Kent Annan’s new book on Haiti, After Shock: Searching for Honest Faith When Your World Is Shaken, records his deeply personal search for God — for the reality of the Christian God — in the rubble of Haiti. Kent has been connected deeply in Haiti for nearly a decade, had returned to the USA not longer before the earthquake, and six days after the earthquake was back in Haiti. He’s since carried on an active ministry in Haiti.
What are we doing for folks who experience tragedy?
His voice is one of the most authentic and accurate when it comes to the conditions of Haiti, so when he is book came out I was excited to read it. I knew it would be a serious read — not the sort of “look at all the good we’re doing, praise God!” books. Kent Annan is simultaneously ministering and absorbing at the existential level the suffering of Haiti. As a result, this book is about his search for God — and his faith struggle — and his ongoing faith — and his reflections on what happens to the person who cares and who absorbs and who ponders in light of his or her faith what we believe in light of what we experience in tragedies like Haiti. I want to draw attention to two little snippets of his reflections and hope that you will pick it up and read and ponder and pray.
At one point Kent Annan brings to the surface what many of us have either not put into words or not been willing to admit. He ponders what he wished God were like. He calls it “An Annotated Wish List for Changes in/by God.” Here are his wishes:
1. Rather than a God of occasional disaster-rescue miracles, I want a God whose miracles prevent the disasters in the first place.
2. Rather than a God who needed to retreat in order to give humans freedom and love, I want a God who finds a less painful way to make freedom and love work.
3. Rather than a system where the most vulnerable suffer, I want the wealthy to be the most vulnerable.
4. Rather than children being at the mercy of nature and of other people, I want no one to be traumatized before the age of twelve.
5. For every unethical action I want an immediate equal and opposite reaction.
6. I want a small indicator button the back of every human that informs us forty eight hours before death so we can say our proper goodbyes.
The crosses in Haiti… Kent Annan reflects on the two crosses in Port-Au-Prince: one a crucifix, teaching us about God entering into our suffering and about God’s being with us, and one an empty cross, teaching us of victory over death and of God being gone. He goes down to the location and prays to Jesus near each cross, his prayers reflecting the Jesus of each cross.
I like these words of his, words that in some ways sum up this whole book: “With every crisis of faith, what we believe is crucified, and then we wait expectantly, whether in defeat or in joyful hope, to see what part of our faith is resurrected.”