When Home Is a Hard Place: The Thin Line Between Hardship and Hope in Haiti
James Francois grew up in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince and has lived his entire life in Haiti. Hear how he survived—and now thrives—in one of the world’s toughest places.
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From the time he was a little boy, James Francois has faced many of the hardships that come with living in a place like Haiti. From poverty and political unrest to earthquakes and hurricanes, Haiti is a place where the resilient people who call the island nation home have struggled for decades to make a better life for themselves. Hear how James found hope and survived—and now thrives—in one of the world’s toughest places.
When Home Is a Hard Place: The Thin Line Between Hardship and Hope in Haiti
Cathy: Welcome to The End of The Road podcast. My name is Cathy and I'm your host and tour guide as we journey together to some of the most remote, challenging places on the planet. I'm so excited to have you along for the ride. So buckle up. We're going to the end of the road. Our guest today on the podcast is James Francois. I'm so excited for you to meet James. He's been a friend of mine for gosh, 10 or 12 years. I've known James. He lives and works in Haiti. He's lived his whole life in Haiti. I'm super excited for him to be here today and tell us a little bit about his life and his experience in what currently is a really challenging place to live. So welcome, James. Thanks for being here today.
James Francois: Thank you Cathy. It's an honor and pleasure for me to be here with you today in the podcast.
Cathy: James, you've lived your entire life in Haiti. Is that right?
James Francois: Yes.
Cathy: Have you ever been outside of Haiti to anywhere else?
James Francois: Not at all. Like, I've lived in Haiti for my whole life.
Cathy: Okay, okay. So what was it like growing up in Haiti? Tell us a little bit about your family, your childhood home. Where did you live?
James Francois: I grew up in one of the most dangerous places in Haiti, which is Bel Air a place that is actually a no go area. So it's really hot right now. There are gangs fighting for territory and nobody goes to this place right now, but this place always had this reputation, but it was not that bad back in the days. So growing up, it was really fun. Like, I was living with my two cousins and my grandmother, so she raised me. And I remember back in the days, it was like, when I go to school, I come back home. So, I find food was already on the table and I have to study. And after studying, I go to play soccer with my friends. So it was a good time. So it was a good time. So my childhood wasn't that bad and that's it.
Cathy: Okay. So you lived with your grandmother and your two cousins. Okay. So where were your parents?
James Francois: In Haiti, my childhood was different than other kids childhood because my mom had me really early. Like, she wore 16 when she had... I was born when she was still a teenager and she didn't really have the means to really take care of me. She was compelled to send me to my father house, but it was not like my father was around because I never really knew about him. And because of some complicated stuff, like my parents never really let me know what was really happening. But it was complicated, but I had a good childhood. I definitely got a good one and-
James Francois: I was still connected with my mother. So my biological mother and my grandma from my father's side raised me.
Cathy: Okay. That makes sense. Where you grew up was actually in Port-au-Prince-
James Francois: In Port-au-Prince, yes.
Cathy: ... in the city. It was a neighborhood in the city that currently is not a safe place at all. But when you were a child, it was a little bit better. And so you felt pretty safe just being outside when you were a kid playing and stuff?
James Francois: Like it was pretty safe, but the place always had a reputation of gang at lag. There was a lot of gangs in the area, but it was not it is today. It is really bad. But back in the days, the neighborhood was really vibrant. People were really happy with the life they were living, but today we don't have this anymore.
Cathy: So we're going to get to that a little bit later in our conversation about what's going on in Port-au-Prince right now. And in Haiti, that's making it such a dangerous place to be and to live. But before that, I want to just hear a little bit more about your life growing up. So your grandmother, you said always had a meal ready for you when you got home. She obviously encouraged you to study hard and stay in school. And was that typical for most kids in your neighborhood? Were they all in school regularly and studying hard and doing their best in school?
James Francois: I was really lucky because growing up, I knew a lot of kids, they were my age and they didn't have this opportunity. They didn't have the opportunity to go to school. They didn't have the opportunity to eat two, three times a day like I had the chance. And I think, it was a blessing to have this kind of things, like having the place to live, having food on the table every day and being able to go to school.
Cathy: That's amazing. So those were really privileges and blessings that you experienced as a child.
