I believe true restoration is not the avoidance of what is dark and dead, but the unthinkable repurposing of it.
This morning was a typical fourth day awakening, as my muscles and my eyes reminded me of the miles we've trekked in these short days. My senses first found the pulse of my alarm clock, then the whirl of the air condition kicking on and off with the power, and then the tap of June Bugs hitting the walls invisibly as to not join the June Bug graveyard that our room of girls has established.
Today was the wrapping up of tasks not yet done before we head back to Port au Prince and then on to Florida tomorrow. Or three groups began this trip with a long list of things needing to be checked off before we returned to continue planning for our next four endeavors in country. Excitedly we can say that they pretty much all have been. We needed lastly to show the professors the American University, buy some Malaria medication for future trips, and hike some of the trails of the hillsides as to see more of the native culture.
We decided to do the latter first to capture as many of the cooler hours as possible. So we set off on a trail only slightly distinguishable from the rest of the ground around it right behind the guesthouse in its neighboring waving hills. The trails themselves you can barely see from far away, but as you come right upon them, you notice that the 10" path of no grass/sometimes grass is actually leading somewhere. We had no ending point except to be back at 11am. We walked in a straight line around the middle of a hill and then over another and down the side of yet another, passing huts and cows and children scattered without pattern. Ahead we could hear drums and singing in the cluster of trees at the peak. We asked our translator what was happening and he said it was a normal prayer service. Little did we know our path was taking us straight through their sanctuary of limbs and tied ribbon blowing eerily in the diving breezes. Their prayer style and location was so bizarre I wondered if it weren't something a bit more dark. But Dr. Kress stopped to hear their words and said, "They are asking God to help them, that only he can."
Down another hill, around and back up, and we heard a voice calling from a car below. It was Pastor Louis from our guesthouse driving down a backroad to see if we had enough water. As we scooted down to meet him, he told us of a church of his that was only about a half mile away on foot if we wanted to meet him there. Unfortunately, a half mile away is like a half hour away in Haiti. You should plan to walk five and you should plan to be late. It took our crew quite a while and a couple of times getting turned around to find Pastor Louis again, who led us to the correct location.
Once there, he told us the rich history of the site. When his ministry was preparing to move into this area of the south, the head witch doctor of the area was strongly opposed to it and cursed them. The Bokor headed up a Vodou temple next to the house that he lived in a few miles from the Cambri site. One day while he was speaking in 1995, he was struck by lightening. It did not kill him, but it caused his body much damage. Hearing this, El Shaddai came to the man's house and prayed for him. The man, over the next 8 years, surrendered his life and his practices over to God, tore down the temple, and gave all the land to El Shaddai for them to build another church on. This is the site of the church we went and visited today. The pastor said that the Bokor handed over to him his big jar of terrantuals, frogs, and other creatures who held his power, and in the name of Jesus they burned the whole thing, blessed the land, and began rebuilding.
I walked away and told David that I commended any ministry that does not avoid the brokenness, but instead sees to it that it is repurposed for the kingdom, and that this to me is the Gospel. He responded with, "When we seek to plant, we find out where is most dark, and go there."
We could save a lot of time, energy, sinfulness, and fear if we could trust the Spirit in us to take us into the dark places and equip us not to avoid or conform but to creatively seek to repurpose that which has been lost. Among that third way, I believe, is where heaven comes on earth.
We pulled ourselves back into the guesthouse to down the water we were scared of drinking on the trails without bathrooms, cooled off a bit, and then headed for Cayes.
We arrived at the American Univeristy on Mardi Gras day, meaning our curious group and a couple of armed guards near a locked gate were all to be seen on the property. However, with the French fluency of sweet talking Dr. Kress, we were inside the facility quickly. On the top terrace, we met an American man who invited us in to sit down. He told us he was one of three American teachers there, and that he had been there since September. We commented on how nice the buildings were, to which he offered that they were built as a US military compound during the Raegan Administration. The walls are measured just so and the roof is designed as a helicopter landing. But now it functions as the classrooms for 250 Agriculture and Civil Engineer local students.
After a few minutes of chatting, the second teacher named Sean joined us on the porch. He is about our age and has been in Haiti teaching English and helping with teams for about 3 weeks. When our professors started explaining that they were a part of a small, Methodist affiliated, liberal arts college, Sean said, "Are you a part of the Shreveport Methodists?" To which Sarah and I said, "No but we are..."
Sean then went in to say how he was baptized in our church before he and his family moved to Charleston. He said that we were that church from Sheveport that has established a pretty consistent presence here, and that he had looked up a lot about ours and Grace UMC's work in blogs and articles online. He commended our commitment to one global place and said that the people know us. What incredible affirmation that God is spreading what God has started. We, in our broken nature, are not built to stick around. In friendships, in marriages, in countries that are tough. We are built to flee to leveled, easier ground. We are built to worship that which will both cater to us and our success. We are not built to stick around. But Jesus is. And it is ONLY by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to embrace that in our own lives as well. Because sticking around requires sacrifices when you'd rather not, commitment when the seasons are dry, and hope when the vision is not yet fully recognizable. And what is beautiful is that we are able to learn this together, not alone. Where laughter and truth and dreaming and growing pains and depth and boldness and conviction can abound among those we've made covenents with as friends.
So if there is even a little bit of a known presence of FUMC Shreveport in Les Cayes, Haiti, it is because we have stuck around, and that can only ever be because of Jesus.
As we talked more, Sean mentioned, seemingly randomly, the deep need for a place for young adults in his home town. "Sunday school just doesn't seem to be enough, what do we do throughout the rest of the week?" he said. What a crazy wonderful opportunity...
"Well we've actually got a lot to say about this subject...you see, we live in a young adult community house that we started in Shreveport..." We told him how we've been fascinated by new monasticism all through college and how on the return of our Haiti trip two years ago, we felt like God was saying it was time to create something similar. We talked about how we recognized that there weren't a ton of places for us to go in this awkward stage of life, how we needed each other, and needed more than Sunday mornings to live out the holistic faith that we wanted. We told him about family meals, and the health care fund, and our housemate meetings. And them we invited him to come and see when he returns to the states. To which he said, "And I think I'll have to bring a few people who need to see this as well."
Our daily, seemingly mundane, experiences and encounters can very well be the loose stitching that God does prior to pulling it all together piece by piece in the brilliance of a plan unfathomable to the human psyche. We are being written, and it is the most glorious thing.
Now, for one more meal, one more cold shower, one more drive through Kanaval traffic to the airport until May.
Mesi pou li ekri mwen,