Sunday morning, Matt preached at Fev.
I finally got to go.
As we headed home a few hours later, I was incredibly touched and proud, overwhelminglyproud of our staff and students who have been faithfully faithful to making Him known in Fev.
Don’t get me wrong.
I wasn’t incredibly proud because Fev was awesome.
I was incredibly proud because Fev was NOT.
It wasn’t awesome at all. It is a patch of dirt with a stick and a tarp. With holes.
The people come, not on time, not in crowds, not in nice or matching clothes, not in cars, but carrying broken plastic chairs on their heads, mostly women and children and old people.
Chickens mill, the dirt is too rocky and uneven to get your chair to sit flat, the little boys in front of us were playing with a broken condom turned balloon, and all around the little patch of church-plant are the crumbling mud huts of the witchdoctors and their temples.
It took about 2 minutes to realize that the new converts and curious attendees have NO church in their backgrounds…no “Christian” in their culture…no Christ in their traditions.
From the hymns so well-known throughout Haiti that this group struggled painstakingly through to the incredibly basic lessons of our students still difficult for the small body of new believers to understand…it was obvious that it was not long ago that those who walked in darkness saw a great Light.
For over six months now, our students have BEEN here. Hung out here, taught here, evangelized here, gone door-to-door and door-to-door again, built relationships, shown up, preached the Gospel.
Again and again and again and again.
I have been to Fev.
And there is NO glory in it. No reward, not earthly.
There is nothing but a million opportunities to be discouraged.
But I saw in Jorgia’s beaming face NONE.
There is nothing in Fev but about 200 people who have very very little.
But I saw heard in Walnique’s passionate voice NO interest in that.
There is nothing in Fev that would require one of our most brilliant seminary student to be challenged.
But I followed in Rujerry’s praise NOTHING but humility.
There is nothing in Fev to draw ANYONE. To keep anyone.
But as Junior proudly introduced me to new sister after new brother in Christ after the service, it was clear that there was NO place he’d rather be in the world.
Our crew is BEING EXACTLY Christ in exactly where Christ came for this Christmas.
It may be a rocky patch of dirt, but it is on fire, my friends. It glows.
Christ, whom they knew NOTHING about and never thought they would, is alive and wellin this dirt patch surrounded by stick voodoo huts. He is becoming truly known, truly tasted, truly sought, truly loved.
By perseverance and patience and the great love for Christ of many…and I get to live with them…and find family in places like Fev.
Praise the Lord.
A few months ago, I was talking to someone in the States about the pressing needs of those around us, heavy on my heart.
I talked to them about trying to get Micheline’s kids in school, and how impossible that is for her at $100 per kid times five kids…on her $120/month salary, which is already far higher than the average annual income of $350 / YEAR.
I talked to them about Belony’s roof, pieced together scrap tin, dripping and pouring with every rain, soaking their things, filling the house with muddy water. A few thousand dollars would pour him a new roof, a real roof. But a few thousand dollars?
I talked to them about our friend’s daughter, needing medical help, and the 500 gdes (about $11) that would get it for her. Talked to them about how our friends still hadn’t taken their girlie in, because they were saving up until they had the money, each day her growing worse.
As they asked how I was doing, this was what I shared, because how I was doing that day was HEAVY with these burdens.
In response, they quickly told me that lots of people are suffering everywhere, that it is just the same in America, people struggling to make ends meet. End of conversation.
I’ve thought about that lots of times since then.
I catch myself thinking one night last week, “MAN, I wish there was a Chinese place I could call and order dinner. Just ONCE.” The desire is quickly hushed by an image so common in huts all around us…my children coming around me, hungry, asking for dinner, and imagining that I have truly NOTHING to give them. The desire for take-out is silenced trying to truly feel that reality.
I wish I could order Chinese? Really?
I try and I try to understand, to KNOW what it would truly be to have NOT ONE THING to give my Lily, my Sofie, for dinner tonight. NOT ONE PENNY to go buy something.
I try to understand until I feel sick.
I know (you must know) that there are many–MANY–around the world right this moment who know it full well. Who don’t need to pretend like I do.
Many who can’t imagine, instead, MY reality. My reality of ALWAYS having SOMETHING I can give them.
Of course, the person who told me America is just the same is right in a sense. There are lots of people struggling everywhere. Pain is pain, need is need.
Just because America has lots of things Haiti doesn’t have, like insurance, like free education, like programs, like food stamps, like welfare, like child support, like food pantries and homeless shelters and aid and a 5.5% unemployment rate (vs. 40%) that doesn’t mean that life isn’t still very hard, very expensive, very challenging, very stressful. Very broken.
And ultimately, it is not a competition. Lots of people need help. Lots of people are desperate today. Once the Lord allows us to know, see or experience that great need, it should burden us…it must.
What matters, ultimately, is what we are doing and how we are doing it and why.
I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to us, “We need what you are doing RIGHT HERE. We need that Gospel message HERE. Why are you doing it in Haiti if we need it here in America?”
You know what I want to say to them every time?
“Praise the Lord for YOU! That’s exactly why God has YOU right here.”
It doesn’t matter where things are worse. We are not here because it’s worse here. You’re not there because it’s worse there. We are here because He brought us here, burned it heavy on our hearts, paved the way where there was none, provide what no person could provide, and continues to.
