I learned a new Haitian expression today: degaje (day-gah-jay). It means something like, “whatever happens,” or “We’ll figure it out,” or “just go with it.”
We had a plan. We really did. Chrissy, Lori, Harold, and I were supposed to get in the pickup with Robertson, leave early, go to the MSC (think Haitian Home Depot), pick up the paint for the mural and supplies for other projects, then meet up with the rest of the team at the school in Williamson. It was a beautiful checklist for a J on the Myers-Briggs. You plan your work, then you work your plan.
Yeah, well, then Haiti happened. The clutch on the truck decided to stop working while we were driving to the store. We are so thankful that Robertson had enough sense about him to masterfully maneuver through the chaotic roundabout, take us on an alternate path, and get us to the side of the road before we were completely dead in the water.
Here’s what I learned about Haiti. When your car dies in the road, you stop everything and fix it right there. There are no tow trucks, no AAA roadside service, no take-it-to-the-shop-and-get-a-rental. Your car is dead, what do you do?
The short version of the story is that we sat on the road for a few hours while another staff member from World Wide Village brought over a mechanic. We borrowed that car, went to the store and got our supplies, then came back to the truck and waited. They eventually fixed the clutch and now it works better than it ever has. We made it to the school around 2:00 and had about an hour and a half to sketch out the mural. It got done.
There are two things that happened during that waiting that I would like to share. The first is that I had enough time to sketch the street upon which we were stranded. This is something I had hoped to be able to do while I was here, but didn’t think I would ever get to actually sit on the street side and draw. Be careful what you pray for, right? Here’s the sketch.
The second thing has to do with a conversation we had during our wait that converges with the Journey reading for today, found in John 18:28-40. Chrissy, Lori, and I were discussing the causes of the poverty in Haiti. Many people have told me that Haiti was once a beautiful and thriving culture, as recent as the 1950s. Then a series of ruthless dictators took over and the economy collapsed. That thought led to reflecting on the fact that much of the world’s hunger is not because there is a lack of food, but that many countries are run by war lords who take the food and money that is given to them and steal it from the poor and extort and exploit them.
Then I started theologizing, of course. This, I said, is what I think the apostle Paul means when he says,
For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12)
When enough people gather together to create an oppressive system, and that system becomes the government that enforces oppression through military and police action, then that is a spiritual power of evil in the world. The spiritual battle is a political battle as much as anything else.
But, how do we struggle against evil? How do we help the spiritual forces of evil that keep the Haitian people in a cycle of poverty, and the people in our own metro area that are stuck in a similar system? It is obvious that the political intervention of the United Nations and the United States is not winning the battle through human politics and military presence.
That is where the Journey reading comes into play. This is the scene when Jesus is brought before Pilate for questioning. “Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asks.
“I am a king,” Jesus replies, “but my kingdom is not of this world.” His next statement stood out to me as never before as I read it in the context of Haiti and the conversation yesterday. Jesus said that if his kingdom were of this world then his followers would start an uprising and try to prevent him from being arrested.
But they don’t.
Jesus told Peter to put his sword away when he was being arrested in the garden. Jesus healed the man that Peter had struck.
Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. I don’t believe that means he is from another dimension, or has a castle up in Heaven and we can find the escape hatch and join him there when we die, if we get our theology correct. I think Jesus meant that God’s way of being in this world is different. The dream of God for the type of system that promotes a good and trustworthy world is different from the way humans typically run things.
Jesus, the King, doesn’t march down Main Street with tanks and tear down the evil regime. Jesus, the King, stretches out his arms and says the most powerful words we can ever speak. “I love you and I forgive you.”
Then they killed him.
This is not an easy struggle. It isn’t against flesh and blood, or broken down trucks, or lack of food. It is a struggle against systems that are based upon greed and power that lead to war, violence, famine, disease, and death.
The Kingdom of God is one in which we first experience God’s radical love and forgiveness in our own lives, and then are able to share that radical loves and forgiveness with everyone we meet. That means actually loving and forgiving people, and then seeking the best for THAT person, not ourselves.
Imagine a system that operated that way.
I think the dream of that is what motivates us to visit Haiti, and, in some small way, share that with the children of this school. We come to hear a Haitian pastor tells us that he loves us and forgives us, as I reflected in my post yesterday. We come to actually mutually share the love of God.
So, today we will begin to paint a mural that depicts the story of Jesus’ life. Hopefully this will be one more tool that will help a new generation know about God’s love and a King who’s kingdom is out of this world.
Today we paint. Maybe.