Saturday, May 26, 2012

We Need a Savior

The fabric of the clouds whipped up in dense swirls like a good meringue that Granny Alderson would have been proud of. They poorly hid the plump algae-green mountains that fold into themselves as we ascended off the Island. And I thought, “Haiti, you make my life terrifying. And I couldn’t love you more.”

This is a blog entry about our last four days in country for our annual summer trip to Les Cayes.

Familiar and predictable would be words that one might use to describe a place and a people that they have visited several times. And I suppose in more stable lifestyles placed in more stable communities, this could be the case. But no trip to Haiti has been like the other. And no trip to Haiti has been uneventful--a praiseworthy reality, because many of the tales that bind us together in their sharing arise out of the event-filled. Jesus highlights Himself in story.  Stories highlight themselves in the unconventional.

On Monday, we said goodbye to the Centenary College team that we bunked with, ate with, and served with the week before. After their departure, our young adults team (many of whom have traveled faithfully for the past four summers) packed our buckets and bags and awaited our F350 to retrieve us for Mama Pampering Day at Darivage Children’s Village.

Darivage, on the days when the kids are not acting up, holds the spirit of an old wrinkled hand guiding the backs of the fatherless. There, the community cares for their own. There are things to be taught and things to be grown. The widows in the village instruct and love the 43 biological and economic orphans that fill the concrete dwellings. And there is an awareness that the burden of the young and impoverished is the responsibility of the old. It is  lovely. And it is inspiring.

In the days leading up to the second half of our trip, we, along with Centenary, taught classes at Bighouse and Darivage of French, English, Crochet, Music, Haiti & Louisiana Similarities, Math, Bead Making, Simple Medicine, Tool Usage, and VBS. In return, the children and their teachers taught us beginning conversational Creole, the words & music to their National Anthem, how to (attempt to) carry buckets of water on our heads, and Haitian Rara Dance. They lit up in the exchange, and we learned much—not necessarily about the topics being focused on, but much about the necessity of exchange within foreign friendships. Where there is no empowerment…where there is no place for me to edify, “You have something to give too”….we have only grown a charity, not a person or her people. And when people are growing (both on our team and in the village), we are likely to be giving something lasting to the Kingdom.

Monday and Tuesday were different than our educational days, however. These days were in celebration for the mamas at both sites. Half of our team broke away with all the children to teach movement exercises, play with bubbles, and paint fingernails…while our spa crew took over the small concrete rooms, moving around wooden desks, and attempting to avoid the hens roosting in the corners.

Three buckets of clean water from the clean water buildings (newly built, safe enough for us to drink).  Bags unzipped and sundresses layered for display. Nail polishes of reds and pinks stacked. And suds growing in the pales stirred by fast moving, gloved hands.

The women began to line up in the room where our translator helped us explain: “We wanted to have a celebration just for you. Because we realize that we get to visit for a week or two, enjoy the children and our time here, but then leave. And we recognize that the real work comes from you. Our lives have been changed by these villages and these children, and we know that they are only here because of the meals that you cook, the clothes that you wash, the beds that you make, and the wounds that you bandage. And we wanted to say thank you. So if you will let us, we would love to wash your feet and hands, paint your nails, do your makeup, and let you choose some dresses and purses that we’ve brought.”

We waited a bit nervously wondering if they would be offended by our offer, when a huge unanimous “Wi!!!” came from each lady in the room. And we began.

A small wave of uneasiness quickly followed our eagerness when we realized that the hands and feet we would be cradling had seen much. But the fear of the unfamiliar in the form of gnarled toes, missing nails, heel infections, or caked mud quickly dissolved in the gut remembrance that the base of our faith unambiguously rests on moments like this. What an honor this was about to be.

As if every woman were Jesus himself. As if every knot we pressed into, stain we scrubbed, muscle we relaxed were the King’s own. As if each massage for a tension spot were a thankyou for a child being picked up, a plate being washed, a tummy being medicated. As if we were getting the opportunity to thank the Lord of the world for individually caring for the orphaned. I cannot tell you what these hours meant to me. I will never forget them.