Cathy: People are going to notice if they're listening to this, they're going to notice right away that you speak excellent English. And in fact that skill is how you and I met because you were serving as a translator for World Concern. The first time that I went to Haiti in 2012, and I noticed right away that you speak perfect English. And in fact you have almost no accent. I think it would be really hard for a lot of people in the US to identify where your accent is from. It doesn't sound like a typical Haitian accent. Tell us how you learned to speak English and why you do it so well with almost no accent?
James Francois: My grandmother never really wanted me to go away. She never really wanted me to go outside. So if I was not studying, I was in front of the TV watching program. So back in the days, I think we were the only house in the neighborhood we had cable. And I started... I fell in love with music, especially rap music, but I used to listen to the... I used to watch the videos listening to the music, to the lyrics and what learning them, like learning something, learning a language, repeating without really understanding what the lyrics were about. I think it became a passion because the neighborhood was so dangerous and my grandmother was so... She was really tough with us, but it was tough love. She didn't want us to go outside and being exposed to all kind of violence or all the things that could have impacted our life badly.
James Francois: Like, she set up in environment where we have all of the things that we wanted at home, especially when it comes to entertainment. And when we talk, like when I talk about entertainment, it's television, it's cable, it's radio, it's music, it's electricity. So she set up that environment so we could be entertained at home and we don't really want to go outside too often. And this is when I started watching the TV shows, the American programs, sports, music, especially rap music. And then, I pick up the words and it became a passion. And I started, I was interested in learning more and understand the language. And this is how I pick up my accent and this is all how I started with English, learning by myself.
Cathy: And how old were you then, maybe 14 or 15 or...?
James Francois: I was really young. I was really young. I started listening to those music and watching those videos, like the American programs at a really young age. I can't really remember, but I really started to be interested in learning English when I was around 12, 13, or maybe 14 year old.
Cathy: Okay, okay. So you've continued to have a passion for language. You actually speak three or four languages, don't you?
James Francois: Yes. So back in the days, I was really good at Spanish. I was really good. I was really good, but I don't know what happened. It's maybe because I'm working in an English environment. So I didn't really have a lot of time to focus on learning Spanish the way I was doing it for English. All my work like the job was doing was 5% English and 5% French and Creole. So I think I'm not that good in Spanish anymore, but I have a really good understanding. So I speak Creole, French, English, and a little bit of Spanish.
Cathy: Okay. I've heard you speak Spanish before. I actually think you speak more than a little bit. So we're going to give you the benefit of the doubt. Say you speak four languages fluently, which is really amazing and has obviously helped with work opportunities for you and stuff as, especially as a translator and just being able to do such a great job. And I want to just say that I've traveled a lot with World Concern and I've worked with a lot of translators and staff around the world, and they're all wonderful, but you have such a gift for translating, particularly when we're interviewing children or people that might be a little bit nervous to be interviewed to tell their story. I just always really appreciated how you would get down on their level and you would take the questions that we were asking and you would rephrase them and put them in a way that the person could more easily be comfortable-
James Francois: Yes.
Cathy: ... And answer the question. And so, it was really beyond a word for word translation. It was interpreting the conversation.
James Francois: Yes.
Cathy: And yeah, it's really a gift. So, I just wanted to give you a little shout out there for your translation skills.
James Francois: Thank you.
Cathy: So James, let's go back to a really difficult day in Haiti's history and in your life as well. So, we're going to just go back to January 12th, 2010, which was the day that a massive earthquake shook Port-au-Prince. And I don't think there was ever an official death toll count, but it was somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 people-
James Francois: Yes.
Cathy: ... Lost their lives that day. In fact, your mom was one of those people. And so I know that this is a tough day for you to remember, but prior to January 12th, had you ever felt an earthquake before? Are they common in Haiti?
James Francois: Oh yes. Not that magnitude, not a 7.1 or maybe 7.0. I forgot I was the magnitude. It was seven. Right. 7.1 7.5. So there was different kind of data's about it. I remember it was at night. I forgot what time it was, but it was around nine o'clock. We had a pretty good one. It was back in 2011... No, 2007, because I remember all of us ran out and people were staying in the middle of the street, screaming, like calling God and 20 to 30 minutes later, everybody was back inside. And tomorrow morning when I went to school, we spent the entire day talking about the earthquake that happened last night. So I think we already had one, but we never knew it could have been that catastrophic. Like, it was so devastating that the one that happened before 2010 was a joke to the real thing.
Cathy: Yeah. So you had felt an earthquake before, but nothing like this.
James Francois: Nothing like this.
