GUEST POST BY: HUNTER KITTRELL (a.k.a. my love)
For those of you who do not know me well, I have been a missionary in Haiti for 2 years and 8 months. As one would expect, this has not been the easiest time in my life. The trials and hardships of working abroad are compounded here by the rampant poverty, corruption, and injustice that surround the people who inhabit this country.
There are many different stages that a missionary goes through as they work and live here. Not surprising, one of those stages is anger. Anger that comes in many different forms, and it is hard to put a finger on exactly what you are angry about. Is it the poverty? Is it the work that the devil is doing through Voodoo? Is it the lack of support from foreign churches, aid organizations, or Christians in general? Is God not doing anything about the problems here?
As for me, I have gone through most of those stages, but for some reason I have regressed as of late. I have found myself in the anger stage again. I heard a great sermon by a new missionary friend a couple of weeks ago about anger, and he put it into good terms for me. It is ok to be angry. Jesus was angry when he went to the temple and saw the people defiling his Father’s house. He turned tables over and chased them out with a whip of cords that he made (John 2:13-16). This anger could be called “righteous anger.” This is when we have anger towards something that God has anger towards. For example, God is angered by child slavery. If that also angers us, then there is no problem. In that situation though, we are not to sin in the midst of that anger. Jesus was angry at the temple, but he never sinned in his actions. We are to be the same way.
There is a very fine line though between this righteous anger and anger that includes sin, and if you are not careful, that righteous anger can turn into something harmful.
For me, at one time, I had righteous anger toward injustice that I saw around me. Most of that anger though I bottled up and did not release into a productive use of my energy. So lately, this bottled anger has been brewing and it has been seeping out onto my family. It has been hard for Jillian because I am not as happy as I used to be. Everything we say turns into an argument. I have lacked patience for my kids when they make mistakes. I am tired and angry about everything. Jillian has always asked me if I am praying about it, and I would say yes, but really, I have been too angry to talk to Him. Until eventually this problem grew too much and became out of control.
So, I really felt that I needed to get out of my anger slump and go a way for a couple of days… a retreat of sorts. I would go the minimalist route and only carry the essentials:
- A book- Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted (really…do not judge me for this…“You do not want to make me angry”)
- My camera- Canon 6D and assorted lenses
- One change of clothes to sleep in
- Travel size toiletries
- Plenty of paper and 2 pens
- A couple of flashlights
- A couple of knives (can never have to many of these)
- Some pink lemonade in a Nalgene (ok…really try not to judge me on that either)
- And of course a good friend- Gerome
I chose to go to La Victoire (pronounced La Vik-twa) for a couple of reasons. First, I knew the route, so I could not get lost. Second, I know that it is a beautiful place. And third, I knew it was quiet.
Let me share the story of my trip.
Sunday after church I strapped my gear to the back of my Lifan dirt bike (virtually a Honda) and I met Gerome at the main road.
We headed South towards Milot (pronounced Me-low), then cut off through Grand Riviè, Bahon, and Ranquite (pronounced Ron-keet). After two hours of humping mountains and crossing rivers, we rode past the big red Digicel welcome sign for La Victoire.
Locals stopped what they were doing to watch the blan (or white person) roll in on his big motorcycle. We made our way to the little orphanage that we would be staying at. It is much quieter than the one that I lived at for two and a half years. It only had seven children, and every one of them beautiful and shy in front of the big dusty white guy.
Gerome and I dusted off the dirt that had accumulated on us as we rode and got settled into our quarters.
The thatch and cement walled house that I was to stay in had three rooms and five people stayed within. If I were not there, I am sure that it would have been eight or nine at least. My lumpy mattress lay on a Haitian built metal frame and several t-shirts stuffed inside a pillowcase was where I would be sleeping.
Hungry and tired from the road, we gave our hostess the equivalent to $2.25 US to go make us some spaghetti. In the meantime, we got our showers from the cold water that was being pumped in from a large reservoir on the other side of the river (nearly half the town has running water due to this development project from some foreign aid organization).
Food was prepared and we sat down to eat.
