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Lessons from abroad for Trump

Sometimes suffering—not prosperity—is a crucible for greatness

Lessons from abroad for Trump

A young woman prays at the site of the collapsed National Cathedral on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Patrick Farrell/The Miami Herald/AP)

Twitter lit up on Friday with inspiring stories about immigrants from the nations President Trump apparently derided during a meeting about immigration in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon.

Bandal Luk, a project manager at Arizona State University’s Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, tweeted about coming from one of the African nations Trump reportedly slammed.

Luk described his background: “a former refugee, holds a master’s degree, holds 2 bachelor degrees, a human rights activist, a refugee advocate, fights sex and labor trafficking in the United States.”

The tweet and others like it came after The Washington Post and other news outlets reported that sources said President Trump referred to certain African nations as “sh—hole countries,” and that he also asked why we’d want more Haitians in the United States.

The White House didn’t deny the language hours after the Oval Office meeting. On Friday morning, President Trump seemed to refute the comment on Twitter. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., went on-the-record to say he heard the president make the remarks during the gathering.

The reported comments provoked justified outrage. Beyond debates of the specifics of immigration policy, the crass dismissal of entire nations is deeply offensive. It’s also inaccurate.

It’s true that many Haitians and Africans suffer in miserable conditions under corrupt leaders who amass power and wealth. (It’s worth noting that not all languish under these conditions, but it’s undeniable many do endure deep suffering.)

But suffering doesn’t equal personal failure. Indeed, suffering is often a crucible where personal greatness flourishes as much—and sometimes perhaps more—than it might in prosperity.

I’ve seen it on reporting trips all over the world.

Eight years ago today, I was scrambling to make arrangements to fly into Port-au-Prince after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake shattered the Haitian capital and surrounding area. As many as 200,000 people died in the disaster.

When I arrived a couple of days later, conditions were heartbreaking and miserable, and they tragically compounded the poverty already entrenched in Haiti. But in the midst of epic suffering, I also witnessed epic strength.

In a small church just outside Port-au-Prince, Haitians had removed pews from a concrete sanctuary to create space for a makeshift clinic. Volunteer doctors worked in grueling conditions to suture massive wounds, even as bones protruded from legs and arms hastily amputated in overrun hospitals. Not long after I arrived, a group of Haitians carefully lifted a dead patient from the floor and carried him outside. This would happen throughout the night.

By Sunday morning, workers had managed to evacuate some of the worst cases, but severely injured men, women, and children were still lying on blood-stained floors, while nurses cleaned infections and doctors set broken bones. Some had lost husbands, wives, children, and homes.

But it was Sunday, so a local pastor conducted a morning worship service. Local churchgoers gathered outside the makeshift clinic and peered in while the service got underway. Earlier in the morning, church members had knelt next to mats and fed a hot breakfast to the patients.

As the service began, there was weeping and singing, and I watched in humbled awe as the wounded patients worshipped. As the singing swelled, some hoisted broken limbs in the air—some had lost their hands, but they still raised the arms they had left in praise to the Lord.

This was a hard place, but it was also a sacred one.

A few years later, I walked through the ashes of churches scorched by Boko Haram terrorists in northern Nigeria. Churchgoers had fled villages across the northeast, but some had begun to return. Conditions were difficult, but impulses were noble: In one rural village, local residents re-built their pastors’ torched home before beginning on their own.

In another town, schoolteachers at a Christian school held classes in the hull of a burned building, and taught for no pay so children could return to some sense of normalcy. Nearby, another group of churchgoers were sheltering widows and orphans of husbands and fathers killed during Boko Haram raids. The churchgoers had little, but they were sharing whatever food they could find.

Great suffering had produced great character in many of the people I met.

This, of course, is what Scripture teaches. Blessed are the poor, the meek, and the hungry, for they often understand that their deepest needs are met in the Lord Jesus Christ, and they know how to show mercy to others.

Mercy doesn’t mean we can always take care of everyone who needs help, but it does mean a humble disposition of knowing the blessings we receive are an opportunity to share with others.

At its core, it means recognizing what Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., noted on Friday morning: “We are all made in the image and likeness of God.”


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  • JerryM
    Posted: Fri, 01/12/2018 05:27 pm

    I count three articles on Trump's recent immigration comments on the current World News homepage.  I question whether this is balanced coverage.  It seems more like the "Trump obsession syndrome". 

  • John Kloosterman
    Posted: Fri, 01/12/2018 07:02 pm

    It's a big news item.  Everyone's talking about it.  And the president is, for better of for worse, a very public figure.  WORLD has often had more than three articles running on different stories with Clinton, Obama, or Bush during their presidency.  I don't see anything too unusual about their focus here.