Cathy: And so on that day on January 12th, where were you when the earthquake happened?
James Francois: I was at home. Normally, I was supposed to be getting ready to go to school. But for some reason, something I've never done in my life is to watch a soccer game that I've been already played and I knew the score. I just wanted to see the goals. I can't remember what game it was, but I was lazy getting ready to go to school. It was around 03:30, almost 4:00. And then I received this phone call from my mom. She were selling used clothes to a public market, and she called me and said, "Hey, are you getting ready to go to school?" I was like, "No, I'm just watching a game." She was upset because she wanted me to be on time. And then I was like, "Okay. So calm down, don't be mad. I'm just going to take a shower right now. The game is about to be over. It was finish in about 10 minutes. So I'll be on time. I promise."
James Francois: And then she was like, "Okay, so you better be ready when I call you back." And then I think this is the last conversation we had around 4:30, 4:35, the earth started shaking like crazy. But I didn't really know what was going on because I was inside of my room. I thought it was somebody, one of my friend banging on the door or something. And then when I opened the door and when I ran out, I was like, "There's no one outside. So what's going on?" And then everybody started running like crazy onto the realized that it was a earthquake.
Cathy: So was your home damaged?
James Francois: It was pretty damaged. It was really damaged, really damaged, but it didn't collapse like the other houses in the neighborhood.
James Francois: I think if my house had collapsed, I was still... Actually, I was still inside when the earth was shaking. So, I tried to run out. Like, I remember there was another person in the house. We both were trying to run outside and we saw so many times that we didn't really count. And when we arrive outside, when we finally get our balance and run to go outside, the earth had already stopped shaking.
James Francois: So the house was really damaged, but we didn't have time to go outside. So when we ran outside, there was a big cloud of dust coming in. So we thought there was something else happening outside. So, this is what I can remember. And then, I went to a place I sat down for 10 minutes, waiting for the big cloud of dust to wear off. And then I was watching people screaming. I was seeing people running in the street with bloods all over them like, it was crazy. And I was in shock. I spent 15 minutes. I was sitting in the middle of a lot of people that were screaming. And I didn't say a word because I was so in shock and I didn't know what was happening.
Cathy: So, when the dust settled from the big cloud of dust, then were you able to look around and see some of the destruction and some of the collapsed buildings and-
James Francois: Yes.
Cathy: ... At that point, did it start to register in your mind that this was really bad?
James Francois: The first building that was down. This is the first one I've seen, there was a church. I live in a place called La Centine and Centine is the church. It's academy church. And I've seen the cross on top of a pile of rubble. I'm like, oh, the church collapsed. And then I started to realize that it's not only the church. It was 95% of the entire neighborhood. And then 20 minutes later, I had one of my cousin used to be a Police officer.
James Francois: He ran home just to see what was going on. Like, if we were still alive. So, he was working to another place. So he saw the devastation. So, he was running and saying, "Are you okay? Do the house still standing. Where's Mody?" Mody is my other cousin? "So, you guys good? Okay." And then he took me and some other people. And then we started working to go to another place where like... We were trying to go to a safe place. And then this is when we realized that it was much more than what we thought it was. A lot of houses. There was no road. And we were listening to a lot of scream coming under those damage or collapsed houses. And nobody could do anything for those people.
Cathy: Oh, so you were hearing the screams of people that were trapped inside of collapsed buildings.
James Francois: For days, for days. And it's starting to be more painful during the night because we didn't have no other places to go. So we were obligated to group ourselves in one place so we can't wait for help. And we were listening to the screams coming under those houses and nobody could do anything.
Cathy: Oh, that is horrible, absolutely horrible. And so at what point did you realize... So your mom was at this shop where she had called you from earlier. So the shop that she was in collapsed, is that right? And how many days after the earthquake or what point did you realize that your mom had passed away ?
James Francois: The next morning, the next morning. Like, nobody could sleep that night or because I was thinking... One of the things that mom told me before she end up was, "Okay, I have done working for the day. I've just packed up all my things. So I'm going home." I was like, "Okay, she's home, right?" I was trying to convince myself that she was already home when the thing happened. The first like, everybody's reaction I thought the earth group was to grab their phone and call everybody. And there was no connection, radio silence. There was no connection. Nobody could call, it was zero.
