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Being the Bread Today: A Missionary Field Report

Fr. Andrew Labatorio     Jan 15, 2016 8:00:00 AM

“Behind mountains are more mountains…” This is a famous Haitian proverb that captures the whole saga of life in Haiti. Five years after the devastating earthquake, the struggle continues as residents seek to rebuild their lives. Many have lost hope of restoring what they had lost, only to surrender in acceptance of what is left to cherish.


As the election year looms upon us, the burden of life and economic collapse fell heavily on poor families who are already struggling to survive the demands of daily life. I noticed the increase of people begging for help in the parish.

More and more mothers are coming to the parish asking for food, money for their children’s education, money for rent, employment, or anything to live on. The miseries continue and it seems as if they are becoming more apparent.

The government is collapsing! Sporadic violence is spreading across the city.

Today, the country is overwhelmed by the possible influx of Haitian immigrants forced to leave the Dominican Republic. Hundreds of thousands of people are going back to Haiti without anything! Haiti is neither prepared nor capable of welcoming back thousands of these immigrants. Many here are worried about the return of Haitian immigrants. Most think it will add to the growing insecurity and it signals more violence. There are some truth to that premonition. Poverty always breeds chaos.

Many wonder what happened to billions of dollars sent or promised to rebuild Haiti.

The Haitian government failed to deliver what was expected. International organizations had failed to understand that no amount of money would bring real change in Haiti. NGO’s were lost in the nostalgia of “western-type” projects without deeply understanding the religious, cultural, historical, and political implications at play in Haitian society.

They failed because they did not allow Haitians to own their responsibility to facilitate change. Many of these big organizations marched into the country and like kings, spreading a blanket of change.

When their resources were  depleted, however, the Haitians had no idea about how to keep that blanket of change working. Often, they found themselves back in the same tragic reality.


Is there hope left? YES, a lot!

There is no doubt that the infrastructure has improved. Technological advances, as well as improved communication efforts have aided in improving Haitians outlook on life. Young Haitians keep on dreaming for a positive Haiti. Haitians will always have a bright smile even in the most challenging situations.

Smaller organizations, such as grassroots movements have greater success stories. They seemingly have understood that without ownership, change in Haiti will not endure. I have seen how small NGO’s successfully implemented their projects in specific communities.

It was not about allocating millions of dollars to those communities, but it was about understanding their specific needs; in fact, respecting their simple needs. The Haitian people must be in charge of changing their lives for the better.

We are all like “invited guests” and are given the privilege to journey with them.

We are not the agents of change; we are only here to support the change they need. Faith is always central to the Haitians way of life. Church is their place of refuge. Somehow, amidst their misery, they have found the God who cares and listens. It is humbling.


Our mission work continues! The clinic is successfully meeting the following objectives: extending medical care to pregnant women and helping people with chronic ailments like hypertension and diabetes.

Today, we are extending our services beyond just that of medical care. We offer counseling to women with unwanted pregnancies. Abortion is high because of poverty. We also provide support and counseling to HIV patients. We hope that our clinic, like our church, remains a place of refuge to those who are lost due to the hardship that life has dealt them.


Sustaining change in Haiti through education is essential to ensuring that opportunities for advancement are achievable. Lasting change in Haiti can only be achieved by providing education to Haiti’s future generations.

The parish aims to revitalize its education program by adopting a local elementary school and by starting a trade school. Basic education is necessary in conjunction with providing trade skills to young Haitians that in, turn, further supports the changes they will need.

The growing industries like garments and tourism are in need of skilled workers. It is an opportunity that as a church we can help support.


The temptation to create BIG things is real.

So many people are lost in the idea of making big things. Missionary work is not about big things, but about things that truly change the lives of people for the better. Most often, these are simple things that people care about. One example is that of a single mother’s dream to come home at the end of the day with something to feed her children.

Another example could be a young girl’s dream to finish college so she can find job and support her family. A third example could be that of a young man’s dream to have a diploma so he can become more marketable and employable. And everyone dreams of a cleaner environment. It is their simple hope to have a safer society and to have a decent job so they will no longer be at the mercy of others.

Haiti is no longer in the world’s spotlight.

Mainstream media has no interest in Haiti...for now. Of course, it is also my dream and wish that one day, Haiti will no longer depend on foreign aid. One that can take place, this country will no longer be held hostage to international or political maneuverings.

It is my hope that one day, a poor family can live on their own, fully sustained. Or, that one day, the many young women I know, will no longer be forced to offer their bodies in exchange for a job or for help so they can finish their studies. I believe it is achievable that one da a mother will no longer worry about the safety of her daughters or sons as they leave for school.

Yet, these simple realities today remain difficult and challenging to many within the Haitian culture.


Our mission work has only been made possible because many of you have opened your hearts.

We are making a difference in the lives of the people we serve because you have generously contributed in one way or another. All the more today we stand in humble need of your continued prayers and loving support. With your support we hope and pray that, together and through time, all of our efforts will bring the much-needed change to the Haitian population.  


Our faith challenges each of us to become more like Jesus: bread broken and shared so that others may live.

Thank you for being the bread today.

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Topics: Stories from the Field, Pastoral Work

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About This Blog

Missionhurst Missionaries build Catholic communities in frontier situations: places where the gospel is not preached or lived. This blog is about their work in the four corners of the globe, and their holistic work in four areas of focus: relief and healthcare, socio-economic development, education, and pastoral work.

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