It matters what we are doing where God has us. It matters what we DO with the things we see and that He allows us to know about. And it matters why.
When our staff and students got to the children’s home on Saturday morning, they were told adamantly not to touch the kids. They smelled. They were dirty. They were covered in their own filth, and none of the workers wanted our group of pastors to get dirty.
As I’ve asked Haylie, Rosa, Leme, Junior, Claudin, Mona, Edlin and countless students, “How was Saturday?” every single one of them answered first, “It was sad. I cried.”
They all cried. They’ve all come from a whole spectrum of reality, from life in the States to impoverished upbringings in the mountains, children of mamas who answered “nothing” to “what’s for dinner?”, and yet the reality of Saturday broke every one.
And then they wiped their tears, picked up plates of gruel and responded firmly,
“We are HERE to get dirty. That is why we came.”
I think about the many people Jesus–Jesus, the ONLY clean man–must have been told not to touch. The lepers. The Samaritans. The children. The outcasts. The lame. The demon-possessed.
They were dirty. They smelled. They were covered in their own filth.
They were unable to do anything for themselves.
How many times Jesus must have been told not to do something. Because it wasn’t how it was done. Because culture wouldn’t allow it. Because it was embarrassing and shameful. Because it would get him dirty.
Like leaving his heavenly throne of light and righteousness and becoming flesh. Like holding the children and touching the crippled. Like carrying the weight and burdens of billions. Like being spat on and beaten and nailed to a rugged cross. Like taking on the putrid sins of the world.
I bet He wept, too. I bet He cried at the world’s broken reality so many times.
And then He touched. Then He prayed. Then He went. Then He gave.
He was here to get dirty. That is why He came.
If we think for a minute that we are here on this earth to get rich, to get blessed, to get beautified, to build up our own little kingdoms, to get presents, to get famous, to celebrate ourselves this Christmas…I don’t know what to say except that you are following the wrong Jesus.
Christmas : Jesus came to get dirty and to suffer and to die. And by His scourging, we are healed.
Family, if we are following hard after this Jesus, wherever we are, we better be here to get dirty.
For His glory.
He had no stately form or majesty
that we should look upon Him,
nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken
a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief;
like one from whom men hide their face,
He was despised.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
and our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
smitten of God, afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the chastening for our well-being feral upon Him,
and by His scourging we are healed.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted
to proclaim liberty to captives
and freedom to prisoners,
to comfort all who mourn
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels
so that the surpassing greatness will be of God and not ourselves
we are afflicted in every way
but not crushed
perplexed, but not despairing
persecuted, but not forsaken
struck down, but not destroyed
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Emmaus means SOCCER tournaments.
Yesterday we kicked it off with the annual staff vs. student game.
Unfortunately, are staff are a bit older and heavier than our students :), but this year we played really well…
Rosa’s winning penalty kick!
The first staff victory in at least 10 years 🙂
Afterwards, we celebrated Leme’s 31st birthday over dinner and cake!
Leme is such a humble, godly and servant-hearted man, and it was a joy to spend some non-work time with him and three of our students who are his best friends.
Before Leme blew out his candles, he made a short speech, noting that in his whole life, his birthday had never been celebrated. He said that this year and last year, when our families made him dinner and a simple cake, were the first times he had ever had a birthday. The thought had never occurred to me. Even then, there were no presents or trips to the zoo or movies, no balloons, no fancy meals, just a pot pie and a sheet cake and some people who love him. He was so touched.
I was so touched.
Perspective; what a gift.
I was right in the middle of a post when something happened I want to share worse.
With Christmas right around the corner, lots of students have been submitting project assistance reports to throw small group parties, cook for Sunday school classes, buy t-shirts for their soccer teams, all good stuff.
But this morning a small group of students just submitted a report that brought me to tears. Saturday they are going to a children’s home for handicapped kids in Cap-Haitian to bathe 70 severely handicapped children, to cut all the boys hair, to braid all the girls, to feed them a meal and to share the Gospel with them. To spend the whole day with them.
I’ve been enough places in Haiti to imagine what this home is like. After visiting it, the students identified bathing the children as their biggest need after knowing Jesus.
Imagine with me for a minute what that looks like.
Looking through the list of students signed up to go, our best barbers and braiders are going…our best cooks….a few of our guys who love sharing the gospel with children.
I’m touched and humbled and proud by their desire to touch and be humbled and share Jesus. To take a full Saturday out of their crazy end of the year to do this. To put the whole project together themselves.
It is good, it is powerful, it is fun to get a group from the U.S. to come down to a kid’s home like this and love on the kids for a week. I KNOW it’s way more fun to go and do stuff yourself than to support someone else doing it.
But the thought of how beautiful this will be:
to have Haitian young men and women who love Jesus do it instead…
for a grand total of $251 USD for all 70 kids…
IN the children’s language…
seeing what truly needs to be done and knowing truly how to do it…
braiding their hair and cutting it in popular Haitian styles…
not from a position of power…
building true relationships, that can then be sustained and continued…
sharing the Gospel in the most powerful and relatable way possible…
singing songs our students sang as children, too…
giving the children men and women they want to BE like…man.
Do you support Emmaus? Because that $251 to make this happen is YOURS.
It is a beautiful day to say “This is Emmaus”.
Because today it feels like saying, “This is Jesus.”