Anse a Boeuf: Stunning & Extreme
On our recent mission trip to Haitian Christian Outreach, we had the blessing of making a side trip to Anse a Boeuf. Last month, while RoRo was in Belle Anse making plans for the October revival, a friend had implored him to visit two other areas that are in need of help. One of those places is Anse a Boeuf, east of Belle Anse and accessible only by boat or road fit for a moto, where there is no church, extreme poverty, and no safe drinking water. HCO’s first step in helping was to have our team, Outlook CC (IN) and First CC of Evansville (IN), deliver some much-needed relief supplies and help distribute them with the mayor and local leaders.
It was certainly a trip of contrasts. The two hour boat ride took us past stunning tropical scenery and through some of the most beautiful water imaginable, deep blues followed by almost impossible shades of turquoise.
But once we got there, we witnessed people living in some of the most difficult conditions I have ever seen. Most of the houses were little more than tree limbs placed close together with a thatched grass roof over the top. They offered no privacy and very little protection from the elements or intruders.
Most startlingly, there was a complete lack of clean water. We visited the town’s water source, but the smell of the putrid water told me we were getting near it long before we actually got there. Although the water was unmistakably bad, people were using it to bathe, and even to drink.
We brought along a supply of food, cooking oil, clothing, flip flops, and toiletries, which we spent much of the afternoon passing out to the villagers. Despite the difficult conditions, the distribution of these much-needed supplies went surprisingly well, for the most part. The leaders of the town had organized the distribution process, and families waited for their turn to receive their items. As we anticipated, families became much more anxious near the end when our supply was running low, but even then the atmosphere was relatively calm. Clearly, the difficult conditions have created a sense of unity and cooperation in the community, two elements that are undoubtedly essential to their long-term survival.
As we left, my head was swimming with thoughts. How do these people survive year after year, generation after generation? They are extremely vulnerable. They have no reasonable source of clean water, no obviously growing crops, no cost-effective way to engage in commerce of any kind. And it seemed that a strong thunderstorm would knock over most of the structures in the community, not to mention one of the many hurricanes God, in his mercy and providence, has spared Haiti of in the last few weeks.
And why do they not leave? They are a relatively easy boat ride from much better conditions, yet here they are. Why? I found out after the trip that as we were getting back in the boat one of the women in the village tried to give her baby to one of the ladies on our team to take back with her. What is it that makes a mother willing to part with her own child but does not convince her to leave herself? Something is keeping her there. What is it?
Two things keep coming back to me as I have had a few days to digest the trip. First, I am reminded how incredibly blessed I am to live where I do, to be able to travel to a place like this with more water in my water bottle than most of the people in this village will drink in a full day, knowing that when I get back home I will have access to virtually an unlimited supply of ice cold water, a warm (or, better yet, cool!) bed, a secure home, a job that provides a steady income for me to support my family. Second, I wonder how much impact a Spirit-led, development-focused organization like HCO could have here. Obviously, resources are always an issue. But having seen (and smelled) the conditions, and having held the hands of children who will be spending a lifetime in these conditions, how can I NOT help?
I have been learning that I need to become more dependent on the Holy Spirit and to ask God to work through me and the ministries my church supports to do things well beyond anything we could do ourselves – things beyond even what we can imagine. It’s something I suspect all of our churches need to do better.
Anse a Boeuf seems to be exactly the kind of place where we should be asking God to expand our faith and empower us to do exceedingly great things in His name and for His glory.
by Mike Wilkins
Missions & Outreach Minister, Outlook Christian Church
HCO Board Member