The situation in Haiti reminds me of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The location and people are different, but the world is responding in similar ways. Aid is going in from all over. Within days we’ve heard of celebrities who have donated millions of dollars and of relief workers flying in. People are trying to organize chaos as best they can. And media is great in this sense because the whole world is aware of what is going on. With a click of a button, I can donate to so many different organizations.
In 2005 I had the opportunity to be part of a short-term mission team that served in a tsunami relief camp in Thailand. On our day off, a few team members and I decided to take pictures along one of the beaches where the tsunami had made its presence. I saw suitcases that were burst open—clothes, shoes, unopened wine bottles and shattered glasses. A wrecked car and motorbike were still on the beach even months after the horror. Hotels were being gutted out for reconstruction. I started snapping away with my camera but stopped shortly after I noticed a withered tree to my right—standing as if it were alive, but really dead. It was completely bare, without leaves or fruit. It took up space on the beach but served no real purpose. I couldn’t help but stare at the tree. This image reminded me of the victims who were still alive. They were moving, eating, sleeping, and going about their day-to-day business in order to get back to normalcy but deep inside, they were walking around dead—they were so hurt. Everything had been stripped away from them. With a tin roof over their heads, families were living in tiny rooms, separated from the next family by a thin wall. If they were only physically damaged, the entire aid in the world could cure their pain. Trust me, I saw a lot of medicine, clothes, shoes, games, you name it—so many things were donated, so much so that I even saw a group burn piles and piles of clothes because they didn’t know what to do with them. But what they had gone through left cuts and bruises on their spirits.
There are organizations and groups of people doing amazing work right now in Haiti and I applaud them because they are acting as the hands and feet of mercy. It will take time and a lot of work, but when the people of Haiti get back on their feet and news cameras are focused on some other breaking news, that is when the Haitians will need to be clothed with more love and more hope; that will be the moment when their spirits will need to be watered even more.