After trekking through a winding uphill climb, we have arrived at a beautiful new home in the mountains. Our team is here to take part of the tradition of dedicating each new home that is built. The family members are present, along with a pastor and translator. A member of our team steps forward to present a Bible with an inscription inside to the family and prays with them as they dedicate this house to the Lord. Since arriving at LifeLine Christian Mission, we have been part of a couple of house dedications, but this one stands out in my mind. The father of the 10-plus household steps forward to speak. What he says next stops me in my tracks.
"In Haiti, if you do not have a house, it's like you are not even a person."
He continued on in his speech of thanksgiving, but my mind was reeling from his powerful statement. I have been reading the book, When Helping Hurts (a phenomenal book that I HIGHLY recommend). In this book, the authors present the idea that we often have the fundamental understanding of poverty completely wrong. We see poverty as a lack of material things (food, clean water, clothing, shoes, etc.). But when you ask multiple low-income people in the Majority World what poverty is, their response is often very different. Check out this response:
Poverty is so deeply linked with shame and feelings of inferiority, and so often we can't see this as the main issue. This father rejoiced with us that afternoon for the gift of a house, not so much because of the material blessing it presented, but because of the confidence and honor it bestowed upon him and his family. In his words, he now felt more human.
It was extremely humbling to witness this man lift his head a bit higher, to see the binding chains of shame begin to fall freely from his body. I can't imagine the weight of shame one must feel in not being able to provide shelter for your family. And some might look at this small, two-room house with only one bed and question, "But we could give him so much more." That may be true, but to hear this sweet man speak of the dignity he was gaining that day filled my heart with unspeakable joy and humility. I hope I never forget this moment.
Morgan Martin is a student at the University of Texas. She is currently serving as a Go Now Missionary in Haiti.