A letter from Cindy Corell in the U.S., on Interpretation Assignment from Haiti
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Blog: A Journey Across Haiti
The trouble, and I mean a quite lovely trouble, with mission work is that you always are missing home. And, of course, the opposite is true: When you accompany others in the “mission field,” you always are at home.
Right now I’m in my first home, my native Augusta County, Va. I traveled from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on May 12, in a tearful scene reminiscent of my May 25, 2013, departure from Virginia. I will return to my “other home” in October, happily to begin my second term as a facilitator with FONDAMA, our Joining Hands network there. So after three years, for the first extended time, I left my colleagues, friends, and friends who have become family to return to my family, U.S. friends and colleagues here.
Culture shock is a thing. And as it turns out, it can be a wonderful thing. The beauty of mission is that God immerses us in different cultures like a tea bag. We steep in the new community, diffusing who we are, and also drawing in the newness of life.
And learning! Oh, the learning. In three years I learned a new language, Haitian Creole, and every day something new about the culture of Haiti. This small nation is about one half of the island of Hispaniola, sharing the space with the Dominican Republic. The most remarkable part of its history is that as slaves the Haitians won their own freedom by defeating the French army.
The most commonly known part of its culture is its deep and long-standing poverty. And a huge part of my learning curve has been understanding how we as a U.S. church can make a difference in fighting that poverty.
Joining Hands is an initiative of the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP). We do things a little differently in PHP, most notably our approach to poverty alleviation. The first part of this is recognizing that is not our job to DO anything, other than closely study the issues facing the Haitian people, and ACCOMPANY them in determining next steps.
As a former journalist and brand-new mission co-worker, my challenge is to resist the urge to call out possible solutions, and rather listen to what our brothers and sisters in Haiti have to say.
Listening, I can tell you, is an active verb!
In these three years our Haitian network, FONDAMA, has made great strides. Among the root causes of the country’s dire poverty is the impact of foreign food imports. In the 1980s the U.S. strong-armed the Haitian government to lower tariffs on imports, making it profitable and easy to drop in rice and other foods. With U.S. rice so easily available and much cheaper, many Haitian rice producers went out of business. This trend has continued with other foods as well.
FONDAMA is putting into place its campaign against food imports, as well as training its 11 farmers’ organizations in advocacy.
While the FONDAMA leadership has worked hard to develop its campaign, I have traveled the country meeting with farmers and community members, listening and learning. I also have hosted about a dozen delegations from U.S. churches and a seminary, introducing them to our brothers and sisters as well as this concept of accompaniment as advocacy.
There has been a lot of learning going on among us all. And through it all, I’ve made deep friendships in Haiti.
Fast-forward three years, and I am back in the U.S. sharing that history, culture and the great faith of the Haitian people with Presbyterians.
What a journey, and what a blessing.
A large part of each message I convey in churches and before groups is my everlasting gratitude to all who have contributed to my support in this journey. You might know that the Presbyterian Mission Agency has struggled over the past several years to raise the funds for mission co-workers like myself. Funding has been tight, but thanks to the great response from churches and their dedicated members, our work will continue.
Both personally and on behalf of our Joining Hands network in Haiti, I thank all of you for continuing the faithful partnership that makes this mission possible. And I invite you to participate with us. I will post my schedule of presentations and church visits on my blog: thelongwayhomeblog.org.
I also invite you to join or continue the support of our work in Haiti, to consider a journey to see our work in person, and most important, to pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti as they do the hard work of fighting poverty, inviting us always to walk by their sides in solidarity.
I am missing my Haiti home these days, but I am so glad to bring their stories to yours.
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