During my fast-track visit in Haiti, I was able to meet many pastors and associational leaders as well as my approximate counterpart in missions and ministry assignments. When we would greet each other, broad smiles enveloped the faces of these Haitian Christian leaders. The old adage about having a winning smile could be traced applicably to Haiti. The people know how to genuinely smile.
After leaving the airport and flying out of Port-au-Prince, we saw the mountain communities and the natural beauty of the land called Haiti. I don’t want to seem overly sentimental or maudlin, but the mountains seemed to offer a broadly-creviced smile pointed toward us as we flew fairly low over the range of tropical mountains.
In Jacmel, the smiles are abundant and genuine. The people walking the streets will show winning smiles while they work. Women carrying the burden on their heads will surprise you with smiles, and even some Moped taxi drivers could find the smile when we smiled at them.
The church people know how to smile when they greet each other. It is as though they are saying, “We have, by the grace of God, survived another day. We are getting stronger, and we are moving forward into the future with the smile of God on our faces.”
At the Voice of Hope Orphanage, little displaced children won the smiling contest. They were so thrilled to see guests from the US. They ran to us with open arms and huge smiles. We tried to learn their names, and they succeeded in pronouncing “Alabama” in an exuberant way. They wanted to learn my first name, and it was fun to hear them saying it over and over with radiant smiles on their faces.
One event defined the trip for me. I had been asking myself about the smiles. How can you smile when so much suffering has been visited upon you? How can you smile when your world has been shattered?
As our party made our way down a back-alley road, we needed to turn around. This was slowly and cautiously done due to pedestrian and Moped traffic. I was riding in the passenger seat up front, popularly known as riding shotgun. When our vehicle pulled into the backyard of a family, the mother and three or four children came to see this spectacle. I smiled and waved, and they all did the same. I gave them a thumbs-up for hope. Their smile brightened, and I did the same.
What happened next touched me in such a way that it actually defined the spirit of the trip for me. After smiling and waving and smiling with thumbs up, I placed my hand over my heart and offered a teary-eyed smile. They all responded in kind with even broader and loving smiles.
The point I see in this experience of happy Haitians is rather obvious. They may have faced a catastrophic disaster, but they haven’t lost their smile. They are undergoing the frustrations of a political election. Yet, the less than ethical conduct by some have not robbed them of the smile of God in their lives.
In Christ, we have the joy of the Lord in us now and forevermore. Nothing can destroy that relational spirit of Christ living within us. As Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say rejoice.” The Haitian believers took that admonition seriously, and that has provided them with the power to see it through. The smile of God in their lives made all the difference between serious discouragement and glorious encouragement.