Pleased that I was able to fill my belly with greasy, nearly tasteless spaghetti, I laid down to the sounds of children singing church songs by heart. Soon, their voices were drowned out by the serenading of the frogs and crickets hiding in the garden, just outside my door. The periodic barking of the two dogs let me know that they are on watch, and that all is well. Even with the small windows latched shut, the hut was cool, cool enough to sleep with a sheet. And I was out.
The next day I awoke refreshed and made my way down to the pit toilet that also doubled as a storage shed for someone’s tools. I did my business and found that the toilet paper was literally… paper. So I ripped a sheet from lil’ Jonny’s math notebook and wiped. The barrels of water outside were warm from the day before’s afternoon sun and I washed my face.
After a breakfast of scrambled eggs on hard blocks of bread, I spend time contemplating my life, reading my book (which was not that bad), and dreaming of getting to the river.
One of the locals that live at the orphanage took us down to the river. We traveled up the river, which everyone tells me that I was the first blan to ever do that (I do not know how true it is, but I like to think it is. Makes me feel like a true explorer or something…). God’s creation and beauty of His earth could be seen there. As we traversed the large volcanic formed rocks of blue, purple, and white, I could see the remnants of the violent birth of this planet long before humans. I could also see how this creation has been so fragile and how man has destroyed so much of the natural beauty. The steep eroding banks of the river are lined with small subsistence farms, few trees are at the water’s edge, and there seemed to be no life in the water. I saw more topless women washing cloths over their beat up old kivets (wash basins) and men shoveling river sand into five gallon buckets for the children to carry to the bank, than I did signs of life along the half mile stretch of river that we moved through. In the warm shallows there could sometimes be seen small schools of fish, 10 or 12 strong, that measured not even the size of my toes.
One of my highlights of the day was when Gerome, our guide, and I jumped into the basen (deeper pool) that ran between two large boulders. Six boys of different ages were swimming there as well. They generously shared their mangos and we ate with them. They found so much humor that the blan could hold his breath under water longer than all of the Haitians. They also laughed as I peeled my mango with my fingers and not my teeth. Of course they had been doing that since birth so it came natural to them.
As we exited the river, we marched up the steep dirt path that skirted the cactus fences protecting the fields of corn, bananas, and sugar cane. We pushed our way through a few stands of eight-foot high grass before arriving at the main road.
Rice, beans, and small fish were for lunch. We ate half of our food as to save the rest for dinner. And we rested.
That evening we made our way back down to the river. I wanted to get some nighttime shots of the river, and take a bath in the flowing water while I had the chance. In the small town, far removed from any other big cities, the stars could be seen more brilliantly than I had seen in a while. Satellites and shooting starts moved overhead as we quietly laid on the smooth curves of the river rocks. We decided to not stay too late because we wanted to get an early start the next morning. So, we swam a bit, bathed, and headed back up the to the house.
As I stumbled up the rocky eroded path with my dimming flashlight, I began to remember the love I had of hiking at nighttime in America. Carrying my tripod in hand and dry pants slung around my shoulders, I followed the little boys in front of me, past the men playing checkers in the solar powered street light, on to the corrugated sheet metal door with an electrical cord to tie it shut.
Once inside, I sat down to finish my rice and fish. The fast moving cockroaches and ants, on the walls and table, gave me full confidence that my food had not been contaminated since earlier that day (sarcasm). I ate by the light of the kerosene lamp that once again lit my room.
The next morning we got our gear strapped to the motos and we were off. We made the trip in one hour and 45 minutes.
Now that I am back, I am in a totally different mindset. The hours of prayer and meditation and fasting while on my trip have made all of the difference in my life. This trip was not the magical fix to all of my problems, but it was a good start. Since I have gotten back, I am happier, I help around the house more, and I am just in a better mood. I am speaking to God much more these days too.
Just because I am a missionary does not make me perfect. We struggle with problems just as much as anyone else. So I ask for your continued prayers as I turn my life around and as I attempt to live and love like Christ here in Haiti. Thanks.
To see more pictures from my trip, check out my BLOG!