James Francois: So no signal, no internet, no phone connection so radio, silence. And then early, the next morning January 13 the next morning I had a cousin, she came to the place I was living and she was asking for me. Like, she wanted to know if I was okay. And when she saw me, she started crying. I'm like, "I'm okay." And I see that, "You're okay too. So what's the problem/" And she was like, "James we've loss a really significant part of our lives." And this is when I started shaking.
Cathy: Yeah. I'm so sorry that I know that's hard to just remember that time and that loss.
James Francois: This is when I started shaking. And she was like the whole thing I pinned in front of my eyes. Like, she called me, she called you and I was there. That's her, that's my cousin speaking. When your mom called you, I was there and I was laughing because she was upset. And she was so happy to talk with you on the phone and to tell you what to do. And she was really happy. They were even telling jokes about me after the call. And then she said... You've been to Haiti, but I don't know if you've seen those lady selling use clothes in the street. It's like, they make a big pile of clothes. And then they bind it with plastic and then they put it in a depot and then she was ready to go.
James Francois: And my cousin was standing in the middle of the street, waiting for her. And they were on their way to go home. When another lady called her for something, like she was on the way on her way to go. And then somebody called her and she went back under this big concrete house she was selling under. And then that's the moment. This is when the earth started shaking and the house collapsed on all of them like there was a lot of people under this big concrete house.
James Francois: She was telling me the story and then, I remember the first thing I did after she told me about it. I went to the place. I could not even recognize the neighborhood, the streets, because all the houses were damaged, all the houses collapsed. And then I was like, "Man, there's nothing I can do." I remember I was looking for something, a tool or sledge hammer or whatever I could find just to smack on the concrete. I could not even recognize where I was. I made a desperate move to go look for her, but I never knew, like I never had the chance to even see their body and this is story that never...
Cathy: She was never found. She was never found. Yeah. Wow. That's absolutely devastating. So, yeah, as you described that, I imagine walking around the city, it would be hard to even find your way or find the direction because the landmarks that you're used to seeing were now piles of rubble. So you don't even probably know which street you're on or what area you're in, because it's all looks different now. Wow. So the first time I went to Haiti, I mentioned was 2012. So two years after the earthquake, almost two and a half years because it was June of 2012, there were still a few areas where there were piles of rubble where a building used to be two and a half years later.
James Francois: Yes.
Cathy: So, for the listeners to understand there's more than 3 million people living in Port-au-Prince, right? So very crowded, very, very busy city, overpopulated, very crowded. And so, when the majority of the buildings collapse, it takes a long time to clear that rubble to rebuild to. And even at that point, there were still some people living in tent, camps and stuff within the city. They lived under tarps and tents for a very long time because there was nowhere for them to live.
James Francois: It was my situation for a certain period of time too. I think I've lived under tent for almost a year, even when I started working with World Concern. First of all, I went to one of my friend after the earthquake. We were living in the big camp and one of my friend whom the house was still standing, she said, "James, I'm not going to let you sleep here so you have to come with me. So, you'll be safe and you'll have a roof under your head." I was like, "No, I don't want any roof under my head right now." So, I was so traumatized about those concrete houses so I didn't really want to sleep outside. I'm like, "Okay. The camp is not the ideal place, but if I'm going to your place, I'm not going to sleep."
James Francois: It was like, "Nobody sleep inside. So we all go to sleep in the yard and I just don't want you to stay here." So it took me to his house and he took care of me for about six months. And when I started working with World Concern, I think public transportation was the main issue for me. That's the reason why I had to go back to my neighborhood, setting up another tent with some other family members so I could go to work and manage the public transportation fee that was really high. And I didn't really have money.
James Francois: So, it was really complicated.
Cathy: It sounds like it. And I know there were a lot of people that were understandably fearful for a very long time to sleep indoors or to even go inside of a building for fear of another earthquake happening. And I know there were aftershocks for weeks. Yeah.
James Francois: The aftershocks was four months. There were aftershocks and most of the houses, a few of them were still repairable. Most of them were collapsed. They fell down. And the few ones that were still standing was barely repairable like you couldn't really repair them. But after a certain period of time, people life under the tents, life in the camps were so hard. Some people just decided to go back in their houses. Like, there are damaged houses.
Cathy: I want to just pause for a moment and thank our listeners for joining us today. If you're just hearing about World Concern for the first time, and you're curious to learn a little bit more about who we are and what sets us apart from other organizations you might be familiar with, please visit worldconcern.org/podcast, and learn a little bit more about what we do. And now, let's get back to our conversation. You went to work for World Concern, and here's where you got to start to use your gifts for language translation and things like that. So initially went to work as a translator on a contract, to document the stories and interview the people that had been affected by the earthquake.
