Our team meets each evening in the living room to debrief, reflect, and worship God. Greg asked two questions upon which I will reflect in this post. 1. What surprised you today? 2. Where did you see God today?
Sunday was like the quiet before the storm in our trip. It was a day of rest, worship, and site-seeing. First we went to worship at Mission of Hope. This is a huge mission complex that houses a church building, a school, orphanage, and medical facilities (not sure on the medical). There were some surprise factors in the service. 99% of the service was in creole, but what surprised me was how American the service was. They sang Chris Tomlin songs, some of which even had english lines underneath the Creole lines. That was very nice for us, but still surprising. Another surprise was the number of white people in attendance. There were more white people than Haitians. It was like the conference center for all the mission teams visiting from the states. I’m not sure how I felt about that. Perhaps the most surprising element of the experience was the fact that we had to pass by an armed guard to enter the campus. I’ve come to learn that there are armed guards at every large public facility, like gas stations, banks, grocery stores, etc.
I did see God in that service, however. I know that sounds ironic. Isn’t the point of a worship service to somehow see God? It doesn’t always work that way. Here is when it happened for me. The pastor was preaching away. He is a handsome and charming man. His smile and enthusiasm is infectious, even when you can’t understand his Creole words. We could tell he was preaching about love. John 3:14-17 was projected on the screen in Creole behind him. So, he was preaching away and everyone was shouting “Amen” to punctuate his words. Then he stops right in front of us. We were sitting in the first two rows. He looks right at me and speaks in English, “God loves you, and we are supposed to love each other. But we can’t love each other on our own. We can only love when God’s love flows in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Then we can love everybody.”
He went on to talk about how we need to love even those who have wronged us and are our enemies.
I saw God in two ways in that moment. First, when he broke into English and understanding suddenly flowed into my consciousness, it heightened my awareness of how God speaks all languages and the love of God crosses all cultural boundaries. Second, when he spoke of loving your enemies it was hard to hear. There he is, a man of Haiti. By American standards, he has nothing. He is the descendent of people who were stolen from their land in Africa and brought to this island to be slaves. His people remain in the shackles of poverty. They are not welcome in our country. The face of the white man is the symbol of every source of suffering his people know. Yet, he preaches through a vast and genuine smile about loving your enemies. That hit me.
The Journey reading today was John 18:11-27. Jesus has been arrested and he stands trial. As he is being accused and beaten by the Jewish leaders, Peter stands outside and denies that he even knows Jesus. He denies him three times. Then the cock crows.
As I right these words the cock is crowing outside the World Wide Village guest house. How many times have I denied Jesus because I was afraid of what people might think. How many times have I held a grudge against people who have hurt me. And there stands Jesus, being falsely accused. There stands Pastor Kemmel in all of his Haitian history. God’s love transcends these things. Jesus forgives Peter. Pastor Kimmel forgives me and my ancestors. This is God at work.
On the Mountain
After church we went to lunch at the UN base. Then we drove up the mountain to a restaurant patio that provided a spectacular view of the city below. The drive up the mountain is another thing that surprised me. So far on this trip we have seen primarily utter poverty. The majority of people in Porta Prince live with next to nothing. The drive up the mountain felt like an excavation project that explored the strata of socio-economic structure. The higher we drove, the nicer the neighborhoods looked. The houses got bigger and cleaner. The streets were less crowded. And…there were TREES! Lush, gorgeous trees filled in all the empty spaces. This is what the entire island looked like before it was deforested.
Now, don’t misunderstand. The “nice” neighborhoods at the top of the mountain would be considered barely within the lower middle class in our socio-Eco system. Electricity is sketchy. Running water means you have a tank on the top of your house and the sewage dumps into the ditch below your house. And, many of your neighbors are still clusters of broken down shacks nestled in a pile of garbage. But, relative to the city below, these were palatial estates.
When you look down on the city from the patio of the very nice restaurant it was difficult to believe what is really going on down there. You truly felt “above it all.” I didn’t know places like this existed in Haiti. That surprised me.
One of our vans overheated on the drive up that mountain. A cluster of men gathered around the open hood. Thank God that some of them know about engines, because I know nothing. The radiator had blown all the water, so we needed to refill it. At home that would be no problem. Here, we were able to find one five gallon bucket that we bought from a neighbor, and that was it. Harold said we need more water and the driver looked at him like he was crazy.
Wow. We take running water and sewer systems and safe roads for granted.
It was a good day. This morning I’m preparing myself for the work to begin. We will buy the paint and then I’ll begin drawing the mural. Pray for safety for our team as they lead their various projects.