Saturday, June 09, 2012

Rolling Beads, gluing together lives

When we arrived in Haiti almost three weeks ago, the first thing I was eager to do was meet with the artisans of our Haitian Bead Project. For the last 10 months I have been marketing and selling the jewelry in the United States. I was excited to see how God's provision for these ladies was changing lives.

I saw some of the artisans in the streets of Pignon as we drove in. They greeted me with shy grins and some enthusiastic waves.

I asked if we could all gather so I could connect with them and start teaching some new products we could sell. Our first meeting was not as glamorous as I expected. I discovered there were some issues of jealousy among some of the women that I had to deal with right away. It grieved my heart to see some of them fighting. I returned to our house that night in a serious slump.

I prayed. Oh I prayed.

I am thankful for many friends from California all the way to Haiti who have joined me in covering this project in prayer as well. I have seen some amazing healing in relationships in the last few weeks.

I have watched some of the women begin to work together across generations. This rebuilding is vital right now as respect for the elder seems to be deteriorating in Haitian culture.

On one afternoon I asked the women to express one word of thanksgiving. They could choose something large or small - naming a gift from God. They shared gratitude and it broke through some of the edginess.

One of the women who had been instigating a lot of the fighting and always seemed to greet me with a scowl even showed a change of heart. She quietly expressed how thankful she was for me. I was shocked.

We looked at the story of Jesus turning one small boy's lunch into a feast for 5,000. Before Jesus performed this miracle, he took time to thank God. We, too, thanked God as a group and prayed for miracles to happen through our project.

I know our issues with fighting and jealousy are not over. I also know these issues are not unique to this culture. These women have been struggling to survive and care for their children for a long time. It's naive of me to think moving from relief to development of people and attitudes will happen overnight. I do know God is in the business of redeeming and healing relationships.

We have been reading a powerful book called, When Helping Hurts. I happened upon a profound quote soon after I arrived. Corbett & Fikkert write: "Reconciling relationships is the essence of poverty alleviation."

Now I'm adjusting my perspective. It's tempting to measure something like our Haitian Bead Project in terms of material success - how much we sell, how much money is made. But I was reminded this week that if I am to be a vessel in the business of poverty alleviation it means trudging through the hard, human tendencies to a place where relationships are restored and community among these women is fostered.

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