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  • Laura MacNeil Smith

Finding Family

The past two months here in Haiti have been interesting, to say the least. It felt like one minute, we were celebrating the lightness of summer and visits from family that we so look forward to every year, and the next a cloud of darkness and insecurity covered our city. Problems in the country that have been ignored and swept under the rug for the past year bubbled to the surface and the general population has had enough. No gas. No school. No president. No security, as one Haitian news outlet posted.

To be brutally honest, it’s been hard. But that is a story for another time. This is the story of everyday heroes, a story of community in full—showing up for one another no matter what. In August, Matthew went to the states for his yearly doctor’s appointments, fundraising and visits to family, while me, Gideon & the rest of the CAMP crew held down the fort here in Haiti. We had just finished an awesome week with my parents and Matthew had just started his trip when the protests and lockdown in our city started. Though conditions were extremely difficult, none of us anticipated a country wide lockdown, where roads were open 2-3 days a week, and blocked in protest the other 4-5. It was (and continues to be) stressful. There were many times I found myself crying out to God (or simply just crying) and a little unsure of what to do.

Time and time again, it was usually one of the members of our community, who would show up with such kindness and compassion.

Like my neighbor who saw me struggling to pick up a money transfer at our local western union, as their signal wasn’t working. I had almost run out of cash and it was the third time I had tried to pick up the money that week, but with the current gas shortage, cell service and internet signals have been down often. As the clerks were beginning to turn people away again, my neighbor came forward beside me and took charge of the situation. He told them to keep trying. He made a lot of phone calls, wouldn’t take no for an answer and although I’m not quite sure how, he managed to get the signal working.

It was Roossevelt, who helped me navigate the back roads as we got stuck behind the wrong side of a roadblock coming home from prison one day—not to mention the countless times he, Titon, Blanco and Adolpho helped me lead our programs, even with a lot of last minute changes.

It was the hugs and jokes and “everything will be alright” as I struggled with the disappointment of Matthew’s return flight being cancelled. Not once, not twice, but three times. Or friends from Bible Study who jokingly offered to pick Matthew up in a boat if we couldn’t pass on the roads to get home. After we had a good laugh about it, they made sure I knew they were very very serious.

The Lord used each and every one of these situations, and a few more, to remind me that I am right where I’m supposed to be. There’s an old Haitian proverb that says “Vwazinaj se fanmi” --Neighbors are family. If there’s one thing I learned during those difficult weeks, it’s that that couldn't be more true. When I think of our community, I think of family.

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