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Gospel Truth.
Sustainable Help.

A Cry for Help

Yesterday I saw a video I regretted, but I think I needed to see it. I also believe people around the world should see it as well, especially Haitians who are living outside of Haiti. For the past 15 months, the debate in Haiti and outside of Haiti has been about whether they want foreign countries to come to help them with the gangs. This topic divides many Haitian households. I can understand both sides of the argument. Some of them do not want countries like the U.S., Canada, and France to come to their aid. The reason is obvious; these countries in the past acted like they were helping Haiti but ended up hurting them. For example, most Haitian believe that the U.S. always intervenes during elections. Being in Haiti during the riot in March 2022 made clear to me how much some Haitian hate it when the U.S. gets involved. This was when they broke into the airport we were flying from and burned down the plane. My team and I got tear gas!

my team with toothpaste on their faces to help with tear gas

While escaping the chaos with a group of people who were part of the riot, they were telling us how much they hated what was going on, and they were talking about U.S. involvement. I had to be careful with my words because I did not want to say anything that would upset them. I also did not want them to know my team had three Americans and a Canadian. I shared my story of being raised in poverty, going into an orphanage for five years, getting adopted, and then moving to the United States. I told them that God had blessed me and got me out of poverty and now called me to come and help. I demonstrated what we do in Haiti, and they were amazed. They said that Mercy was doing a great job in Haiti and wished more organizations would do things as we do. I was calm and felt safe! The relationship with France had always been shaky since the Haitian army defeated them to gain independence in 1804. After defeating the French, Haiti had to pay them between 112-115 million francs for about 70 years. Imagine the U.S. paying the British after beating them. As for Canada, I don’t know what they have done, but they are always in the mix of nations Haiti does not want their help. The opposite side of this argument is the people who think that Haiti needs foreign help. I completely understand the people who do not want help. My issue with that is, for how long? I am on board with the side that believes Haiti needs foreign help.

Let me be clear; I do not want an invasion! I want help to stop the gangs. The video I saw yesterday had people running from bullets. All I could see were people with all their belongings they could get their hands on and a backpack. I could hear them cry and some screaming “Anmwey,” which means in that context, to convey pain or expression of pain they can’t fully express. What broke my heart in the video was seeing a mother carrying her two little boys, one in each hand. One of her arms got tired, so she sat one down and picked him back up after hearing another gunshot. She was a tiny lady, but her strength to carry those boys amazed me. I hate that I am writing this because I have to fight the tears, but I must write this. If I don’t, I will explode and scream in my car. My wife asked me what was wrong yesterday, but I did not have the strength to tell her. I never want to imagine her going through that much pain and suffering. Unfortunately, this is the level of pain these people are experiencing in Haiti.

During my trip to Haiti last November, I met many people in the southern region who moved back because of gangs.

They told us the gangs came and took their homes and everything they had.

They even burn down some houses for no reason, just because they could. I don’t see how Haitians living in the U.S. can say Haiti does not need help. Especially the ones who have not been to Haiti for the past 20 years or even the past 10 years. How can Haiti figure it out? How many need to die before enough is enough? Truth be told, I go to bed sometime thinking I will get a phone call soon telling me that my mom or one of my sisters has been shot. It is scary to think that, but I don’t have a choice because it can happen. I try my best not to be fearful, but it gets the best of me sometimes. I hate that I can’t do anything to stop the gangs. I hate that I can’t take the pain and suffering away from these people. I hate seeing my nation always in turmoil. God is the only one that gives me hope when thinking of Haiti. I am trying to convince myself that something will change soon, but it is not happening. Like they say in Haiti, “Jezi, di yon mo pou nou”. Jesus, say a word for us.

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She has been around Mercy International for a long time and is a great friend of the organization. Her house got damaged in the last earthquake in August of 2021, and she needed help to put it back together. During my last trip, we had planned to go to her house to see how we could help her. When we got there, she was extremely grateful for us to be there. We told her that we were going to help repair her home!

I have seen people excited about things before, but I have never seen anyone as excited as this lady about to get the help she needed for her house. She was dancing with joy! It reminds me of David when he was dancing with joy when the Lord provided for him or protected him from his enemies. She was overwhelmed! She kept repeating, “The Lord has been good to me. I have been praying for someone to come help me and the Lord has sent help. See, therefore we pray to the Lord. He listens to our needs.” After she was jumping up and down, she said, “I don’t have money to give you, but what I do have are my prayers. I may not have things to give, but when I get in front of my Lord, I can pray for anything and anyone. I always pray for you; I pray for your safety and protection. I always have my prayers!” We left her house to go see where her sister lives, and when we were done seeing her sister’s house, I saw her running down the street with something in her hand. So, I took out my phone to take a video. I saw her with a bag in her hand and she was smiling! When she got to the car, our driver told me she had run to get us some beans. I was shocked because this is the same woman who said she had nothing to give us. But now, she probably gave us the last amount of food she may have left in her house. The thing is, we had to take it from her because if we did not, it is a sign of disrespect in Haiti. Especially in the provinces, they don’t take that lightly.

