Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Faith Without Works Is a Dead Faith

This is part of my pre-trip reflections on Haiti before I leave Jan. 19.

In my experience, Episcopalians are notoriously bad at evangelizing,which is how many people envision missionary work. By that, I mean we’re notthe type to openly talk about our faith much. Many of us get uncomfortable discussingreligion, and you’ll rarely see Episcopalians wearing church t-shirts, sportingchurch bumper stickers, or posting about their faith journeys online. Growingup, while my friends were quoting Bible verses and trying to convert the Jewishgirl on my softball team by telling her about Jesus, I was having heateddiscussions about why there were two versions of the Genesis story with mysmall-and-scrappy youth group of the unpopular kids.

But also in my experience, Episcopalians are actually prettygood at the work part of missionary work.We’ll come in and help you set up a school, but we won’t leave Bibles in your hotel room. But even that kind of work can often be too quick of afix, too easy to say “we helped,” and then leave for other projects.

So it is with great pride (and a lot of personal concerns)that I’m becoming part of a decades-long involvement in Haiti with my church.This is not a one-off visit. I’m not there to take a photo with some nativechildren in order to make my Facebook profile picture look more progressive (analysisof that idea is here, and a fantastic,biting Onion spoof is here). And this is not voluntourism – we’re notdisrupting local systems or providing unreliable care. The church and itspartners have been providing medical care, education, and even agricultural supportfor decades. They’ve built sustainable schools and hospitals, giving Cange oneof the best and most reliable hospitals in the country (in fact, after thedevastating 2011 earthquake, Cange had one of the only hospitals left standing,and the area’s population doubled with refugees and those needing medical care).The church didn’t send money in the 80s and move on, but rather has stayedinvolved to build systemic, necessary, quality care for people in the direstneed.

This is faith with works.

As I mentioned, I have no medical value on this trip. Mypersonal challenge is to cover this experience with the right tone to gatherinterest and encourage funds, without disrespecting the people or culture. Irealize that I could have donated my airplane costs directly, and I’mstruggling with what it means that I’m sending myself instead of more directlysending funds. Is writing about a trip worth it? Does counting pills help mehave value? I hope I get this right. Please correct me if I veer off path. 


To support the diocese's medical work in Haiti, please donate here

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