In my previous article I spoke of a 15-day trip to Haiti. My family and I have accepted the calling of adopting four wonderful children from Haiti. My wife calls them our “Haitian Sensations.” The government requires a 15-day socialization trip they call a “bonding trip.” During this time you meet your children and spend time with them each day as well as participating in a scheduled interview with a social worker.
This can be overwhelming for some as there is a substantial language barrier. How can you bond in 15 days under such circumstances? Very few Haitians speak English, so a translator must be present for every meeting and when there isn’t one you do the best you can with your handy language guide and Google Translate. Communication barriers are a very real struggle in Haiti. However, it’s not just in Haiti either.
We struggle to communicate with each other every day. I don’t always listen well to or prioritize the daily events my wife tells me. She sometimes misses items on a calendar. Often we misunderstand the others’ intent or meaning. It happens. That’s life. However, it’s one we need to confront as many people have been damaged because of an inability to simply understand each other.
My wife and at-home-children just returned from another trip to Haiti to visit our Haitian children. It was my son and daughter’s first time to meeting their brother and sisters and first trip to Haiti. My son’s biggest concern about traveling was not being able to talk to them. He discovered the same thing I discovered in my time there. There are other ways to communicate without talking. However, it means putting yourself aside and engaging in ways with others that may not be your ideal.
When we set ourselves aside is when we truly begin to experience the love and joy of community. To “love others as yourself,” as was the command of Jesus, is an act of selflessness but not without reward. When we set aside our notions of what should be and begin to truly listen and learn about others is when we will find complete joy. The shared experiences will grow and the awkward tensions decrease and new vibrant connection will begin to form. As I just shared with our students, it takes a certain level of bravery to choose to set aside what you think is right and truly listen and learn. I know little about soccer, nor care, but it is my oldest son’s favorite sport. So, I played soccer. Even in a time and place where, I, a Midwest grown man with an aversion to soccer, heat, and humidity, was out of my ideal. Why? Because it was the only way I could show my Haitian Creole speaking son I loved and accepted him.
Like all things, we have a tendency to come into any situation or relationship with an agenda that we think is right or feeds a need we have within ourselves, but to truly experience the joy of the church we have to stand face-to-face with others in complete humility and desiring what is best for the individual across from us. It is a completely freeing experience to look into the eye of someone with no assumption, no agenda, and no distrust in order to simply listen and learn how to love them best. It may seem impossible to bond to each other when there are so many barriers but once we see the barriers are mostly created by us it is easier to set them aside in order to love well.
“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” - 2 John 1:12.