Each mama came through the different stations picking the colors and lotions they wanted and piercing us with loving stares as they watched and rested. At the end, Mama Darivage, with her perpetual frown climbing the top of her pole-sized body, gave a speech.

“What you have given us is worth more than gold or silver. We know you do this because of the love in your heart. And because you have loved us, we can love the children better.” Her frown never shifting, she grabbed four of us by the necks and sobbed into our shoulders.  We showed each other Jesus that day. And I believe that is the definition of restoration.

We debriefed for hours that night on the roof of the guesthouse, letting the Haitian world spin around us from dusk to stars  as we talked about simplicity, and community, and what was hard and what was rich. Then we headed off to rest up for our trip-wrap-up-day on the Island of Ile a Vache.

The boat ride from the Cayes Port to the cove of the tiny sub-Island’s resort should take about 45 minutes. Our over eager and (surely) slightly deranged captian of the 30 foot yacht made it there in 20. I’ve never flown/seen people fly so high on water before. With no time in between slamming into waves to adequately scream or laugh, our crew held on for dear life and kept an eye on the shoreline that seemed to never come. But when we arrived, it was every bit worth the travel (and bruises and scrapes).

The cove of Ile a Vache is one of the most beautiful places, and definitely the most beautiful beach, many of us have ever experienced. We spent the entire day on the half-mile stretch of paradise sitting, sleeping, walking, swimming. It was the perfect way to end the trip, enjoying each other, loving on Haiti, rehashing moments of the past 10 days. Deep breaths, deep laughs, darkening skin, and a book of stories not yet processed.

A less intense boat ride back to the mainland led us to one last drive through downtown Les Cayes and up the hill to the Cambry Guesthouse for a little light packing and leisure preparation for our next-day departure. Or so we thought.

Our three rooms of Americans had just begun to fold a few shirts and take a few showers when Pastor Louis, our main partner and the head of the ministry in Haiti, came to let me know that Haiti was currently under some political unrest which was manifesting in riots throughout the south. A few towns in the south are on strike because of the governments refusal or delay in giving them electricity. We would need to leave at 11:30pm instead of after breakfast as to avoid the rock throwing that had been occurring during the day.

A panicked laugh and a prompt change of pace happened in the rooms as word spread, and we prepared to leave during the night.

Thankyou notes were signed, waterbottles were filled, and our luggage was weighed and lined up before we took a small one hour nap prior to loading up for our midnight travel. It had been too uncharacteristically uneventful, I suppose.

Groggy bodies climbed inside the dark blue 15 passenger van that was to follow its matching vehicle carrying Pastor Louis and all of our luggage. And we took off. We stopped just into town to pick up DouDou, the largest Haitian I’ve ever seen. He speaks wonderful English, has the lightest brown eyes, and was chosen as our driver because of his intimidating size coupled with his extensive capabilities. You’d be a fool to mess with DouDou.

We were driving much faster than normal, which made it hard to want to fall asleep. All eyes took on the responsibility of backseat driving and we wondered what the speed was for. We weren’t flying out until 6pm the next evening. 

I’ve seen political manifestations before in the forms of burning tires and large parades. So my assumptions of what we might encounter were filtered through this. With those assumptions tucked away, and the speed of our vehicle ignored, a few of us fell asleep for about an hour.

The gasping of team members and the fast jolt of a slowed vehicle threw us all awake in time to watch the large van with “Daniel 3:17” painted on its back u-turn on a dime followed immediately by our matching van. A quick flash of the barricade we were avoiding with fervor came and went with the headlights and we sped back towards the direction we had just come as angry locals ran to surround us. DouDou cracked his window and spoke in Creole to the rioters. Whether they were convinced that we would be let through or they were lying, I’m not sure. But we were told we could pass and turned around once again. Two locals’ bodies made a loud thud on the windows as they road the back of the van toward their wall of trees and rocks that prevented any car from passing on the main road connecting the south to Port au Prince.

