Image by thaths via Flickr
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. ‘Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.’ The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." --Psalm 46
In the margins of my Bible beside this Psalm I have written in blue pencil: for hope in times of fear, October 2001. Sometime around September 11, 2001, I committed myself to reading the Psalms--at least one a day. When I came upon this Psalm, I was sitting in a foreign country across the ocean in Africa watching my own nation struggle with the aftereffects of a horrible, life-altering, culture-altering, traumatic experience. Although this Psalm does not answer the "why?" question, it does provide hope that God is in the midst of even the most horrific circumstances.
Now it has happened again. Only this time I am sitting in America watching the devastation in another country--a country whose people have faces that look like those I love, those who are members of my family. This was not an act of terrorism, although Haiti has seen its share of that, too (Google Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier and Tonton Macoute to learn about this). In some ways, this is worse, because at least with terrorism you have someone to blame.
The connection between Africa and Haiti is unnerving for me. What I want people to know is the legacy that Haiti shares with Africa, and perhaps inspired in Africa. That Haiti did not make a deal with the devil, as Pat Robertson has so foolishly and ignorantly claimed. In fact, Haiti, under the leadership of Toussaint L'Ouverture, became the first independent former slave state in the Americas, and the second independent republic in the Western Hemisphere. The Haitian Revolution shook the foundation of the slave trade in the Americas, and eventually contributed to its undoing.
Haiti's experience speaks to the resilience of the African people in times of extreme, unfathomable hardship.
Now I sit at home in front of the TV, wondering if my $50 is enough. Knowing that there is much work to do. Seeing my people, bodies piled high, suffering from this tragedy. Hearing the broken French on the TV. Watching dark skin marred with white dust and red blood try to make sense of it all. I heard what Presidents Bush and Clinton said to our nation today during their press conference--the best way to help is to send money. We are doing everything we can.
The hardest part for me is knowing that I can't be there. We have work to do here. There are people here who need us. I knew that on September 11--I had to stay put and keep serving--and I know that now, too. But that doesn't make it any easier.
And so I say this prayer for Haiti from Psalm 46, which comforted me then, and comforts me now: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult... ‘Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.’ The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge."