Hello everyone. Karen here. I want to share two things with you on the HATS blog. One was written by Catherine Gutjahr as a message to share with her congregation in church in Springdale, Newfoundland, after a visit to us at HATS with my brother Don Huxter, as team leader. The second is a poem written by Don called “The Haitian Smile”. Both are very meaningful and I think should be shared. God bless you.
Searching for the Hidden Treasure
By: Catherine Gutjahr
June 10, 2012
Prepared for Sunday Reflection at Grace United Church, Springdale
The scripture passage that I choose for us today is Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy goes and sell all that he has and buys the field”.
The passage came to mind as I watched each day a man outside of Karen’s orphanage cultivate a piece of land about the size of two football fields. The man worked from sunrise to sunset in the sweltering Haitian sun to till the soil with only a hoe. There was no diesel fueled tractor, no horse pulled plow, there wasn’t even a work buddy to give the man’s back a break once and awhile. But instead in a large field, there was simply one man, one hoe and an endless grassy muddy land that required tilling.
|The field next to HATS being hand tilled by the man|
|Tilling the huge field next to Karen’s place|
And I didn’t have to work the hoe to imagine that the work that the man doing was excruciating difficult, excruciating endless, excruciating mind-numbing. Just by sitting on Karen’s steps overlooking the field I only had to observe and imagine that the man’s labour was agonizing painful.
And as I watched… and as I reflected, I considered the scripture passage about the treasure hidden in field and I wondered… what treasures where hidden in the field that the man was cultivating? What pearl might this man be seeking?
Survival I imagined… I imagined that this man was seeking survival for himself, survival for his family.
And then I wondered if mere survival was this man’s pearl, why then did he have to labour so very hard the sweltering Haitian sun in search for something as basic to many of us as survival.
And the more I thought about this pearl called survival I wondered… is this the vision of God‘s great kingdom that we all shall survive?
Is the treasure in the field meant to be that each one of us has enough food to eat? Is the treasure in the field meant to be that each one of us has enough water to drink, enough warm safe places to sleep…?.
In other words is food, water and shelter the treasured pearl that speaks of God’s kingdom?
Maybe…. but if survival is the pearl that speaks of God’s kingdom then isn’t the kingdom already here?
Well at least for some of us in the world who have enough food water and shelter to survive.
She too appears to be searching for the treasure hidden in the field.
Just like the man who I watched tilled the field in order to feed himself and his family, Karen clearly seemed to be tilling a field in order to feed the forgotten Children in God’s families.
Actually Karen efforts have gone beyond tilling, she has moved boulders; earth size…. government size… multinational-systematic-injustice size boulders. And she has moved them with as much back breaking determination as the man who I watched till the field.
With her orphanage and school Karen has figuratively speaking, picked up the hoe, and bent over from sunrise to sundown to turn the Haitian soil.
But it is even more then tilling that has gone on for Karen. After turning and cultivating Karen has planted; she has planted love for the children, she has planted education for 250 young people who would not have received a good education and by doing so she has planted empowerment.
And it is because she has planted, love, education and empowerment that Karen has not only been able to feed a few of God’s children but she has planted crops that that has the ability to feed many of God’s children.
By providing a nurturing stable home and schooling, Karen has not only given survival to the children in her care but rather with attention to love and knowledge Karen has empowered God’s children so that one day they may then go out into the world with treasures of their own to love, educate and empower other Haitian children.
And so it seemed to me for Karen the treasures that might be found in the field is not only survival for one man and his family, but it includes empowering and equipping the children of God’s family to take an active part in enabling the kingdom for the future of God’s children.
And so I thought about this for a bit…. and I wondered… is the treasure in the field meant to be that each one of us has enough love, education and empowerment to share it with others? Is the hidden pearl that each one of us has enough love in our lives that we are able to reach out and love others in God’s family?
Don’t you and I have enough love to share?
Then I thought about Don and his reflection that we just heard “The Haitian Smile”.
I thought about the people of Haiti and their freedom from slavery….
I thought about governments, like the French government, the US government and our own government. I thought about how privileged nations have taken from Haiti, and how the land, the people and the resources have been used for the benefit of a few while leaving so many people in Haiti poor.
I reflected on how education and empowerment has been withheld from many of the people in Haiti. How so many Haitians, like the man in the field, have to struggle just to survive because of a long history of abuse from the international community?
I considered prejudice; racial prejudice, religious prejudice, gender prejudice.
I thought about people being disempowered…. controlled and held in poverty by worldwide systems of trade and discrimination.
I thought about free trade and multinational profits. I reflected on inexpensive food that I’m able to buy each day at the local grocery story and the fact that much of the good that I use comes from countries like Haiti yet the profits don’t stay in these countries. I considered selfishness, and greed, and fear that there might not be enough food, water and shelter for all of God’s children.
I thought about it all …..
I even reflected on my own actions, and how the life that I live here as a privileged Canadian harms people in Haiti in ways that I’m not even aware of.
I thought about my own presence at Karen’s orphanage in Haiti and what message it was sending to the people who lived there about my privileges.
And I considered discrimination based on race so entrenched that we can’t even see it.
And I wondered…. if we could only change the systems that control and hold others in poverty, would that not be the treasure in the field?
Might the pearl that is hidden be that the systems of injustice be uncovered and overturned?