Both vans eased up to the barricade awaiting the right of passage. But nothing happened. Except for the growing volume of a voice rounding the corner coming from a small Haitian man with black beady eyes and a swinging machete. DouDou exited the vehicle into the noise of creole and darkness, interrupted only with the rhythm of our flashers. “Be careful,” he said as he locked the doors. “Stay calm and quite. Stay calm and quiet. Do not move. Do not speak,” I told the team. And we waited.

A larger dump truck, innocently attempting to pass in the same manner, creeped up behind us.  The driver stood outside amongst the locals along with Pastor Louis and DouDou, wisely assessing the situation like silent warriors. Being led by the Spirit when to talk and when to not. We watched wondering if this was culturally a big deal or if we had nothing to fear. The angry man with the swinging machete directed the large dump truck with the tip of his weapon, drawing lines on the gravel like nails on a chalkboard. He was moving the truck in such a way that it would add to his barricade. “Stay calm. Stay quiet.” The sound of the machete-prompted air being let out of big tires would have been the eeriest sound, if it weren’t for the breaking glass of bottles behind the wheels that followed.

“Oh. We were being used as the blockade, but now they have this truck. They’re getting the truck in place and then they’ll let us go.”

But then the edge of the tool made its way to our side of the van. “Stay calm. Stay quiet.” And the prayers began. We prayed through the sounds of the rocks stacking behind our tires. We prayed through the sound of air being let out on all four corners. We prayed through the sound of bottles breaking around the vehicle. And we prayed through the only creole word we could make sense of in the angry mummers outside, “Blancs….blancs” (foreigners, whites).  DouDou climbed in for just a couple of minutes to make a hidden call under his breath on his cell phone, and then he was gone again.

Thank God that this team was entirely made up of troopers, resting deep in the arms of a mighty Father. And we waited. And watched. And prayed. And wondered. Would we be there till morning? Or until another van came? Were we being used as leverage? Would they make us get out of our car? What would we do if they did?

DouDou opened the door and asked if we had our passports for him to take up so that we wouldn’t have to be searched. Two of us said in a panic, “Ours are in the other van. They’re in a green and black backpacks, can you get them?” He responded, “Not now, they will not let us.” And it was then that we realized how little control we actually had. But it would be fine. They could take our bags. They could even take our passports. As long as we could get out. A moment when it is intensely clear that the things that matter most are the things that we will leave this earth with.

Pastor Louis stuck his head in long enough for us to ask, “Are we safe?” and to answer, “Sure. By the grace of God,” before he went back to guarding the front of the vehicle. And we waited, slightly unsatisfied with that answer. Until a shot was fired.

“Get down. Everybody get down. And stay down,” Erik said from the front seat as the windows of the van filled with the light of 6 approaching headlights from the opposite direction. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus save us, Jesus save us. Jesus come, Jesus save us.

The locals ran towards the cars to acquire the next victims of their blockade enlargement but then scattered quickly into the woods. Why?

A few minutes later, bodies still tucked down in the sweating vehicle, Louis cracked open the door and said, “It is ok now! We are safe. The police are here.” And a roar of clapping and praising erupted through the seats. One by one we pealed ourselves out of the van and lined up behind trucks, hidden from the rocks being thrown from the trees, while the police stood watch, shotguns in hand, and our tires were aired up once again.

Eventually, after two hours of the experience, the barricade was removed, and we were off…more disturbed and unsettled, but unfathomably grateful.    

The car remained mostly silent for the rest of the ride to Port au Prince as we caught breath and tried to wrap our minds around whether what just happened was as dramatic as it felt or not. The “Daniel 3:17” on our luggage van bopped around the potholes in front of us, and we reached for a Bible.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.”

And the understanding of rescue settled heavily on our silent car in the aftermath of not knowing how something could or would end. We need a Savior.

