I have to Believe


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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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.

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