My expectation of the sights of Port-au-Prince and Haiti in general seemed inconsequential compared to the stories experienced travelers kept telling me before my arrival. I've stepped over bodies in the streets of Hell's Kitchen, New York. I've stood in the gas chambers of Dachau concentration camp. I've cleaned out hovels of the homeless that defy understanding. So as I heard tell of the conditions in Haiti, I kept thinking, "Yeah, I get it. Trust me, I know most of the world doesn't live like we do." At the same time, even I was curious as to my indifference.
Over the last several weeks a seemingly unrelated verse has floated around in my thoughts. "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" (Mark 8:36).
As we flew into Port-au-Prince this morning the sights over the city looked much as I expected. And you might think I'm crazy, but it looked beautiful. I don't know why but the city held a certain beauty. And it was in that moment, flying into the poverty and desperation, that all my confusing thoughts became clear. The slums of Port-au-Prince are no more awful than the subdivisions of home or any other place. Every place is the home of the poor and destitute. Oh, we in America may have beautiful homes, cars, and clothing, but we are as spiritually poor and destitute as any Haitian. And in the end, that is what matters.
It doesn't matter how much we gain if we don't gain eternal salvation along the way. And to go one step further, if you'll permit me to rephrase Mark 8:36, it doesn't matter how much we give if we aren't giving the message of eternal salvation. All the humanitarian aid in the world means little if the recipient still loses his own soul.