I have to Believe

by Tara Livesay on July 2, 2014

photo

Sunday …

The chaos begins shortly before 7am.

Clothing, hair, and breakfast all seem to be reasons for little ones to fight.

By the time we leave the house we’ve traded terse words over things of little consequence.

We load up the kids, three crammed in back, three in the middle with whichever guest is riding with us. The remaining two adults sit in front.

Our commute is just under 8 miles start to finish.

Before we leave our neighborhood we pass George’s house. He runs a business in our neighborhood. His restavek is sweeping the street this bright sunny morning. Her eyes are sad. She waves and smiles as we drive by.

As we exit the gate at the entrance to our neighborhood a motorcycle driver gets into a fight with the gate man.  It seems they have a dispute to work out this Sunday morning.

We turn left to head down the road called Clercine.

At the first corner I see a woman who used to be in our program. I remember her. She is easy to remember. She needed food. She slept with a man for money. He gave her HIV and a baby. She bought food that day.  It cost her a lot.

At the second corner we stop for a red light. A boy and his younger sister knock on our window to tell us they are hungry.

A young man runs up to see if we need to buy bright purple windshield washer fluid. The furniture makers on the corner try to catch our eye. They wonder if we are chair shopping this Sunday morning.

The light turns green.  We weave in and out to avoid the biggest potholes. The small ones are everywhere; avoiding those would mean not going to church.

We come to the corner where all common sense seems to cease to exist. Like everyone around us we inch forward creating gridlock at the roundabout. Mack trucks and buses plow through faster.  But faster is a relative term. Horns blare and tempers flare.

We start up the hill.

On our left vendors selling their wares. On our right more of the same. There is a semi truck turning around in the middle of the narrow road. We all stop and wait while he makes his twenty-seven point turn. Passersby direct traffic as though they are in charge. A man waves for us to go. We are trapped. We cannot go. He seems not to notice. He keeps waving.

We pass a man dragging a block of ice the size of a suitcase across the filthy sidewalk. He will chip it apart with a pick and sell it piece by piece as it melts.

On our right we pass the new rebuilt police station, freshly painted and bright blue. The old one collapsed on January 12 in the year of the massive earthquake. A man stands at the beautiful blue wall chipping a hole into the brand new cement.

As we get to the bottom of the next hill we see a little boy, very young, sitting in the dirt and mud. No one else seems to see him there alone.

We pass the wall of brightly colored paintings of very angular and abstract looking people and places, they are for sale. We continue on.

On our left hundreds of tents and tarps with sticks are packed on a hillside. The sun beats down upon them.

As we turn off the uneven pavement onto a dirt road the size of the piles of trash increase.  Every so often a pile of trash is burning, pigs and dogs root around in the trash that is not on fire.

Black smoke fills the air.

Little girls in  lacy,fancy, frilly dresses with big ribbons in the hair walk by. They don’t seem to notice the thick air that hangs over them or the trash underneath them threatening to soil their white lace socks.

We turn again.

Not so long ago our friend saw a dead woman lying in the road we just passed.  If you touch the body, it becomes yours to dispose of so people pretend not to notice.  Dozens of people walk right by the  body. They pretend they don’t see it.

The car rocks back and forth as we near our destination and the road becomes extremely rough. We’ve been in the car for 35 minutes. My son says he feels sick.

We pull into the parking lot and quickly jump out. We have to get to our seats before the seats are gone.

The chapel fills up quickly. The temperature rises as people fill the seats.

It is time for church.

The music starts.

We sing:

Everyone needs compassion – 

A love that’s never failing – 

Let mercy fall on me – 

Everyone needs forgiveness – 

The kindness of a Savior – 

The hope of Nations – 

My Savior – He can move the mountains – 

My God is Mighty to save – He is mighty to save

I begin to cry.

Involuntary hot tears stream down my face.  I can’t make them stop.

I am annoyed with myself. I don’t want to cry today.

We sing.

Everyone needs compassion
A love that’s never failing
Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a Savior

Tears falling.

I have to believe.

He can move the mountains 

I have to believe.

My God is Mighty to save – He is mighty to save

I have to believe.