  • E Cole
    Posted: Fri, 01/12/2018 11:09 pm

    Thank you for this excellent article.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Tue, 01/16/2018 02:15 am

    I believe the anti-Trump crowd are truly crazy! What exactly was the context of the comment?  Was it not about which countries we want to let people immigrate to the US? If we take Jamie Deans article to heart we will seek the absolute worst hell holes and let people immigrate from those countries because “suffering is the crucible for greatness”.  This is absolute nonsense and should be called out for what it is! 

  • John Kloosterman
    Posted: Sat, 01/13/2018 03:28 pm

    Uh, no?  It's not nonsense?  America was founded on people fleeing hell holes.Sheltering the refugee and the stranger is a big part of what we as Christians are called to do.  Talking about what countries we can "let" people emigrate from, as if country of origin determined worth, is the most ridiculous thing since people complained about "Orientals" coming to California, or Irish to New York.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Tue, 01/16/2018 02:18 am

    John, you seem to confuse the role of State and the role of the Church or individual Christians. 

  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Sat, 01/13/2018 11:19 am

    Sorry, but I do not believe the United States should take in only those people with the proper degrees and culture to help us.  I do believe we have to be careful not to allow in those who come only to harm us and those who come must come legally.  There must be a balance.  A good hardworking immigrant who becomes a fantastic garbage man/woman might be more of a blessing than a person with a medical degree who comes here only for the money.  The very idea that we could decide who is worthy is ridiculous.  A fantastic person might come from a very disadvantaged country.  Mr. Trump would be well advised to confine his comments to policy and stop attacking individuals, cultures and people groups.  I voted for him but he is a difficult fellow to defend. He makes me think of several scriptures about the glory of being quiet.     

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Mon, 01/15/2018 09:12 am

     President Trump asked Congress to come up with a solution for the DACA issue and immigration reform  and he essentially was given a bill that does everything that he requested it to NOT do (allowing chain migration, continuing unrestrained immigration, etc). Yes, Trump was mad because of their disingenuous effort to come up with true immigration reform plan and solution to the DACA problem. Trump is correct that we don’t need such high number of immigrants from all these countries, especially when the goal of Democrats is to win elections through unrestrained immigration. 

    Also, it is a fair question to ask about which immigrants will make the best citizens- skilled labor, unskilled, etc.  I don’t think these questions are ridiculous and a smart nation will seek to make a measurable and discernible criteria and seek to bring these people in. 

    Another concern of Trump is the gangs that are infiltrating the US - El Salvador, MS 13; Mexico, Florencio 13, Bario Aztecs, and Pistoleros; Samali gangs; Haiti, Zoe Pounds; etc.  These gangs are ruthless bringing murder, drugs, prostitution, slavery, and other crime to America. Even more disturbing is the fact that some of these gangs are infiltrating our military and stealing extremely powerful weapons and using them on the streets. 

    I also don’t agree with you that Trump is attacking cultures and people groups by these statements. Acknowledging problems within nations during discussions about immigration is wise and prudent. Even Paul acknowledged the problems of the Cretans where he said they were liars, evil beasts and lazy gluttons (NKJ Titus 1:12,13). If Paul was a political figure in charge of deciding immigration issues, I am sure he would limit the number of Cretans coming into his country.  In saying this, I do believe and I am sure Trump also believes that there are many fine people in all countries.  This doesn’t mean the US is obligated to bring in equal numbers of immigrants from all countries of the world. 

  •  Greg Mangrum's picture
    Greg Mangrum
    Posted: Sat, 01/13/2018 11:51 am

    I appreciate World's reporting; however, with President Trump in office there seems to be a media feeding frenzy on things that may or may not even be true. I do not want to see my favorite magazine careen off the proverbial cliff along with the other media-lemmings. By the way, Sen. Durbin is not exactly an honest broker. Remember the time he compared American soldiers' conduct to Nazis? 

  • charles jandecka
    Posted: Sat, 01/13/2018 04:20 pm

    Let’s just take Haiti as an example: In spite of billions of dollars in aid and boatloads of Bibles, it continues to shout for more, more & more – just like Seymour from the “Little Shop of Horrors.”

    And one more thing – how many African refugees return back home to rebuild their communities after mastering a craft or obtaining an education?

    Not even the Father of the "Prodigal Son" was so foolish with his resources, waiting instead until the young snot repented, returned home and requested to work as a hired hand.

  • WORLD User 181548
    Posted: Sat, 01/13/2018 05:27 pm

    The joke is on World Mag and all the other news organizations and pundits basing all this hysteria upon the word of one, known liar of a Democratic congressman.  Two of the Reps said they heard nothing of the sort, but naturally, they aren't believed.  Then this lie is repeated around the world, offending countries, people, leaders, etc.  All because one person lied.  When Trump releases a tape of the meeting showing he said no such thing, the MSM is done...  As should all the other rubes that believed them.  World Mag will need to take a hard look at themselves on this one.

