to the oval office

by Kayla Raymond

I can understand how some one might look at the country of Haiti and label it as a “shithole” – the moment you land here in the heart of Port-au-Prince, the smell of burning garbage, the loud noises of traffic, the intense heat and the sight of extreme poverty will overwhelm your senses. If you’re the arrogant, egotistical and narcissistic type, you’ll surely only be able to see shit and label it for what it seems: a shithole.

But, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll come to Haiti and have the opportunity to be a part of Haiti’s story, which is written with so much strength and fortitude. You’ll have to first jump off the high horse you so arrogantly ride, but if you’re courageous enough to do so, you’ll see people whose stories are full of redemption, resilience and spirit. You’ll be nothing short of breathless and inspired.

I have been thinking about the President in the Oval Office because of his recent comments and my heart aches for him a bit, actually. It must be so lonely up “at the top” where nothing but power and money and ego reside. There must just be a point where people “at the top” – not just the president, but all leaders, political or not – can no longer climb up, so they feel they have the right to only look down and degrade. They’re so small themselves, wayyyy up there, they need to make everyone below them feel small, too. I can’t fathom the amount of entitlement they must feel. Although we are expected to make it to the top, I imagine it’s probably a horrible place to be, because it’s the only reason I can come up with that would make a person so miserable to want to say such horrible things. I don’t know what else would motivate such constant hate and negativity.

To be in power and to have so much control, it must be overwhelming. To have so much money and come from such a prestigious place, it must create such a prideful environment. Seriously, think about how toxic it must be to all those around? The darkness. Ugh, it’s so deeply troubling and saddening.

I have been thinking about what it would be like to sit in the Oval Office and have a conversation with the President of the United States and I don’t even know where I would begin. I would more than likely just sit there with tears in my eyes, but I hope I would eventually become brave enough to tell him about my life.

A life full of so many incredible experiences…really, daily experiences…where I’m humbled and privileged to live and work in a country he claims to be a “shithole”. I would tell him about all the beautiful people I serve and the ones whose lives were taken too early due to natural disasters, illness and starvation. I would tell him how I’m a stronger, more beautiful person because I’ve had the chance to live in a place he will more than likely never have the audacity to visit. I would hope to have the strength to tell him about the really hard days, where the problems seem unsolvable and the hardship feels too unbearable. I would also hope that my faith would be strong enough to tell him about the incredible opportunity I have to look up and out with faith, to a God who sees it all.

I also hope I could bear witness to him about the Jesus I know. I would tell him about my Jesus who dwelled with the sick and poor, who built no walls, and who welcomed all. I would hope that Jesus’s message of grace would soften the president’s heart and allow him the opportunity to see people for who they are. I would hope that he would begin to see past color and status and religion and nationality and start to see people as humans…for from ashes we are all formed and to ashes we will all return.

Really, I’m trying to understand what it must be like to be you, Mr. President. Maybe you’ve never been shown grace. Maybe you’ve never had the chance to experience real joy. Maybe your life has been built on earthly things that you’ve never had the real opportunity to experience true love. Maybe you’re so wounded inside that all you can give the world is pride and hate. I don’t know. I pray for you today, though, Mr. President.

I also invite you. I invite you to my home in Haiti. First you will meet the most incredible Haitian man who has forged a way for the people of his community. He’s my husband and some day I hope he will also be an American citizen. After meeting him, you’ll have the chance to meet my three adopted kids who have incredible stories of survival. They too have dreams of living in America and getting their educations there. I hope you won’t be the person to take that away from them. Then you’ll meet my Rubie, who has a white mama and a black papa and is nothing but a light to this dark world.

I’ll take you on a walk through the village, where you’ll meet the kindest of souls. I will ask my friends if we can be invited into their homes, where I know they will offer you a chair and a cold Coke. You won’t imagine the blessing it is to receive gifts from people who have literally no material possessions. We can venture to the mountains and I’ll watch as your breath will be taken away by the views. We can spend time at the beaches and as we head back to my home I will be sure to take you to the local markets, where you won’t even be able to the fathom the work ethic of the Haitian people. Their strength to provide for their families will leave you speechless.

Mr. President, I invite you to have your world shattered. I invite you to step down from your pedestal and come see these people, face-to-face. I invite you to be ruined, only to be redeemed with hope. I invite you, knowing you’ll experience a joy that only Haiti can offer.

I’ll encourage you to reconsider your words and think about all that Haitians (and so many other people from other developing countries) have to offer the United States. Their work ethic. Their ingenuity. Their beauty. It would be an honor for the United States to welcome so many of these people. I get there’s a place for screening and applications and interviews for visas, but let’s shine some light on all the things these people have to offer!

Lastly, I would end with the story about January 12, 2010. I had just finished spending a week in the hospital with my mother, who battled an acute case of Hepatitis A, which she had contracted in Haiti. As a 19-year-old, I faced the decision to be screened as a possible liver donor if it came my mom needing a transplant. I watched people pray over her in the hospital room and I watched Jesus heal her. I watched doctors tell my mom that a transplant would no longer be needed and they had no medical reasoning for her dramatic healing. I remember sitting in the hospital hotel’s room with my dad as he told me that if I wanted to believe in good, I also needed to believe in evil. I could no longer be the same person as God performed the most beautiful of miracles to save my mom. My mom should have been in Haiti during the earthquake that devastated Haiti, but instead she was in a hospital. She was suppose to be visiting a little boy she had rescued from an orphanage the month before. We will never be able to explain it, but God’s always had his hand on our story.

I believe in miracles, Mr. President. I also believe your heart and the Oval Office are in need of one. I think evil is reigning in that place and I pray for the Holy Spirit to storm in and take it back. May all things be redeemed according to His good and perfect will.

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