Building relationships across cultural lines is no easy task. In fact, in the last four years of living in Haiti off and on we have discovered that building relationships is not a task at all. It’s not something you do in a day and then neatly check off your to-do list. It’s not something you can pour money into or even make happen with the best of intentions.
Building relationships begins by putting in time. Lots of time.
I remember my first days working with the women of The Haitian Bead Project in Savanette. We already had a group of twenty-something women working at our mission base in Pignon. The pastor of the Savanette church, which is also part of our non-profit, begged me to start something for his ladies. So many were struggling to feed their families and send their children to school. My heart was touched and I moved forward with baby steps. I decided I would spend two days a week with the women.
In those first days the women sat in a semi-circle around me. They were cordial as I explained the values of our project and began to teach the process of making paper beads and jewelry. They were attentive but timid.
I longed to be close to them. I tried to interpret their blank faces, search for hope in their eyes. I would pray each day for wisdom, for a window.
Their beads were horrible at first. Bumpy and uneven – much like my language skills. There were many days I asked myself and God if expanding our business was a bad idea.
But little by little their beads have grown smoother. And so has our communication.
This past week something truly extraordinary happened. After two years of planting and watering and waiting and praying and watering some more, a full garden of flowers bloomed.