I studied culture shock in college and read about its various stages: honeymoon, frustration, depression, and acceptance. Graphs showed how you start on the ‘high’ of the honeymoon phase and over time sink down through frustration to depression before eventually bouncing back up to acceptance, thus completing your bumpy culture shock trajectory.
We have been in Haiti for just shy of six months now, and the honeymoon stage is definitely over! For a woman who has lived her life in middle-class U.S. comfort, the poverty, hopelessness, and general difficulties of life in this island nation can be overwhelming. Most days now, I seem to vacillate between frustration and acceptance. Recently, I had a day that was especially trying.
It started with an early morning phone call. My husband called while en route to the hangar to tell me not to take my son to school via my normal route… because it was on fire! Neighborhood residents were erecting roadblocks and burning tires to protest the lack of government follow-through on a road improvement project.
Before that day was over, I had watched billowing black smoke from my roof, heard multiple rounds of gunshots fired and people on my street had been affected by tear gas. While this type of activity is unusual in my neighborhood and I was not in danger, it still rattled me emotionally.
It didn’t help that this came on top of the daily stresses that I am still getting used to: inconsistent power; lack of privacy; tarantulas in my yard; roosters crowing and loud music blaring at all times of the day and night; and feeling guilty about my relative wealth when I am surrounded by a sea of poverty. I felt overwhelmed.
But after a few days of wallowing in self-pity, the Lord convicted me through Colossians 3:2 – “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” I realized that instead of setting my mind on the Lord, I had allowed my gaze to slip and had been consumed by my earthly troubles.
I don’t doubt that I still have some traveling to do on that culture shock graph… but hopefully the next time trouble comes my way, I will remember to keep my focus on the Lord, who has promised to be my refuge and my strength!