When Help One Now invited me to Haiti as part of a storytellers trip, I wanted to say no.
I wanted to say no because I was afraid of poverty, and I was afraid of my heart breaking. I wanted to say no because it was inconvenient, and I was reluctant to leave my tinies. And I wanted to say no because I’ve had an aversion to the whole blogger trip phenomenon. After all, I spent years avoiding mission trips – quite a notable feat for a woman married to a former missionary to Mexico and a youth pastor. “Oh, I have to work,” excusing myself, which was true, but I also thought Mexico hardly needed one more group of rich North Americans performing mime on their street corners, and the money spent going would be better spent in the hands of on-the-ground community development. Mission trips seemed more like a yearning for travel and adventure cloaked in pious language.
“We’ll spend four days painting rooms in an orphanage, and then we’ll go shopping and hang out on the beach! We’re suffering for Jesus! Let’s get matching t-shirts! It’ll be so rad.”
The western world, including churches, have a habit of showing up in developing countries with a lot of zeal and good intentions that ultimately end up hurting or crippling complex societies, and then wounding precious people through inadvertent ignorance. I had learned how helping can hurt, and I didn’t want to hurt Haiti economically, or relationally. I wasn’t interested in tidy, simple narratives for the purpose of raising money.
I cringed at the thought of trotting Haitians out as props for fundraising. The phrase “poverty tourism” revolted me. It was easier and safer to do, well, nothing than it was to risk hurting any one or accidentally set foot into colonialism.
Yet I couldn’t seem to say no to going to Haiti.