 

Do your surroundings and the incongruity of life in your host culture ever cause moments like these?

How do you cope with the sadness you witness?

 

 

Written in 2011, edited and republished. Photo, Troy Livesay 2014.

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About Tara Livesay

Tara and her family have lived in Haiti since 2006. She resides in Port au Prince, where she serves as a CPM (Midwife) with Heartline Ministries - Maternity Center working in the area orphan prevention, Maternal and Newborn Health. Tara is a the wife of Troy, the mother of seven children ranging in age from 27 to 9 years old and has recently become a grandmother to 3 grandsons. Tara enjoys friends, laughing, sarcasm and spending time with her family.
  • Thank you for this lovely piece; I feel it. Sometimes I have nothing left in me to believe, but then I just pray for God to help me believe.

    • Tara Porter-Livesay

      Lana, yes. What you said.

  • Anna Wegner

    Yes! I feel this way all the time. And it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by all the suffering, the lack, the pain… I try to remember that as much as I care, God cares even more. I have to place everyone in His hands and remember that He just asks me to play a small part. All the details are up to Him.

    • Tara Porter-Livesay

      Amen, Anna!

  • Joy Ballard

    Are you sure you’re not in Cameroon, where I live? It’s all sooooo familiar, down to the bickering on Sunday morning. Thank you for sharing your heart.

    • Tara Porter-Livesay

      🙂 – another friend said they thought maybe Guinea, West Africa. I guess it could be many places.

  • Elizabeth Trotter

    I look at Cambodian society on the macro-level, and I get SO discouraged. The trafficking, the violence, the way women aren’t valued, the way no one knows how to have an equal, loving, companionate marriage, the sexual abuse of children which is just a normal part of society, the corruption in the government, the corruption even among church leaders sometimes. It can seem hopeless. And I want it to change so badly it hurts, and I DON’T want to wait for it. But then, I talk with individuals, people who are working to change this place one step at a time, one person at a time, and I feel hope again. And I remember that change takes time, and it happens on the micro-level first. So when I look around at society as a whole, I HAVE to remember those smaller stories of lives being changed, or I will go crazy.

    • Tara

      It seems crazy important where our eyes and focus are.

  • I love this piece…for the willingness to pay attention, to see, to notice, and what it costs you. Belief is worth little without this, too.

    • Tara Porter-Livesay

      Thank-you, Joanna!

  • Hisgurl

    I am a missionary in the U.S., granted not having to deal with the conditions of physical despair, the core issues of the spirit are ever present just as they are more evidently manifest in other cultures. We are just better at disguising them in our culture. I get just as discouraged when I see the speedy spiraling of a culture that is profoundly selfish, unaware in the need to forgive, judgmental to the core of pride, pursuit of a pleasure and entertainment focus that drives our goals and gives a base to the meaning of our lives. It all plays out daily in a sickly and justified manner in too many of our churches. Then there is life outside of church….
    I get so discouraged as I live my lonely little life of caring for once named orphans with special needs and huge personal sacrifice, on some days driving me to my exhausted knees to the only One who will listen and care. I have to stay focused on the many blessings that are always there, mostly in subtle ways but at times so big I want to shout from my lonely rooftop but then quickly remember that not many are listening. Or the listening is I am a missionary in the U.S., granted not having to deal with the conditions of physical despair, the core issues of the spirit are ever present just as they are more evidently manifest in other cultures. We are just better I am a missionary in the U.S., granted not having to deal with the conditions of physical despair, the core issues of the spirit are ever present just as they are more evidently manifest in other cultures. We are just better at disguising them in our culture. I get just as discouraged when I see the speedy spiraling of a culture that is profoundly selfish, unaware in the need to forgive, judgmental to the core of pride, pursuit of a pleasure and entertainment focus that drives our goals and gives a base to the meaning of our lives. It all plays out daily in a sickly and justified manner in too many of our churches. Then there is life outside of church….
    I get so discouraged as I live my lonely little life of caring for once named orphans with special needs and huge personal sacrifice, on some days driving me to my exhausted knees to the only One who will listen and care. I have to stay focused on the many blessings that are always there, mostly in subtle ways but at times so big I want to shout from my lonely rooftop but then quickly remember that not many are listening. Or the listening is quickly vanished as those who have heard move on to their next earthly endeavor, most likely of a pleasure seeking pursuit. I have to get on my knees again, ask for forgiveness and strength, wisdom and to remember that my home is not here and that most of my work will not pay the dividend of this life but in the Life to come.at disguising them in our culture. I get just as discouraged when I see the speedy spiraling of a culture that is profoundly selfish, unaware in the need to forgive, judgmental to the core of pride, pursuit of a pleasure and entertainment focus that drives our goals and gives a base to the meaning of our lives. It all plays out daily in a sickly and justified manner in too many of our churches. Then there is life outside of church….
    I get so discouraged as I live my lonely little life of caring for once named orphans with special needs and huge personal sacrifice, on some days driving me to my exhausted knees to the only One who will listen and care. I have to stay focused on the many blessings that are always there, mostly in subtle ways but at times so big I want to shout from my lonely rooftop but then quickly remember that not many are listening. Or the listening is quickly vanished as those who have heard move on to their next earthly endeavor, most likely of a pleasure seeking pursuit. I have to get on my knees again, ask for forgiveness and strength, wisdom and to remember that my home is not here and that most of my work will not pay the dividend of this life but in the Life to come.quickly vanished as those who have heard move on to their next earthly endeavor, most likely of a pleasure seeking pursuit. I have to get on my knees again, ask for forgiveness and strength, wisdom and to remember that my home is not here and that most of my work will not pay the dividend of this life but in the Life to come.