And we learn this in company of risk, faith, trust, poverty. Our acts of kindness, our pocket books, our relational trips to learn a people are manifestations of a Gospel alive, but it is no eradication of the unshakeable truth that we need a Savior. We can educate and feed forever, and our efforts will heal many. But brokenness and rescue are matters of the King, whose heart is for a renewed world. And we need Him. We need Him to take selfishness, poor infrastructures, and hate to the cross and give them their dues. We need Him to lead us in wisdom and ridiculous lengths of love to rebuild whole people and whole communities in His name. We have no way out but Him. We have no control but His. And, whether we know it or not, we are held captive behind barricades of self-living, injustice, and hurt until we are rescued. We need a Savior.

 And He will come. And He does come. And He has come. Rounding the corner in light, firing into the air to let it be known that all authorities who acted out of power that wasn’t theirs have been thwarted with the announcement of His arrival. With even the speaking of His name. And what was lost is found. And what was hopeless sees a way. We need a Savior. And He is Jesus. And He does not fail us.

The team is back in Shreveport and Houston and California, continuing to process the beauty of our time with our Haitian friends and family. Already beginning to talk about next summer’s trip.

Haiti. You make my life terrifying. And I couldn’t love you more. 


Soccer and Second Lines

Yesterday started a bit earlier than usual due to the fact that church started at 7 and we were riding with the Pastor. The sun was just started to inch over the hills at Cambry Guesthouse when I made my rounds through the hall knocking on doors, “Good morning, ladies!” The locals start Sunday School at six so that their walks to and from the 7am service aren’t in the hottest part of the day. So we scurried about in our long skirts and non-blow-dried hair towards the back of the truck that would take us downtown.

There are always seats towards the front of the church for visitors of the Pastors. And as much as we try to disperse into the crowd, we are usually pointed back to that spot in the church. It would feel uncomfortable if all eyes were on us in these cushioned places of honor, but the locals are not concerned with our presence in this moment. They have come to worship God.

A string bean of an elderly woman in a white cotton dress stood across the congregation from us. Her hands straight up and exactly half a beat behind the music the entire time. She’s there every Sunday, standing beside the man who looks about in his 60s, shifting his hips back and forth to the chants and rhythms of the Island’s hymns. The church usually holds around 1,700 on Sunday. And they are dressed to the nines.

The music and the prayers last for a very long time and consist of full participation for the large, committed crowd. They cry out in Creole about God and His goodness. About God and His provision. About God and His power. The Centenary girls pointed out later in debriefing that you didn’t need to know all the words to hear the passion and conviction in what was being agreed with.

Two and a half hours later, we loaded back up into the off-roader and headed back home to eat breakfast, nap, and email our mothers for Mothers Day.

Naps lasted for a while, as you would expect on day 6. And then it was back up again to load up for the soccer game!

It seems something(s) unexpected always finds its way into our well thought out (and hardly stuck to) itinerary while in Haiti. One of those things for the first of this trip was getting to see the national final game between the North and the South to see how gets to go play in the Caribbean game! We were rooting for the Americas, a Les Cayes team dressed in slick orange and white uniforms.

The Pastor pushed his way to the entrance with our cover money, then went to point to who he was paying for, quickly realizing it wasn’t necessary. We’re the only white people in line. In the street. And soon enough, we would find out we were 15 of maybe 20 white people in a stadium of thousands.

The very few stands that were there were packed and had been for three hours, said Sean (another American who has been living in Cayes for three months teaching English). But that was ok, because the entire field then became lined with a crowd of people at least three levels deep, shoulder to shoulder. And then of course that moved people to standing on top of the walls, hanging on to the trees, and climbing on top of the roofs. The latter is where we ended up.

If you want an idea of yesterday’s atmosphere…mix the thought of a national soccer game, with a Caribbean flare, and add in Mardi Gras. The Haitians moved in as close as possible on the long, wide roof, as we searched for chairs to stand on. After every goal, the band (directly behind us) would grab their old worn instruments and have at it while the crowd went wild, drank their Prestiges, and danced away a couple of minutes of victory.