James Francois: Yes. So after the earthquake, it was one of the hardest moment of my life. I was crying every day because I was not ready to see my mom go and I was crying because of the situation I was living. I was sleeping on the tent with no money in my pocket. And I was constantly crying about my mom that who passed away and the misery and the life I was living. It was so hard. And I remember praying for one thing, "God, please give me an opportunity to find a job." Because I know that I won't be able to live in the situation for 3, 4, 6 months. And I think I was so desperate about finding opportunities every day. Like, I remember the Marines or the [inaudible 00:30:41] I forget like, the US Army was native. And I was going to the camps looking for opportunities, asking if they need translation and stuff like that.
James Francois: But they already had some people doing this. So I was praying every day. So, God could give me strength to deal with the situation and to give me an opportunity to find a job so I could leave a decent life again. So, I started working with World Concern three months after the earthquake. I think it was in March. I started in March 1st. And then this is how the story started. This is how my journey started with Well Concern. So, I started working for them as a translator. I was not only a simple translator because I was participating in all of the activities like distributing food kits, distributing plastic cups, cans. This is the job I was doing while translating for our staff.
Cathy: Yeah, yeah. That's incredible. And after you started working with World Concern. So first of all, you mentioned that you prayed and you asked God to help you. It sounds like you were feeling pretty hopeless and didn't really know what to do with your life. Were you a praying person before the earthquake?
James Francois: I have always been a praying person, but the situation I was living after the earth, after the earthquake made me more a praying person. So, I started like... Back in the days before the earthquake, I used to pray in the morning and maybe at night when I was going to bed, but not all the time. But time was so hard that my only strength was to pray God and ask for opportunities. Praying God to get me out of this situation. Like, I don't have my mother who used to provide for me. I'm on my own. And this is the time I want to see you in work, God. This has always been my prayer. And the other prayer was, "Why you had to take my mom?" So I was constantly questioning, even in the middle of the prayers, I was praying for opportunities.
James Francois: I was praying for food. I was praying for receiving a tent from an organization. Because I remember that my tops was leaking and when it was raining, it was really hard for me. And then I was praying in the middle... I was praying for all these things and in the middle of the prayer, I was like, "Why you did that to me? I'm not ready for this. I was not ready to let it go. Why you did that? You should have taken my life." This is the prayers I was... This is the kind of conversation I was having with God. And then, I stopped asking this question when on a Monday morning, World Concern there was a devotion. Somebody was praying like it was Meredith. It was leading the devotion. And the message was so strong that after listening to him, I accepted everything.
James Francois: I can't really remember what verse on the Bible it was preaching about. But I remember the message was, "You have to accept the situation because this is how God wanted the situation to be like. This is how you wanted things to happen. You're now better than the other people. You are still alive. He saved you during the earthquake. So you have to let everything go. It's because you have a mission. It didn't want you to go. So you have to stay alive, to have a stronger faith in him and do the mission that they call you on earth to do." And then after this message, I was like, "Okay," this is exactly what I wanted to hear. And then I never asked God any question about why it took my mom that early anymore.
Cathy: So just to recap, that's an incredible, powerful story. And I just want to kind of recap it real quick. So in the midst of this really dark and difficult time for you, where you were crying out to God, you were asking him really hard questions about why you lost your mom at such a young age and really struggling in your life. World Concern offices around the world have devotions, staff devotions. And so you attended one of those staff devotions and a gentleman named Meredith who was part of our headquarters staff at the time was sharing from a passage of scripture that just really spoke to you. And it sounds like you were saying the takeaway from that was that for whatever reason, God chose to have you survive that earthquake when so many others didn't and therefore he's got a purpose and a mission for you to be here. And so on that day, you stopped questioning why, and you did your relationship with God change from that point? Do you feel like that was a turning point for you?
James Francois: Definitely. That was a turning point in my life. So I started praying more. This is when I really started to give it all to God. So whatever happened is because of his will, like this is the way he wants things to happen. So I don't have to ask them any questions. I could be mad. Maybe it was not my decision, maybe I had order plan, but I have accepted that my plan is not God's plan. So this is the way things work and the message that Meredith conveyed that day was really clear. And I think my relationship with God have been better since then. I don't question his decision anymore, even though it's painful.
