Let’s use our imagination just for a minute to project ourselves forward in history a few years. The government of God has been reestablished after tumultuous years of Satan’s rule over the nations. People are recycling weapons of war for peaceful uses as Isaiah prophesied 2:4. And as they see the fruits of divine rule, they ask, “Teach us your ways so that we can walk in your paths” (v. 3).
The administrator of God’s government, Jesus Christ, has been sending qualified Beings, resurrected, of proven ability and loyalty, to the shattered but repentant survivors of the world to help, to serve, to heal and to rule.
Now it is your turn. “Have thou authority over ten cities,” He had said (Luke 19:17).That could be quite a large piece of territory, a small nation even, maybe several million people. And they will be looking to you for help, guidance and leadership. The years of wrong living have taken their toll. Your people are illiterate, sick and ignorant of some of the most basic knowledge of health, diet and sanitation. Their land is worn out, the economy is a shambles, frightened, beaten and discouraged, all they know is that there has to be a better way, and that you represent it.
How will you start? What decisions must be made? Now let’s stop pretending, because we are dealing with reality.
Jesus Christ has promised a utopia, but not an instant one. A New World will be built from the rubble of the old. God does not do for man what man can do for himself. The millennial utopia will be built by human beings, working under the guidance and direction of the ruling Kingdom of God.
So let’s take a look at what may be needed to heal a nation. We will look at the problems of just one nation today, the Caribbean nation of Haiti. We will be realistic, but at the same time constructive and compassionate. Anyone can be critical, but not every problem a country has is always its own fault. Often people are victims of circumstances not of their own making. This is particularly true in the case of Haiti.
The people of Haiti have battled almost as long as the people of the United States to build a nation. In 1804 they declared their independence from their colonial masters, and became the second free nation of the Western hemisphere. But after nearly 200 years, they remain one of the poorest countries in the world. Why?
To understand, we must first review briefly Haiti’s history. Christopher Columbus discovered Haiti in 1492.When he first saw the forest-clad mountains, the fertile lowlands, the abundance of fruit and minerals, he wrote, “I have found paradise.”
The Spanish returned the next year to colonize. The native Arawak Indians welcomed the conquistadors. They saw them as allies against their enemies, the Caribs, a cannibal tribe from whom the Caribbean takes is name.
But the Spanish had other ideas. They enslaved both Arawak and Carib to work the mines and plantations that they soon established. Within 40 years, the Indian population had almost disappeared, victims of sickness and forced labor.
So began the slave trade. In the next 300 years, countless thousands of slaves from West Africa were brought to work in Haiti.
The Spanish gave up the colony to the French in 1697. “Saint Domingue,” as the French called it, soon became the richest and most profitable colony in the 18th century world. It was responsible for two thirds of France’s foreign trade. In the late 1700s, Saint Domingue was more profitable to the French treasury than were the entire 13 American colonies to Britain. But it was at a terrible cost.
While the merchants and plantation owners became rich, the slaves were condemned to life-long forced labor. They lived without hope. The slightest hint of resistance and rebellion was met with savage and barbaric punishment. Slavery, never pleasant, was seen at its worst in Haiti. Then at the end of the 18th century two events changed the course of Haitian history.
In 1776, Britain’s American colonies declared independence. Sixteen years later, in France, the peasants overthrew their monarchy and ruling classes, and declared the French Republic. France’s overseas colonies felt the effect of the revolution. In Haiti the slaves moved against the Haitian aristocracy. A brilliant ex slave named Toussaint L’ Ouverture, led an army to victory, restored some order and set up a government modeled on revolutionary France. This remarkable man is rightly remembered as the “George Washington of Haiti.” Toussaint had the vision of a free Haiti, working in harmony and cooperation with the mother land. But it was not to be.
Napoleon Bonaparte came to power, and began to reestablish the French Empire. He sent an army of 40,000 to regain control over the colonies. Toussaint was arrested, and died later in jail. Napoleon’s forces had orders to reimpose slavery. But the Haitians had tasted freedom under Toussaint and were determined never again to become slaves.
After one of the most brutal military campaigns in history, with each side outdoing the other in ferocity and atrocity, Napoleon’s forces were defeated, and in 1804, the Republic of Haiti was proclaimed.
Napoleon had originally intended his army to subdue Haiti and then sail on to New Orleans. By having a force in the Mississippi Delta he hoped to dissuade the Americans from siding with the British in the then current wars. With the garrison force occupied in Haiti instead, Napoleon had to resort to other tactics to win American neutrality. His officials offered to sell all French possessions south of the Canadian border to the United States. The desperate fight for freedom by the ex-slaves of Haiti was directly instrumental in the United State becoming the beneficiary of the greatest real estate bargain in history the” Louisiana Purchase.”
The new rulers of Haiti vowed that never again would they become a subject people. They organized the building of massive fortresses. One, “la Citadelle La Ferriere” in the mountains overlooking the town of Cape Haitien, still stands today. Within its walls were stored ammunition and supplies for an army of thousands to withstand siege. Heavy cannon, captured form the French, were hauled up the precipitous mountainside and set on the walls, prepared to repel any invader.
But the guns of la Citadelle never fired a shot in anger. The world forgot about Haiti. By 1804, the mines were nearly worked out, and the fields, after generations of exploitation, were tired and unproductive. Since other, more lucrative colonies were available for the taking, the European powers let Haiti have her independence. Who cared!
