I was standing up, with my legs leaning back and the back of my knees pressing into the hard wood of a long bench, my eyes were closed and hands which were clapping now just rested against each other with my chin gently touching the tops of my fingers. A soft smile was what I felt through my being. My bare face and arms welcomed the wind that in West Texas seemed more of a nuisance, but in Haiti was an honored guest. I wanted to remember exactly what this moment felt like and sounded like to worship Jesus with my brothers and sisters in Christ who lived the harsh life up in the mountains of Thomazeau, Haiti. I wanted to hold on to the memories and the stories.
With Haitians seated all around singing praises to Jesus, I kept my eyes closed and thought through the days before… all I had seen and felt.
The very old, blind man led by his small grandson to the Sunday church service. Their walk was not easy, many hours over difficult terrain. After sitting in the back for a while they were escorted to the front. The man’s head rested on his walking stick, always making sure his grandson was close to his side. He listened to the songs, to the words of the evangelist. He wanted Jesus. He was dressed in a white robe, and he was baptized. He was completely dependent on the people around him to help him in every way. Jesus was there, it was in the hands of those who honored this man that Jesus shone so bright. Clothing him, lifting him into the water. Jesus was there. Now this man who walked so far, would always have Jesus in him. He has a place in my heart.
Mister Cartil who that same day chose to be baptized. He lives next door to a voodoo peristyle. He would have to be very brave and strong to give up voodoo when it is so close to him at his home. It took four years since he began to learn about Jesus, but this day, he said yes to Jesus and no to voodoo. He is a strong and brave man. He is also a man who works hard to give his family food. He is grateful and kind. He has a place in my heart.
I thought of the skin I cleaned and put creams on when I worked at the scabies area in the clinic. The smiles of the Haitians who looked at me to help them. Me. They would show me what was hurting, or itching or a wound that needed attention. I could have requested to not be assigned to the scabies area, but I left my assignments up to God and the employee who made the assignments. I knew God’s grace would be sufficient. And it was. Mèsi Jezi. As someone whose stomach turns when there is blood – God met me right where I was, and it was Him who treated those wounds. I just let Him use me. I would look into the eyes of the soul sitting across from me, an adult, a child, a baby being held by their mother. I saw Jesus looking back at me. They have a place in my heart.
I thought of the children who I sat next to during the Kè Pou Timoun classes. Their hands would reach out for mine. Their smiles were bright. Some took a while to warm up, but those were the ones that stayed close until it was time to leave for the day, the ones that would give two hugs to say goodbye instead of one. I would tell them, “Jezi renmen ou,” and they would smile. Jesus loves you. I would tell them, “Mwen renmen ou,” and they would tell me back, “I love you, too,” and they would smile and lean in for a hug. I had to wear sunglasses at times so my tears wouldn’t show. The poorest of the poor. The most in need. I love them, and it hurt to tell them so. It hurt because they live in places that were in worse shape than the shed in my backyard which needs to be torn down. My heart hurt because many of their “roofs” leak when it rains and these beautiful faces who look like skinny versions of the kids who live around me, are in fact getting wet on the floor as they are curled against each other trying to sleep, trying to survive. They have a place in my heart.
I open my eyes, the songs are still being sung, the clapping is still in rhythm around me. I wipe the tears that are pouring down my cheeks. My soft smile has turned into an ache. I have to remind myself to take a breath. Then I remember to look around. I see that in the faces of the poorest of the poor is a passion and joy for Jesus. There is hope in Haiti. Jesus is hope. It is an honor and not a burden to serve God. It is an honor, not a burden, to serve Haiti. Just like in the scabies station, I just have to show up… God will do the rest. Then I look at the friends who came to tend to Haiti, some doctors, some nurses, a dentist, some accountants, mom’s with young children at home, office workers, business owners,…every age represented – some older and some younger than me, some on their 17th trip, some on their first all of them willing to show up. My hands start to clap again, the ache becomes a smile which turns into a laugh as the sounds around me start to get louder, and the words, “MÈSI JEZI, MÈSI JEZI, MÈSI JEZI!” fill the air. Thank you, Jesus.
I just can not say enough about my experience with LiveBeyond. The Vanderpools have listened to God and shown up. Dr. Vanderpool left his successful practice as a doctor, they sold everything and moved to Haiti and that was the beginning of LiveBeyond. God has given them a vision for Haiti. If you haven’t gone on a trip I just could not recommend it enough. If you want to see all the ways LiveBeyond is helping the poorest of the poor (and there are many) you can find them at livebeyond.org. Info for trips is on the website. It truly is an honor to serve the least of these. The blessings abound when you join with God in His service anytime, but in amazing proportion when you join Him in his work for the most vulnerable. Here I am Lord, send me.
Hear the latest news from Haiti, read posts about faith and community development, and find transcriptions from the LiveBeyond podcast.