Ferdinand G. Mahfood founded Food for the Poor Inc. of Deerfield Beach, Florida, after a successful career in business. In 11 years, the organization has shipped $130 million in goods to 24 countries, including $35 million to Haiti.
What motivates you to continue working in a place as poor as Haiti?
There is only one thing: the Lord. My question is, why doesn’t the Lord knock several dozen people over the head like he did with me. I underwent a very serious conversion that led me to the poor. What keeps the fire burning after 11 years? I practice the discipline of centering prayer twice a day.
How has poverty in Haiti affected you personally?
When I first started visiting these slums I used to get very angry and gef frustrated, and I would go home and would harass and harangue my staff. I took it out on everyone. It seemed like there was no end to [the number of poor people]. But the Lord took away the anger and put in my heart peace and love.
What value is there for North Americans making a pilgrimage to observe the poor in Haiti?
No one in America can truly realize the destitution of these people—just to drive on the street and see the garbage; to go into the slum and smell the stench; to see women and children carrying water all day; to go to a maternity hospital and see three women in a bed. I hope by bringing [Americans] here that God will shock them enough that they will come out of their lethargy and business-as-usual life and link some way to the poor.
What is distinctive about the Haitian people?
Their simplicity. Their humility. The Haitian is satisfied with nothing. That’s a very unusual thing to say about a people. But if you stopped on the street to chat with the Haitians, you would find them smiling and talking to you politely. No anger.
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