Is the kingdom of God that Jesus is talking about in the parable we heard today concerning hidden treasures in a field about eradicating unfair, unjust practices that hold so many of God’s people in poverty? Is the kingdom of God about you and I changing the way we think and the way we live so that all may survive?
And if it is, isn’t the kingdom already here…..?
The Haitian Smile
by Don Huxter
Oh, Haiti! Ayiti! Land of beauty
What an honour for the opportunity,
To see your land with its different shapes,
From your highest mountains to sea scapes.
As the sun brings warmth to your plants and soil,
It brings that wonderful warmth to that Haitian smile.
That smile has persisted throughout much adversity,
And it deserves to outlast eternity.
Haiti was once the wealthiest land in the western hemisphere,
But those benefits went to France through repression and fear.
Brutal slavery created enormous fortunes back then,
But that was for France, not those in ‘slavery’ land.
Those slaves being nine-tenths of the colony’s population
Endured a 12 – year revolt that produced a new “nation”.
Haiti became the first black nation – but its independence wasn’t a ‘hit’
With other “slave” using countries; who blockaded, and invaded Haiti , as they saw fit.
Though Haiti won its independence over 200 years ago,
Other countries, especially France, dealt it many a devastating blow.
Haiti wasn’t given its official status, couldn’t fulfil its destiny,
Internationally taken advantage of by many another country.
Haiti finally had to agree to unfair terms to France,
Which for over 120 years kept poverty entrenched.
Its forests and fields were ravaged for Europe’s economic gain,
A historic wrongful debt that deepened the Nation’s pain.
Another external interference that produced a festering lesion,
Was the twenty years of U.S. invasion and occupation.
In 1934 when the U.S. Marines finally left,
Haiti had been ravaged again with this type of foreign conquest.
After the U.S. troops pulled out, it wasn’t freedom then.
The U.S. manipulated Haitian laws and Presidents favorable to them.
They often handled Haitians with the lowest forms of racism,
And other countries’ mockery of Haiti was an often theme.
Civil unrest often occurred as rural Haiti tried
To own its own country and to show its pride
In the ambitions of its founders who died for independence,
And not to be smothered in terror by foreign interference.
Perhaps some Haitian leaders were influenced by such foreign rule,
And thought their stay in office could be lengthened by being cruel.
For example two dictatorships that covered many years,
Took control of rural Haiti again by repression, terror, and fears.
There was a decade when large numbers of Haitians left
To escape from their own dictators who ruled with an iron fist.
They tried to make a living where ever outward they did fan;
Their bodies worked mechanically, their hearts still in their native land.
Yes, over 200 years ago, Haiti changed the course of history,
Overcoming slavery, being a beacon for humanity!
And the International Community should have honored their decision
And given Haitians the chance to confirm their vision.
Yes, within a brutal plantation system in every community,
They dreamed and died earning the right for freedom, equality and autonomy.
The devastations from internal conflict and external intervention
Haven’t stopped the ability to resist and survive in each new generation.
Yes, Haitians have survived: slavery, international bullying and invasions,
External mockery, racism, and rural dispossessions;
Massacres, genocide, and insurrection; poverty, and cruelties beyond description.
Floods, mudslides, and hurricanes; 2010 Earthquake, cholera… How deep the Nations pains ?!
Yes, the Haitian smile can remind many bigger, richer countries,
Of their overexaggerating many lesser difficulties.
A smile that indicates a deep inner strength,
A symbolic gold medal of a nation’s endurance.
Yes, a resilient Nation, though having been fully victimized,
Nothing has conquered that smile or the twinkle of the Haitian eyes!
Haiti, we hope your ancestral aspirations successfully continue.
Haiti (Ayiti), we honour and salute you.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In honor and pride of our NL HATS-Haiti Team April 30 – May 7, 2012.
(Jennifer, Jocelyn, Robyn, Alycia, Melissa, Catherine, Brittany, Emma, Julie, Don )
In preparation for our trip to Haiti I’d been sending emails, some quite long, to our Team members. I wanted to send some about Haitian history, but thought I’d try to summarize some events for our busy Team mates in this different way above, that of a brief ‘ verses ‘ look into some windows of Haitian history. The focus is on the general populaton / country, with no leaders, battles, etc. named. The first two verses and the last two verses are from my own thoughts. The other verses are based mainly on a book titled “Haiti – The Aftershocks of History ” by Laurent Dubois, 2012. Thank you Catherine (Gutjahr) for finding this book for us. Thank you Jim (Steer) for helping in format and typing. Further, may I express thanks all those who have supported HATS and Haiti in any way.
If we should suspect some crowd or neighbouring animosity,
Would it be fair for us to question their generosity ?
Are we the only ones generous – we may be able to give,
While others may be trying desperately to survive and live.
If we see a confrontation, there’s at least two sides,
And perhaps too often our quick conclusion over rides
Our judgement – how often have we had a parent’s pressure for a “goud” **
When our children’s empty bellies are crying out for food ?
Some peoples may be poorer in material possessions,
But in dignity and pride can pass along some lessons.
Continually hoping every day that their efforts will suffice.
“ Give us this day our daily bread / rice ” .
** ” goud ” Haitian currency / money (Creole) – rhymes with food.
Best wishes. Don H.