In the United States, we have been programmed to expect happy endings. Just turn on the T.V. Romantic comedies hypnotize us with expectations of a perfect resolution to the star-crossed lovers’ plight, and the American media airs fluff pieces of some cat dialing 911 in order to add some kind of necessary insulation against the images of violence and human rights violations in breaking news. Money, hard work, and effective intervention can solve any problem, or at least that is what our capitalistic-pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps culture has taught us.

We can’t help it. We want things to turn out right, especially with our work in Haiti. Christian missionaries, humanitarian charities, and nonprofit organizations in the country expect that because we have money and—I’m sorry, I’m only being honest here—we are white Americans, when we intervene, things will work out in perfect harmony with our intentions. There is nothing wrong with that mindset. Prayer, disciplined thought, building relationships, love, time, money, and privilege all do facilitate good works and greater “human security” (Paul Farmer, Haiti After the Earthquake) in Haiti.

The Trinity United Methodist team that just returned from Mizak, Haiti, learned this humbling lesson: While money can encourage some situations to come to more acceptable solutions, hard work does pay off, and effective, timely intervention can curtail negative situations, life is hard. In reality, we are imperfect beings who have no real control over the events that unravel before us. We can’t understand the way that God works.

Our last day of clinic, Wednesday, July 29, started like any other day. Laurie was working with Christopher, and they were doing patient intake and eyeglasses “triage” (Laurie has an important and sometimes thankless job). Abbey was out sick, and so patients started out with Emmanuel (our translator) and Kelsie. They would come to Steve and me next, where we worked with premade glasses and the focometer, finding an approximate reading for their prescription glasses. Patients then went to Mike, Donna, and Genelle for their prescription glasses, or Dave and Rhonda for readers, sunglasses, and drops. I’d been very proud of our team this year; we are a well-oiled machine. We even managed to work around the medical clinic that the Haitian nurse, Yolande, was running that day.

I had left a patient with Steve and was probably running to Chef Brenda (what they call Rhonda in Haiti) with a question, when I encountered Laurie, who was crying. I asked what was wrong, and she said, “The baby, it’s just so small, I can’t take it,” or something to that effect. I went inside of the clinic, where I saw Dave holding the smallest child I have ever seen. He was swaddled in a green blanket. Dave was praying for the baby, named Carl Edwards, and we all joined in the effort. I didn’t know what was wrong with the baby, but I knew something was incredibly wrong. We finished praying, and I went back outside to work.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon, I learned Carl Edwards’ story: He was 29 days old, from Mizak, and horribly malnourished. He was three pounds. The mother had not been feeding him. Was it from lack of food or neglect? We don’t know. What we do know is that a neighbor had to bring Carl Edwards into the clinic, and the mother had to be retrieved from her home. Rhonda later told me that she knew Carl Edwards was beyond just eating some more or finding a wet nurse. He needed intravenous fluids, and he needed them fast. She directed Genelle to give Carl Edwards back to Yolande because she was terrified that Carl Edwards was going to die in her loving arms. Abbey thought he was dead. Carl Edward’s arms were ashen, he wasn’t moving, and his face had an ominous deflated look.

I learned that we had given a nurse and the mother $150 USD to take a moto down to Jacmel to get to a hospital. They left, hopeful that the hospital would be able to offer this child the hope of survival. We finished up clinic, seeing 170-something patients that day. We loaded up our suitcases, cleaned up the clinic, and headed back through the beautiful farmland to Paul’s house. We had finished our clinic, we had done God’s work, and we did darn good.

They told me shortly after we got back to Paul’s house that Carl Edwards died. We don’t know if he even made it off the mountain.

Fury and frustration built up inside of me. Every day, in countries like Haiti, children are dying from preventable diseases and easily treatable maladies, such as hunger. A child born in the US might weigh only three pounds, but he gets rushed into the NICU and the chances of survival are much higher. A parent may be neglectful in the US, but we have Child Protective Services to step in and take that parent to jail.  A family may be hungry, but they can go to any food bank or get an EBT card to eat. We have the infrastructure necessary to prevent death and pain.

We had given $150 USD to make this broken child whole. We support the Medika Mamba program, specifically designed to prevent child hunger. We have built homes to provide shelter, micro-financing to provide the opportunity for small business growth, eyeglasses to provide sight, food to provide nourishment, birthing kits to provide infection-free births, mosquito nets to provide protection from malaria, health kits to provide sanitation, school bags to provide greater access to education, and the list goes on and on. The prayer that Dave offered over Carl Edwards should have prevented his death. The disciplined thought that Mountains to Mountains engages in so that we can best serve God and our friends in Haiti should have predicted, and thus prevented, this. We have worked for years to build relationships with Haitians, and it is in our mission to break bread, eat, pray, love, and discuss alongside and with the Haitians (in contrast to to the Haitians). We have leveraged our privilege as white Americans to rally support, supplies, and, most significantly, money for Mizak.

So why did Carl Edwards die? We contemplated this and prayed to God for answers for over 24 hours. The answer came in the age-old paradox: We can never know God’s plans. Our human egos attempt to logically surround an infinite God with a cardboard box, when in reality, we can’t even begin to fathom was God has in store. C.S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, conceived of a heaven where visiting humans were in such intense pain because Earth and our human minds are just a dull shadow of what God’s reality is. How am I being a vessel of God’s good will on Earth, a personal goal of mine, when I am consistently asking God to tell me what he’s doing! There is no trust in God when I am demanding that he explain to me why Carl Edwards died.

It’s so easy to get discouraged. So what do we do? Do we throw up our hands in frustration, pull out of our efforts in Haiti, and get angry because a child died? Or do we delve further into the work, continue with our prayer, disciplined thought, relationship building, proliferation of love, and distribution of wealth so that we can offer the timely solution that can prevent the death of the next Carl Edwards? Do we keep bugging God with answers and reasons why bad things happen to innocent children? Or do we continue practicing trust and faith in God and the love of Jesus Christ in our everyday lives, respecting the glory of God’s infinite wisdom?

I don’t know. The answer is pretty clear-cut to me.

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