover brilliantly-colored treasure intensified by the darkness surrounding it: a secret trove far below the tumultuous surface of crisis, poverty, and need. This treasure, planted and nourished by Something more powerful even than the quagmire of Haiti’s challenges, grows up through people like Chedrick, Julie, and Noyo, stretches out like branches over barren hills, provides shelter and hope for a nation.
Canopy of Hope, the painting above, may remind you of a smaller painting I posted earlier this year , which was in fact the study for this larger piece. The first study emerged as I held Haiti in my heart and asked God to let the painting be a prayer. I wanted to mull over the prayer and the ideas that surfaced through it in more detail and on a larger scale. So I felt compelled to paint it again in a larger format, featured today.