After about two hours of play, Les Cayes team took the National Championship and the thousands of people rushed onto the field as the music cranked up and (what appeared to be) a second line started, grabbing anyone with any need to dance and sweeping them into the street.

We stayed on the roof, watching and dancing, until the majority of the happy crowd bounced its way out the tin door. And then we climbed down and back into the truck to head home.

It was so very cool to witness something so collective and entertaining with the people in their world.  Something so universally unifying as music and completive sports. Makes people feel like people. And makes the world a bit smaller.

We came home for a supper of rice and turkey (Phil, the one we shared a truck bed home with from the Market the day before). And then a good night’s rest with the AC’s rhythm of shutting on and off on the wave of unpredictable electricity.

This morning, I waved the team off for a day of botanical garden seeing and down-town Les Cayes walking, as I stay at Cambry to sort supplies and await the young adult team’s arrival from Port au Prince!

Tomorrow, we begin our teaching/learning exchange at Bighouse Children’s Home.

A beautiful world we get to be in together,


“…out of the dust…”

Basket of Cherries

It’s only 10:35am in Haiti, and the day has already been extremely eventful. Since the first half of our trip revolves solely around the Centenary Module, we are attempting to throw the students into as much of a cultural experience that we are able to in 14 days. And if there’s a way to do it, it’s at the market.

Much laughter could be heard from the back kitchen at the Cambry Guesthouse this morning when it was explained to the cooks that our large group of light skinned 20-something females were wanting to explore the country market to purchase the things on our hosts’ grocery list. They agreed, and each item (along with its French name and estimated cost) was written down on a piece of recycled paper then tossed into Dr. Lawrence’s hat. Then the process of haggling was explained and slightly practiced before the drawing began. And the question lingered silently in the common room….Who would have to buy the turkey.

Cheese, eggs, Clorox, peppers, onions, garlic, raw chopped up goat, and more. Each student received their commission for the next couple of hours, and we climbed in the back of the off-roading pickup to head to the Biggarrouse Mache.

There’s nothing discrete about us when we arrive somewhere.  We arrive with the aroma of a target, along with our struggling creole skills only coupled perfectly with the Goude stuffed in our socks and our lack of knowledge of where to find what. The teenaged merchants follow our groups of four who have quickly split up and taken off into the layers of booths. They call after us in loud, monotoned descriptions of what they are selling and why we should buy. “Nou gen pa bezwen, mesi!” We have no need for that, thankyou! We must find goat.

My small team was made up of me and Amanda and, thank God, Mia…the cook. She had put on her finest dress for our outing, so of course we felt pretty underdressed. Haitians stay so clean, the greatest of mysteries.  Who knows how we would have returned to the truck if it weren’t for Mia. We approached the section of the Market toward the far back where the fence line began where the meat was stored, both the live and the…well…sellable.  If this doesn’t qualify as intercultural experience, Centenary, give these girls their money back. The dismembered hooves were stacked on the corner of the butcher block tables, under the canopies made of NGO tarps. Fresh goat heads with opened eyes were organized where each seller stood as they negotiate the different pieces of whichever animal was most recently deceased. Warm, exposed, raw meat would be disturbing if we were uncertain of its freshness. But alas, we are not. The childlike screaming of the goats tied by one hoof toward our right awaiting the fate of the knife and the dollar let us know that we are getting a new product. A silver lining, I suppose.

Our “cashier” was a larger dark woman with a black and white striped tshirt barely peeking through the tribal wrap she had strapped above her chest. She leaned back when she haggled, butcher knife in hand waving about as she flung drops of blood on the old mutt that lounged by her side. What a movie moment we were having.

