Haiti 1I came back from Haiti with some blister-like thingies on the plant of my left foot. I immediately knew what caused it and it was not mosquitos or a tight pair of unbroken in shoes. It was my own fault. I am usually very disciplined about this — don’t go out on the streets wearing flip flaps, I always tell myself. But for some reason, on my last morning there, I did just that and walked around a swampy area behind a church building where I am sure all sort of bacteria finds a warm home. I saw chicken, pigs, dogs, etc. walking around so I am sure I carried a foreign agent back with me. Glad the German Shepherds at the Miami Airport didn’t spot that!

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Now, you have to understand something about me: I am somewhat of a hopeless germophobe.  I’ve gotten better over the years, but I’m a long way from being cured. I don’t even like to touch my own food, I am not a big fan of “sharing” from the same plate and if somebody, and I mean anybody, takes a sip from my drink, that’s it — I ain’t touching it anymore. So I am bad. Pray for me.

With that little piece of TMI, you can imagine my reaction at 3:30 in the morning when I felt those little bumps on my foot. Yes, if you suspected it, you got it right — I called my wife right away! “Don’t touch it!” She exclaimed, “it’s contagious.” From a true germophobe to another! Nice.

I started thinking about people I know who got stuff like this when they were overseas and it turned into a bigger mess than they had anticipated with lots of visits to doctors, trying different medicines and dealing with lots of pain. I wonder if I should go to the urgent care, like right now. I tried to remember if I had topic antibiotic in the house and if the athletes foot cream I saw in a cabin somewhere would do any good.

Haiti 3Then it hit me. Here I was, less than 24 hours removed from this place I had visited, a place ridden with diseases, trash, contaminated water from a canal that serves as a repository from any and all kinds of waste, and yet that’s the place thousands of people call “home.” In fact, I had been with the little kids on the streets who had laughed with me (and at me), calling me “blank” “white man,” making fun of my attempts to speak Creole and generally acting like children in any other part of the world.

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Except, they aren’t. The reality is, these children’s parents do not have the luxury of being germophobe. There is no urgent care facility to take them to when real emergencies struck in the middle of the night. There are no playgrounds. In fact, I saw two little kids on the edge of the canal poking at some fetid plastic bag in the water. I don’t think they were trying to retrieve anything, they were just playing, though I don’t know what the game was. Maybe just a pass the time game.

Haiti 5After I came back to my senses, I realized that though having these “blisters” on my foot is a bit of an inconvenience (and trust me, I’ve already started treating it and want to get rid of it as soon as possible), in one way, it’s like the perfect “souvenir” to bring home, if you want to bring home something that will remind you of the daily plight of the poorest of the poor around the world. I know it’s a different perspective, even a foreign one, but if God, using an experience caused by my own carelessness, desires to stamp me temporarily with the trademark of those who are trapped in a world of enemies lurking in unexpected places, how dare I not accept this infinitely small trial and try to reflect on it from God’s perspective?

Look, I know it’s Christmas and we want to lift ourselves up from the fog of war and the fear of other types of dangerous foreign agents, but believe it or not, to me this is a story that has the elements of a tsunami-like positive force to help me change my focus this Christmas.

Haiti 6So instead of focusing on myself and spending on myself, I will endeavor to bring into a sharper focus the needs of people like the ones I just met on those narrow streets of Cap Haïtien, surrounded by dangers they cannot escape from and yet exhibiting the kind of resilience that I would be blessed to have even to deal with some blisters on my foot, not to speak of the real challenges that lie there in the days ahead.

 So I want to encourage you strongly to give to “the least of these” to use the words of Jesus in Matthew 25, by helping organizations such as Water for Good, World Vision, Hope International, G.R.O.W., CPR-3, Three Strands. These folks, among others, know how to help people in their countries of origin, without creating unhealthy habits of dependence.For those of you who are part of Grace Church, please remember “Birthday Gift for Jesus,” our effort to give to orphans in the CAR and to our new campus in Lancaster.

Think beyond yourself. Give smartly. Spread the word. Embrace your “blisters.”

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade
Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

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