Today marks the fifth day in Haiti, which for most of the group, means five days of getting their hands dirty, clothes wet, and hearts broken. For myself on the other hand, I have been living a very unique perspective, because for the last five days, I have been behind a camera.
To say that this has provided me with quite a polarizing opportunity would be the understatement of a lifetime, and yes… that pun was intended. Instead of engaging in the same ways as everyone else, I often find myself the quiet observer in the background, waiting for that perfect moment to capture of our time in Haiti. As a result of this, I have also been able to have some incredible conversations about my observations.
The phrase of “not everything is black and white” would be the exact opposite of what it feels like to be in Haiti, because literally everything is actually black or white. It has been a truly unique experience to be set apart, and even judged solely based on the colour of my skin. I must admit, it makes me uncomfortable.
To be walking down the streets in Petite Anse, and being chided from onlookers as they chant “Blanco, Blanco, Blanco” or being called “American” even though I am quite obviously Canadian (alright maybe its not quite that obvious… sorry) is an experience that is frankly, more foreign than anything else in this country. In Haiti, everything literally is “black or white.”
I have had the absolute pleasure of many late night, and early morning conversations with Dr. Manno, and to say that he is a Saint would be the understatement of a lifetime. To give a little bit of insight into why I regard this incredibly talented and brilliant man in such high esteem, it’s important to know that he had the opportunity to leave Haiti. In doing so he would have bettered his life, and his career. Instead he chose to stay, for the sole purpose of helping Haitians, and show them that not only the “white” people are compassionate, but that a “black” man, a Haitian no less, can provide more compassion for the community than all the groups of “white” people that visit every year combined.
This morning Dr. Manno made two different statements, one regarding Haitian culture, and the second being his mission in Haiti. We were having a conversation about the voodoo culture in Haiti, and the oppressiveness of its presence in this country. He stated that it “not only destroys community, knowing that your neighbour has gone out and paid to have you cursed, but also that it removed any sense of betterment in society.” Meaning that if anything has gone wrong, it is due to a curse, and there is nothing that you can do about it or change your situation. Everyone is fearful for “they could be hurt in the darkness.”
The second statement was surrounding his work and what he does, and solidifies why he is such an irreplaceable person for any mission in Haiti. He said it so calmly over his morning coffee that if you weren’t paying attention you might have even missed it, “every time that you serve someone, they are going to spread the light.” Through the various ministries that our conference has been apart of for the last fourteen years, Dr. Manno has been on the ground every single day, morning and evening, pouring every bit of his heart, and his soul to spread the light of God in a place that is so insurmountably constrained by the power and fear of darkness.
It is not often that you come across an embodiment of scripture being lived out so well in todays world, but Dr. Manno has done that for me, and I am truly a better man because of it. It is incredibly easy to find home with the cynic, but around Manno, all doubt is swept aside. Paul writes in Ephesians 5 “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (Eph 5:8).” Dr. Manno has single handedly taught me exactly what that looks like, and I will forever be changed by meeting him, and experiencing a mere fragment of what’s really happening in Haiti.