Serving the people of Haiti has been such a blessing for me and my family. The many blessings I have received is beyond my understanding. Money cannot buy the connection that I have with the people in Haiti. My family is also on the receiving end because I get to go home and share these amazing stories with my wife and my baby girl. The gratefulness of the Haitian people continues to teach my family how to be humble, how to cherish everything that we have, and most importantly, how God always answers the prayers of his children.

“But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you; this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12: 42-44

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Updated: Sep 30, 2022

There are so many times in life when we miss the big little things that are going on around us. I said “big little things” because they are little, but the impact they can have on our lives, or someone else’s life, can be very big. These things were meant to be big, but since we see them in everyday life, they become normal. But that is not how it was supposed to be. When we get used to a dark house, whenever we go to someone else’s house, we expect it to be dark, too. That is because we are so used to it, and we like things to stay the same. During my last trip to Haiti, I sat in the car waiting for the driver to come back from the market place. As I sat there waiting for him, there were all types of people passing by. Some of them stopped to try to get me to buy things; some stopped, begging for money. The children from the street came by to ask if they could wipe the car for a dollar or two – I’m talking Haitian dollar, and that’s like 22 cents in the US. The same thing kept on happening over and over

again, but I felt like there was nothing that I could do. If I gave money to one person, then the other people would have come back to me. Sadly, there was no way I could have taken care of everyone. This kept happening over and over again. Though it was very stressful for me, it was not a big deal for the people there – because it’s normal. It’s what they see every day. They have been seeing people beg for years, they’d seen people ask to wipe the cars for years, and they have seen people sell little things to make small profits for years. I, myself, was born into this poverty. Unfortunately, that’s the only way they know to live. They don’t know any better. Actually it’s not that they don’t know any better. They just don’t have better choices, and that IS street life in Haiti.

I don’t know as much about the street life here in the United States, because I have never experienced it here – but I have in Haiti. One thing I do know, it is not the same street life as the one in Haiti. Most people in Haiti are on the street because they have to be. Otherwise, their children will be going to bed hungry. In a country where the high school graduation rate is 5%, what else do you have? Street life is all about being a hustler. You hustle to be at the perfect spot to sell your merchandise. You hustle by running after a car to sell something, after it has passed by. Most importantly, you hustle so the children can eat and go to school. I am sure, in some cases, it is the same here. But the differences are that we have a great education system, compared to the one in Haiti, as well as greater opportunities. Since they don’t have those opportunities, most have to leave home at 6:00 a.m. and come back at 10:00 p.m. Tragically, even working fourteen hour days, they only make a 4% profit. Had things been different, maybe I would have never seen my mother sitting on the side of the street selling things. She would have a small towel to wipe sweat from her face, after sitting in 100 degree weather day after day. The saddest part for me was looking at her at night. She was so exhausted by the time she got home. I could see the despair in her face. She had no choice but to go back out there the next day, because she loved us. Mother never wanted to tell us how she felt after working all day, but it was clear to me that she was struggling. Sometimes when we asked her for things, she would shake her head in sorrow, because she could not afford it. Imagine working for more than 50 hours a week and not being able to afford something that cost $10! All the money you made would automatically go to food and buying more merchandise to sell. That is no way to live! I remember my aunt waking me up early in the morning. She needed me to buy bread from the bakery for her to sell. She had a little business at her house, and I was the person who went to buy supplies. I not only lived the life, but I was also contributing to it at a young age. I was supposed to be in school, but we couldn’t afford it. I had to help sell things. This is how so many people end up selling on the streets, because that’s the best way for them to survive. Once you start at a young age, you stay there because you are making money. There is no health care, welfare or retirement, so the race goes until death. In reality, there’s no finish line! It’s a death race!

As we drove pass the street markets last month, I was very sad. I kept seeing people working so hard, but they were not going anywhere. I started praying and saying to God, “Is there no hope for Haiti? Are they going to live like this forever?” While saying that prayer, I saw a pregnant lady across the street. I lost it after that! Tears started coming out and I tried to hide it. For some reason, my companions in the car noticed that I was quiet for a while. I guess I have lost hope for their futures because I’ve seen them go nowhere in life. But the surprising thing is that they have not lost hope. How could that be? They are the ones living in it! Are they too blind to see how bad it is? Maybe they do see it. Maybe they understand it more than I realize. Maybe it just comes down to the fact that they don’t have choices. In Haiti, to survive you’ve gotta hit the streets!

Please consider making an end-of-the-summer donation to Mercy International, earmarked ” Feed a Family”. In addition, please visit “Mercy’s Threads: Sowing Hope in Haiti” on Facebook, to support our Haitian cottage industry.

“But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.” 2 Chronicles 15:7

(Kenlley Leyendeckers is a Haitian native, who was adopted by American parents at the age of thirteen. As a young boy, living in an orphanage there, he had met missionaries who inspired a growing vision within him. He knew he wanted to help bring hope to the children around him. The 2010 Earthquake precipitated his father’s going to Haiti to escort him to America. He quickly adapted to the American language and culture, graduating from high school and attending college. He is now the associate director of Mercy International.)

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