Cathy: Yeah, yeah. So you feel like God was speaking to you that day, personally to you. And so how has your life changed since then? I mean, I know things haven't always been easy and life continues to be a challenge in Haiti, but how is it different now that God is at the center of your life? And you've really continued to just surrender your life to him?
James Francois: I think the first response I had from God was the job, because I think it was the most important thing for me. I wanted to change the way I was living, waking up in the morning not knowing what I was going for the day, having to worry about those dark clouds in the sky because it's about to rain and I was under a tent that was pretty damaged. I just wanted God to give me an opportunity so I could change from this like difficult life I was living to a better one. I'm not saying that immediately after obtaining the job at Well Concern, I was rich but it was a huge relief. It was a huge relief. And when I had the job, I think a lot of other people or a lot of my friends and my siblings benefited from this opportunity because I was able to change some other people's life to have a great impact on their lives.
James Francois: I think this is one of the first response I got from God. And then the second one was the message that Meredith gave during the devotion. And I was like, "Okay, so I will never question your decision anymore. I'm sorry for all those questions that I've asked, I was not supposed to ask them. So, I give you my life and I know that your plan for me on that bad plans, I know you have great thing reserve the future for me." So, it's like my faith became stronger after listening to this message.
Cathy: That's amazing. Thank you for sharing all that with us. I think that's going to be a great encouragement to a lot of people who are listening to this because everybody faces struggles. Everybody faces hard times. Everybody has questions. We've all had moments in our lives where we've questioned God, "Where are you? What were you doing on that day? Why did you let this happen to me?" Could be that somebody has a cancer diagnosis or somebody lost a child or someone is going through a really hard time.
Cathy: And I think it's an encouragement to hear that at your lowest point, when you cried out to God, he responded, he answered and starting with a job that just provided for your basic needs. And then, ultimately really speaking to your heart and showing you the plans that he had for your life. And I've had the privilege of being a friend of yours all these years and getting to see the fruit of that and see how your life has changed and how you have grown. In fact, you are a father yourself now. You have a little one year old boy. So, tell us about your son.
James Francois: Oh, Ki-Many I think is the biggest blessing that God gave to me. I think being a father has the best job in the world and I completely enjoy it and it's a blessing. I thank God for that.
Cathy: That's awesome. So what are your hopes and dreams now, your son is growing up in a different Haiti than you grew up in. When you think about his life, his childhood, his future there, what are your hopes and dreams for him?
James Francois: I'm only praying for one thing. I'm working so hard and praying God all the time for one thing. I don't want him to be through what I've been through. So, I've been through a lot and the country is not getting any better. By growing up things were so difficult and now it's even worse. So, I'm just praying God to give me more opportunities and give like... I just want God to give them a better life than the one that I have. And I'm going to pray every day for this to happen. And I'm going to work extremely hard to give them all of the things that've never had. I'm dreaming about a lot of great things for home. I know there's only one person who is in control in is God. I trust him. And I think all of these dreams will come true.
Cathy: I think I recall being in Haiti and in other places around the world, but especially in Haiti interviewing and talking with parents there and asking them that same question, "What their hopes were for their children and their children's future?" And most of them said a very similar thing. They said, "I just want my children to have a better life. My prayer, my dream, my hope for my kids is to have a better life." And so, your son has a real blessing in that he has a father that prays for him every day and models that relationship with God and that faith that he'll see that even when hard times do come, which they will because they do for everyone that standing on those promises of God and in that faith are going to be the thing that will get him through.
Cathy: So James, I want to hear just a little bit. We don't have a lot of time left, but I want to hear, describe what it's like in Port-au-Prince right now. We're seeing on the news that it's very chaotic, that there's no law and order. It's a very scary place to live. Yeah. It's just a completely different place like you were describing far more dangerous than the Port-au-Prince that you grew up in. So, tell us a little bit about what's going on in that city right now.
James Francois: It's really chaotic. I think growing up, especially back in 2004, I think it was one of the most difficult times that this country have been through. But I think right now in 2022, this is the worst I've ever seen in my country. So, this is rock bottom. I don't think we can't go any lower than that. I don't listen to news anymore because it gives me blood pressure issue. It's so stressed out. So listening to the news, you scared to go outside to go to work or go to school or go outside to do whatever the things you have to do. So, I can't really describe the situation. It's really horrible. People are getting kidnapped every day. The government is nonexistent. We have no president. He has been assassinated. I think the dollar value would keep going up every day.