Knowing nothing but slavery, the Haitian people were ill prepared for the responsibilities of nationhood. Only a handful were educated. There were hardly any who had any idea of how to govern. After centuries of servitude, the average Haitian wanted nothing more than to be left alone, to eke out a living on his small patch of ground.
Successive governments were more concerned with staying in power than building a nation. Disease, ignorance, superstition and poverty became the way of life. After years of abuse even the land gave up. Hunger and malnutrition added to the miseries of the place that Columbus had once described as paradise. For its first hundred years, the Western hemisphere’s second republic sleptpitifully cut off from civilization and progress.
United States Marines, clutching the Monroe Doctrine, invaded Haiti in 1915. America was about to enter the First World War, and Haiti, guarding the eastern entrance to the newly opened Panama Canal, was considered too strategic to be allowed to fall under foreign influence.
For 19 years the Marines built roads, dug drains and organized schools and hospitals. But they never really came to grips with the little nation’s chronic problems. An American observer, writing at the time, said: “Haiti’s problem is not one that can be dismissed with a word or cleared up with the stroke of a pen. It is made up of all the accumulated evils and abuses of more than a hundred, fevered, retrograde years, years cursed with tyranny and bloodshed and unimaginable years in which all the plagues enumerated in the litany, of sedition, conspiracy, rebellion, plague, pestilence, famine, battle, murder and sudden death ravaged the body politic until the tortured tillers of the soil forsook their fields and fled to the hills” (National Geographic, August 1916).
Haiti is just one of the many nations today that have become trapped in a vicious circle of poverty. How do you break the circle? It would take a central world government that knows what it is doing and that has the authority to act. There will have to be a new spirit among all nations, a spirit of giving and sharing. The richer, prosperous nations would have to make it a national policy to live by the golden rule, to do unto others as they would be done by. That to put it mildly -- is not the way of the world today.
It does not take long for the visitor to Haiti to see that it is a young country, there are children everywhere. But too many of those children are sick. And thousands die every year, through malnutrition and related diseases a much greater, although less spectacular, killer than out-right starvation. The children in the rural areas are especially vulnerable.
God knows that a people who have lived in slavery need help in the most basic areas of health and hygiene. When He brought the people of Israel out from Egypt 3,500 years ago, He gave Moses laws that govern the physical environment. Those laws, if obeyed, ensure a proper diet, pure water, clean bodies and hygienic dwellings. These laws, covering such basic subjects as what to eat and the proper disposal of human waste are still in the Bible.
Many in the comfortable developed world scoff at them. They are casually dismissed along with the other Old Testament law, those governing financial responsibility and the use of holy time. “Done away with,” you will hear. “Christ nailed them to His cross.” Yet it was the One who later was born as Jesus who led Israel out of slavery (I Cor. 10:1-4), and who gave them the health laws. That same Christ (you might want to think about Malachi 3:6) will soon lead all nations out of far worse bondage. He will rule them kindly but firmly for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1-5). Most nations are going to once again need some very basic teaching. Don’t take lightly what you know of so-called Old Testament law. You may need it to help Christ heal a nation.
In the New World to come, everyone will have a balanced and adequate education and learn one language (Zeph. 3:9). All nations will benefit. Haiti will benefit more than most.
Today the people of Haiti speak Creole. When you first hear it, Creole sounds like French, but is it? Over the centuries the people have mixed French with other European tongues and the original African dialects to make a language that is uniquely their own. All Haitians can speak Creole, but those with education have generally received their education in French, which is still the official language.
This is a severe handicap to Haiti’s efforts to increase education. It is not a unique Haitian problem; it affects many other peoples all over the earth. When the full benefits of one pure language are really understood, the world will welcome it with open arms.
Finally, a word about religion. Although the official faith is Roman Catholicism, the popular faith of most Haitians is voodoo. Voodoo is a blend of African and traditional Christian beliefs. By practicing the rituals, believers try to become possessed by “gods.” These “gods” it is believed control the rain, water, love, war, farming and all other aspects of life.
As Jesus Christ told the Samaritan woman (John 4:22), they worship they know not what. Voodoo is the worship of demons, the sworn spirit enemies of all mankind. Voodoo ritual might bring in the tourist dollar, but is enslaves its believers in fear and superstition. The Haitian people need true religion that will lead them to understand who the real God is and why He put them on earth. That truth is available to them, but so far only the few have found it.
Even a short visit to Haiti leaves one impressed. Impressed with the magnificence of the scenery. But more than that, impressed with the people, who somehow shine through their poverty, maintaining courage, dignity and hope.
Their problems are typical of so many millions today, perhaps the majority of mankind. They live on the borderline of survival, in ignorance and poverty, when there is no need to live like that. There is a way of life that could have kept their homeland a paradise. They needed to know that way in 1804, when they took their first steps as an independent nation. But there was nobody to teach them. The people who should have known had long since forgotten it themselves.
God revealed that way in His guide book to living, the Bible. It is so much more than just an instruction book on religion. It can show the right approach to health, sanitation, family life, education, civil and criminal law, morality, a total way of life that works, and that would heal a nation. The information is still available today, but it is no use unless it is applied. What about you? Are you readying yourself to help heal a nation?