  • AlanE
    Posted: Sat, 01/13/2018 09:19 pm

    If Trump didn't really say at least close to what was reported, why was the first White House response this:

    Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.

    And then why did Trump tweet this:

    The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.

    Frankly, Trump's choice of words is a comparatively minor issue. The bigger issue is what's in Trump's heart about, say, Mexicans, Africans, Haitians, Muslims, and so forth. Trump, even if he's telling the truth in this tweet (which is certainly up for grabs), is straining at the gnat of foul language and swallowing the camel of hardness in his heart toward people groups that aren't the color of his skin. I can agree with some of what Trump wants with respect to immigration but not the hardness of heart that drives him.

    That, folks, is the issue here. 

  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Sun, 01/14/2018 05:55 am

    Never has any US President in my memeory been as attacked as Mr. Trump.  I agree the Democrats, the MSM, Hollywood, and many celebrities have been outrageously unfair to this man.  I like most of what he has done.  I agree with him on immigration for the most part. Fewer immigrants until we can control them in a way that's good for us as well as them.  I personally think we should take in the persecuted before the persescutors but that might be difficult. I think Mr.  Trump is smart and in control with most things but that petulant tendency to insult people who insult him, to call people names, to attack the way people look or talk etc. is, I believe, counter productive.  He is, after all, the President of the United States, even if some don't treat him that way.  

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Wed, 01/17/2018 05:24 pm

    Each president has been the most vilified president in history. :)

    But jokes aside, Pres. Trump's petulance contributes more to this problem than he and his defenders appear willing to admit.

  • MB
    Posted: Mon, 01/15/2018 03:46 pm

    The most discusting aspect of President Trump's comment, if indeed he did say those things and meant them to be derogatory of the people from those nations, is the word choice. You site your experience in Haiti, what term would you use to describe the slums there? Nice? Beautiful? Well landscaped? ... I think his term is closer to the reality. I wish he had used the term H--- hole instead as it is less crass and to me just as descriptive. However I must confess, that as someone who has also been to slums in 3rd world countries, the word he used describes what was running through the streets fairly well. 

    I hope World is not "reacting", I am hoping it will respond instead and a response is more that just telling another story. It is articulating a number is aspects with care. Like; is what Senator Durbin said accurate? There seems to be a "want to believe" everything bad about Trump based upon dubious sources that I find an expression of poor journalism. Two, if he did say it what was the context? Was he speaking of people or places? Three, what is the role of merit base in our immigration policy? As individuals we all have merit based boundries like locks on our house and igniation keys on our cars and passwords on our digital personhood ... all of these are merit based, derived from our intent to protect against those who would do us harm or take what we are not wanting to give. 

    I did not vote for Trump so I have no dog in this fight. But the piece above seemed less that the professionalism standard I normally see from World.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Thu, 01/18/2018 08:31 pm

    The message is the concern, not the words. Nobody who knows what he said is being very specific about it, so we are left to conjecture. It seems at best that he asked something like, "Why do we want more people from [outhouse] countries? Why not more from places like Norway?" in response to a proposal to give [outhouse] countries more weight in a lottery system.  He could mean by this that he just wants to put immigrants from all countries of origin on an equal footing. If so, then why does he not just say that?

    And as to "merit":  the Cotton-Perdue bill, which appears to be the primary model for this type of screening, puts more emphasis on "age, education, professional skills and English proficiency." (Quoted from Steve Cortes, "End chain migration, as Trump wants, and switch to merit-based immigration", These have nothing to do with security, and little to do with judging character. It is an unjust system that does not necessarily enhance our security, in my opinion.

  •  Bruce's picture
    Posted: Thu, 01/18/2018 12:26 pm

    I appreciate this article very much.  I took this article more as a general reminder about the spiritual truths taught by the Lord Jesus and through His Spirit more than any kind of serious investigative journalism about the alleged speech of President Trump.  To that extent, I think it is spot-on.  Jesus made very clear for us that suffering and trials are often the Father's way to bring about the humility, grace, strength, and wisdom that are required to be fruitful in His way.  The value of a potential immigrant should not be evaluated primarily on the basis of the comparative qualities of his/her home country's infrastructure, education, and creature comforts.  Regardless of whether Trump used caustic or provocative slurs in his speech, I perceive that there is sympathy in the USA by too large of a set of people to the idea that such criteria should be applied.  I welcome Ms. Dean's and WorldMag's decision to remind us of the folly of that perspective.

  • John Kloosterman
    Posted: Tue, 01/23/2018 11:59 pm

    That is a very good way of looking at this.