She gave Mia a price, which Mia laughed at. One trick we had yet to be taught in the art of market negotiation: The “you gotta be kidding me” laugh. And Mia bare handedly pulled and tugged at the different parts of the animal, pointing to the cuts that we would be paying a fair price for. And finally, we walked away with a very heavy bag and 100gds extra.

Eventually the rest of the group made their way back to the truck where our live turkey sat resting lazy and terrified beside the box of soap we had purchased to wash our own clothes today.  He’s been named Phil, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again.

A debrief of the students’ experiences followed our grocery drop-off, and now rest is taking place before we delve into removing the awful stains from our worn clothes.

Three things were significant about the Biggarrouse Machet for me, as I watched the small white clusters cling to old brown paper and scurry from booth to booth asking, “Where are the eggs?” in Creole. 1. How huge is it to edify the Haitian’s culture by demonstrating that we want to learn, as fumbling as we may appear at first. 2. How nice the dense crowd was in general in their greetings and offers of direction. 3. How metaphors of hope can be found in the most routine of places if your filter is set right.

And by that I mean…The market has a general haze of grey-brown when you glace across. The dust and mud from the worn ground is mixed in with old dirty trash and animal droppings. The tarps are old, the poles are drying wood, and the sacks are whatever plastic bag was able to be found. But my gosh, the colors of the fruit and the vegetables! Piles and piles of white rice, and cantaloupe sized grape fruit. Leafy spinach and sharply colored carrots. And while ducking through the ropes and poles of these stands covered in mounds of vibrancy, a lady approached us with a large wide basket balanced still on her head. She lowered just long enough for us to see the hundreds of deep red cherries, and then she was again on her way.

In the smallest of ways, I hear Haiti say, “See. Things grow here, too.”

A very memorable experience, one surely to be not easily forgotten. Now for clothes washing, or at least an attempt. And then more rest before our early morning church service, followed by an unplanned Haitian soccer game. 


“…out of chaos, life is being found in You…”

To Die is Beautiful

I woke up with my feet asleep from being crossed like a pretzel and posted up high on the bus window as I slept across the seat beside my own. When I came to, our vehicle that assists us in getting from dusty Port au Prince to lush Cayes was circling down into a valley. And the mountains beyond mountains were whirling over my head. I didn’t feel quite human as I had crashed hard after 17 hours of travel and no sufficient rest. But I could hear cement sacks plunking down on top of each other like lazy elephants, I could feel the smoke burning against the back of my throat, and I could see the ocean creeping around to our left. So human or not, we were in Haiti.  Rest would come as surely as an adventure, as surely as a story.

I’m traveling throughout this first leg of the trip with a Centenary Module class of all girls. On Monday, the First Methodist Young Adult Team, many of whom have come summer after summer for the past 3 years. will join us. These few first days have and will be spent learning parts of the Haitian culture. How intricate and deep the crevices of significant tales run throughout the history of the Haitians’ world. And as a direct result, our world as well.

What many know to be Haiti remains to be simply the surface level of her existence. Would justice be done if someone described Mother Teresa of Calcutta as a wrinkled lady with a thick Indian accent? Shame on them if so. In the same way, Haiti cannot just be a poor country in the Western Hemisphere devastated by natural disasters.

Haiti was the greatest of worlds, coveted by all major players in the 1400’s game. It was called the Pearl of the Antilles and everyone wanted a piece of what the land had to offer. And so it began. Two races of slaves, multiple generations of masters, several dictatorships, and too many leaders to count. Thousands of pounds of sugar and indigo exported, thousands of aid workers imported, thousands of lives lost through disease and walls that fall. One slave revolution to begin the west’s abolition, one retreat that caused for the Louisiana Purchase, one moment in history that changed the way you and I live today in the states. All woven through the hills and brown eyes on half of a Caribbean island barely able to be identified on a globe.  If you’re looking for a good read, I suggest something on Haiti’s history. Your current reality is more intertwined with their past than you may realize.

