Being Asked for Money

I need to apologize for not posting for a while.  Jess and I just recently returned from Haiti and decided to take a few days for ourselves when we first got here.  We realized that for the past month in Haiti, we did not take a day off of work, and we needed a little time.  So today’s blog post is something that I have been thinking about for a while, and will be difficult to fully explain what I want to communicate with this post.  

Many of you who read this have been asked for money by someone in your life.  Whether it be a friend or family or even a stranger on the street, none of us are completely unfamiliar with being asked for money.  In fact, probably most of us have a pretty consistent response when people ask us for something.  We probably each have stories of when we helped someone on the street or at a gas station or something like that.  Many of us probably even have reasons why we either do or do not give money to people when they ask us so that it is easier when the time comes.

I say all of this to bring up a point about Haiti…We are constantly asked for things when we are there.  I am not sure that a day goes by without us being approached by someone for something.  Sometimes friends of ours, sometimes strangers who see us pass by, and even sometimes people stand in the road so that we stop our car and approach us that way.  This is honestly one of the most difficult things about living in Haiti.  The following are just a few examples of what we ran into the last week we were in Haiti:

  • A woman stopped us as we were driving by to ask us for a job.  We knew that she has at least 4 children and she told us that it was the only way she could send her children to school.
  • A man stopped our car as we drove by and told us that he needed us to bring him money to send his grandchildren to school.
  • A visitor at Christianville asked us if we could send him to plumbing school because he didn’t have the money to do it.
  • Some of the leaders of the community around the orphanage “fixed” the road leading up to the orphanage and then wouldn’t let us drive down the road again until they setup a meeting between the community and us.  At this point, the entire community asked us to give them money because they “fixed” the road that we use.
  • A man outside of the orphanage whose sole english knowledge was, “Give me money” and he shouted this phrase to me over and over as we walked back from the home of the man who fixed our charcoal clothes iron.
  • A person who goes to the church we used to attend called my phone at least 5 times trying to find me to ask us to help his family.

I could literally go on and on with examples not even including the enormous amount of people who just ask us for money as soon as the see that we are American or the number of people who are begging in the streets when you drive into Port Au Prince.  The thing that I want to try to relate to you as you read this is the emotional toll that this type of thing can take.  It is different when people ask you for money in Haiti.  There is this hope in the eyes of the people who ask that tells us that we are potentially the only hope they have seen in years.  It is almost impossible to relate the feeling of not being able to help people who are almost utterly helpless.  People who have no jobs, who have no hope of finding jobs, and because of that cannot provide even the most basic need to their children and family.  Even worse than that is when a child asks for something and you know that, through no fault of their own, they are growing up without an education and probably with the malnourishment that comes from eating as few as 5 meals per week.  

So what do we do?  We cannot help everyone, but almost everyone needs help.  If we were to say yes to everyone, we could not take care of the 34 children that we have been called by GOD to help.  So many times we have to say “no.”  There is nothing else we can do, but no matter how many times we say “no” to people, they continue to ask with a persistence that is both humbling and infuriating.  The thing that is very difficult to explain to you as you read this is that paradox of feeling both humbled and angry about what is going on.  On one hand, you ask yourself, “how can I say no to someone who desperately needs our help?”  Because they truly do “need” our help.  This is not a cry from a someone who is just too lazy to find a job or who has made bad decisions that have led to this point in life.  This is someone who has a need and no hope of meeting that need.  On the other hand, there is just so many times that you can be asked for money before this anger sets in your heart.  You know there is a true need, but there is this side of you that just can’t take the constant annoyance of being asked for things every day numerous times per day.  There are times when I have actually been angry because people have just constantly asked over and over and I just can’t take it.

There was one time about a year ago that we had a team down with us and we were holding a VBS at Herold’s church.  That was the church we used to attend before finding a church we could go to with our children, so we knew almost all of the members and they were becoming friends of ours.  This particular day at the church many of the adults came out to help (even though it was 10:30 on a weekday they could help because none of them had jobs) as we put this VBS on.  That day, if I remember correctly, 9 members of the church came up to me and asked for various things that I had to say “no” to over and over again.  These were friends and brothers and sisters in Christ that we had worshipped with and gotten to know over the past few years, and they just bombarded me with requests for money, school tuition, clothes, phones, etc.  I don’t think the rest of the team knew what was happening, but Jess knew how upset I was and we left earlier that day than we had planned because I couldn’t take it anymore.  I was about to blow and I did not want the members of the church to see me get upset.  The funny part is that I was upset for 2 completely different and opposite reasons at the same time.  I was angry that people just relentlessly came to me with requests over and over again and then were clearly upset when I said no.  But at the same time, I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that each of these requests (except for the one who wanted a Samsung Galaxy phone) came from people who truly needed help and I could not help them.  

So, usually, I have an overriding point to the blogs that I write, but today I don’t really have that.  Maybe my point is to ask for prayer from everyone who reads this because this will continue to happen every day we are there.  Maybe it is a call to each of us (including myself) to learn to put ourselves in other peoples’ shoes and to truly care about those who need our help.  Maybe it is just a way for me to vent a little and get my emotions out through the written word.  Honestly, I don’t know.  All I know is that there are many difficult aspects to beginning a ministry in a 3rd world country, and this is one that I never expected until we began spending extended periods of time there.  

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