James Francois: Like, basic products are getting more expensive every day with 1000 gourde, which is $8 or $7. I don't really know the right amount, but with 1000 gourde, you can't really do anything with it. You can't really have food on the table for your family with 1000 gourde which is the biggest bill, the biggest currency of the country. So, the situation is so catastrophic that you can't really describe how hard it is right now. The things that people are doing right now, it's like, "Okay, we've been through so many situation like this. We've been through so hardship and tribulation. So we will overcome this one. So we are getting more resilient."
James Francois: But I think it's a way of creating some hope that saying that things are not going to be better, but we've seen far worse than that and we'll get over it. Like we will overcome the situation, but most of us are lying to ourselves. It's not the main reason, but one of the reason why we have more gangs fighting for territories it's because life got harder. Basic products are so scarce that people are willing to do whatever, even to kill someone just to find food to give to their children. So the situation is so catastrophic. I can't even describe it, Cathy.
Cathy: Yeah, it sounds indescribable. And like you said, I've heard so many people say they're afraid to even just go outside of their home, go outside on the street to go to work. You told me recently that you said, "We're not going to church right now. And not because we don't want to, but because it's not safe."
James Francois: Definitely.
Cathy: People are breaking into churches and kidnapping.
James Francois: People or going churches three or maybe six months ago, the churches were the main target of the bandits. Every Sunday morning or Saturday evening or Saturday morning, a pastor or a member of the church, a deacon, somebody at church was kidnapped. Sometimes I just want to go outside and hang with my family. Just have a good time going for ice cream with my son. But I'm like, "Man, I'm not going to get kidnapped over an ice cream." So, it's really hard. It's really hard.
James Francois: The thing is you are struggling. You are struggling. Like, your life is already hard and you get kidnapped and acts in the amount so astronomical that you would never dream about that amount of money they ask you and you have to pay it. Otherwise, you will die. This is the situation we all live. And me personally, I have to change my routine almost every week. So, I don't go to work at eight o'clock. I go to work at 09:00. I go to work at 10:00. I go to work at 07:00, so nobody knows my move. So this is the situation. This is how stressful it is to live in Haiti right now.
Cathy: It sounds really unbelievable. And know that we always ask people, plead with people to pray for the situation there in Haiti and other challenging situations around the world. And we'll certainly do that with you sharing that firsthand experience of what it's like there right now, and just pray. It sounds like the same situation earlier in your life where you felt completely hopeless and yet God showed up and provided a way. And so, that will be our prayer for Haiti that somehow out of the ashes, God will bring beauty and bring restoration and reconciliation in Haiti. So, we join you in that prayer. Is there anything that you would ask people specifically to pray for? If they're praying for Haiti?
James Francois: I would only ask them to pray for peace in Haiti. This is the only thing we want. We want peace in Haiti. We want God to give this country peace because ever since I was born, I've never knew a peaceful moment, a peaceful day, a peaceful year in Haiti. There was always something political turmoil, natural disasters, disease, pandemic. We never catch a break from some, something bad out was happening. We just want God to unify this country. This is what I want you to pray for. I want you to pray for unification of the population of all the Haitians, wherever they live, whether they live in Haiti or any other part of the world. And we want peace for Haiti, that's all we want.
Cathy: Amen. You got it. Well, I will certainly be doing that. And I know that many of the listeners will be praying for Haiti after hearing your story and what the situation is like there. So, James, thank you so much for taking so much time today to just share your life story, your incredible life story and what God has done and about your beautiful family and even about the ongoing challenges in Haiti. So, really appreciate your time today. Thank you.
James Francois: Thank you, Cathy.
Cathy: I want to thank our listeners for joining us today. I hope that your mind has been opened up a little bit. Your heart has been touched through some of the stories that you have heard today. As I mentioned earlier, if you're curious about learning a little bit more about World Concern about our work beyond the end of the road, you can visit worldconcern.org/podcast to learn more. I want to thank CRISTA Ministries, World Concerns, parent organization for making this podcast possible. And I also want to thank Casey Helmick and the whole team at Terra Firma for their production and editing and consulting expertise for helping us bring these stories to life and bring them to you. Thanks again for joining us today, we look forward to more stories at The End of The Road next time.