I first heard this Haitian proverb when I read Tracy Kidder’s book about Paul Farmer, “Mountains beyond Mountains.” If you haven’t read the book, I urge you to do so as it will give you substantial insights into a man who is making a difference and insights into the country of Haiti.
So what does “beyond mountains, there are mountains” mean? Well it is two things, one is geographical and one is emotional, social/cultural. Step with me to the balcony on a house overlooking Port Au Prince. You look out over the city, over the masses humanity attempting to eke out a living in a hot dry and challenging environment and beyond them, you see mountains.
And if the weather is clear enough and the sky is clear enough, what do you see past the mountains?
Beyond mountains there are mountains. That’s a very simple geographical statement for a large part (but not all) of Haiti,
But the mountains in Haiti are more than geographical. The mountains represent the problems of life. The problems of life that come from living on an island that has been stripped of many of the ways that people can make a living. The problems of life that come from decades and decades of poorly run and corrupt government. The problems that come from an infrastructure of roads, bridges, hospitals, schools that all have not been taken care of the way they should. The problems that come from the lack of a decent health care system.
The list could go on. And the proverb does go on. It doesn’t say beyond Mountains, there is a mountain. It doesn’t say, solve one problem, get past one obstacle and you’ll only have one more problem.
Beyond mountains, there are mountains. Work on one problem, and as soon as you fix that problem, as soon as you conquer that issue, another issue pops up.
Well, it doesn’t really pop up, it’s just that you can finally see it because you made it over the first mountain. What was something off in the haze is now an obstacle that is right in front of you. You have three choices on how to deal with that obstacle:
Attack it directly. Take on the challenge, climb the mountain, reduce it to rubble. And then repeat the process for the next mountain.
Because beyond mountains there are mountains.
Try to find away around it. I don’t know of any mountains in this world that you can’t walk around. Some of them might take months if not years to walk around, but it can be done.
But beyond mountains, there are mountains. If you side step the challenge you are facing, soon you face another one.
Retreat. Go back. Say, I can’t do this.
And on your own, you probably can’t do “this.” No matter what problem that Haiti is facing right now, it’s too big for one person to fix, at least on their own.
But there are many many people trying to climb these mountains. They are trying to solve these problems – maybe for their community – maybe just for themselves. And why are they?
They don’t have a choice. For some reason I don’t believe we will understand this side of Heaven, God didn’t have everyone come into this world in first world comfort.
There are people climbing part of the way up the mountain. It might be their first mountain, it might be their fourth.
God, in his command to “love thy neighbor as thy self” has told us that He wants, no he expects us to make a difference and help those who need.
So even though there are mountains beyond the mountains of problematic challenges in Haiti, God calls us to help.
How are you going to help with the mountain climbing?