Yesterday was our first full day in this rich country. The guesthouse we’re staying in, Cambry, is up on a mountain, which offers us a view barely believable. It’s somewhat worthless to take a picture that will only partially bring you back to something so unable to be captured. You can get to the roof by ladder, which will lead you closer to the stars as well as the shower basins. That’s where I found the tadpoles I was showering with last trip.

The girls are doing so well here. They ask good questions. They learned so much about the country prior to coming, which has made a crucial difference. As a class, it really feels like we are partners here. Coming to learn and not simply to fix. We filled our bottles and climbed into the back of a very large 4-wheel-drive truck and headed off in the hot sun to see the forts.

These forts are so significant to the history of the Haitian and the American. They stand as the plantation ground for southern battles during the Haitian Revolution in the late 1700s and the early 1800s. Hardly preserved, it is nothing like visiting US monuments or museums. It is more like finding a treasure that changed the world, that only lives in stories told by old people. “There’s a place in the mountains…”

We crossed paths with a few terrified baby pigs as we pulled ourselves around the side of a steep hill and reached the top where a plaque stood beside some over grown walls. Concrete at least 200 years old, shading some goats tied to their posts. Is it a national and international historic site? Or is it a farmers grazing ground? Yes.

There, Dr. Kress taught a history lesson about the Soldier Dessalines who had rallied the Haitians in the north and the south to revolt against the French. Slavery had been abolished and France was going to make Haiti a state. However, it seemed they had been tricked and France was really reinstating the slave nation because they were going to use Haiti as their Western base while ruling their land in the states. But on the mountain we had climbed, 200+ years ago, Dessalines met with another Haitian general and made the agreement to rally again and resist the French government in order to take back their country for good. Soon after this agreement, the slave revolution was won, and the Bonaparte’s retreat caused for the Louisiana Purchase. Meaning I am not of French decent. I live in the free Americas as a Louisiana resident because a few people dehumanized in their capture decided it was time to reclaim what was not someone else’s. Dessalines died in a prison a few years following, and the Haitian anthem today is named after him.

The locals that we visited the site with sang it for us in Creole, with the repeating line, “To die is beautiful, to die is beautiful, to die, to die, to die for your country is beautiful.”

I have had a lot of questions here recently about my future. My occupation. My role. My direction. There have been many uncertainties and many large jumps made on the backs of uncertainties. But there has been one significantly perceptive-altering thing that the Holy Spirit has shown me in my pursuit of “how to be great” or “how to do great” (even when those statements are followed by “…for the Kingdom of God). And this is it: Jesus did not call me to be great. Jesus called me to die. Because He did not come to be great. He came to die, and in that death, great things were made possible. In fact, the greatest of things. Therefore I must not be so tied to my own life. The fears that come with it. My attachment to pride. The idols, expectations, anxieties. I cannot be so driven by my course and how it should lead me to the path that will impress whatever current generation in their need for me to be famously unique. These are possible results, but they are not the pursuit. The pursuit is to lay myself down in the small ways, the small moments. To listen well. To stand strong against injustices. To love through touch and word and laughter. To speak grace and truth into the unbalances. To hold tiny hands. And hear wiser teachings. To stick with people as they work it out, all the while infusing hope. And allow them to do the same for me. To humbly embrace my own inabilities, and then powerfully step into the Holy Spirits understanding of the world and its path.

Direction and purpose are bigger questions than I’m ready for. Right now (and maybe at any time), I can only know that God will show me how to love him and how to love people. And then He will give me a people group to live that out in intimately, vivaciously, wildly. That group or the dynamic of that group may change because the world’s plates are always shifting. But wherever I am, whenever I am, to whomever the Holy Spirit leads me, I must learn them wisely, love them deeply, and walk with them faithfully towards the fullest of lives made only possible by death.

I rest in that while here in Haiti--my old, wise friend and teacher whose own history bleeds with sacrifice and whose own present is speckled with hope. 

To die is beautiful.

I breathe it in. And I trust for more.

Lespwa fe viv,