  • Hisgurl

    I am a missionary in the U.S., granted not having to deal with the
    conditions of physical despair compared to some third world or developing nations, the core issues of the spirit are ever
    present just as they are more evidently manifest in other cultures. We
    are just better at disguising them in our culture. I get just as
    discouraged when I see the speedy spiraling of a culture that is
    profoundly selfish, unaware in the need to forgive, judgmental to the
    core of our pride, pursuit of a pleasure and entertainment focus that drives
    our goals and gives a sad base to the meaning of our lives. It all plays
    out daily in a sickly and justified manner in too many of our churches.
    Then there is life outside of church….
    I get so discouraged as I
    live my lonely little life of caring for once named orphans with special
    needs and huge personal sacrifice, on some days driving me to my
    exhausted knees to the only One who will listen and care. I have to stay
    focused on the many blessings that are always there, mostly in subtle
    ways but then at times so big I want to shout from my lonely rooftop… but then
    quickly remember that not many are listening. Or the listening is
    quickly vanished as those who have heard move on to their next earthly
    endeavor, most likely of a pleasure seeking pursuit. I have to get on my
    knees again, ask for forgiveness and strength, wisdom and to remember
    that my home is not here and that most of my work will not pay the
    dividend of this life but in the Life to come.

    • Tara Porter-Livesay

      I so agree with you on this. The things that are evident in U.S. culture are also heartbreaking and difficult to see and accept while still pressing on and believing. You’re doing great work and I encourage you to press on!

  • Marilyn Gardner

    This spoke to the deep parts of my soul. Your descriptions of Haiti give us word pictures of so much of the developing world. I too echo with you “I have to believe”
    The part I love too is where you voice your annoyance over your tears. Yes! that’s it. it’s all those things that you capture with this post. Thank you.

    • Tara Porter-Livesay

      Thanks Marilyn. Sometimes I just want to cry privately too. 🙂 But when it comes without permission, not a lot to do but roll with it.

  • Abby

    Tara, we have not yet met; I so hope to meet you and Troy soon. But I have traveled the roads you describe often enough that I could see and hear and smell just as if I were in the vehicle with you, and that intersection- whoa. Prayed through it while holding my breath many times. . .
    As for the tears, yes! When they come, and the heart is broken wide open, more like fractured, shattered into a million sharp-edged pieces, I pray for the strength and surrender to just let them come. They are holy tears, God honoring tears as He invites us deeper into His suffering love.
    Praying for you all.
    Abby Blackmon, Harvest Field Ministries

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