Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lessons Learned in Haiti

So I came back from my 3rd trip to Haiti about three weeks ago. It was a short trip with a small group of us. And, like the other two times, it was eye opening. There were only 5 of us who went from the states and we were only in the village for 3 1/2 days. I went into the trip a little nervous. I knew that Hurricane Sandy had come through and wiped out crops. I knew that people in Chauffard were affected. I didn't know what they were going to need or whether or not it would feel like we were incapable of helping. But I got there and was amazed (as usual) at the strength and resilience of the people there. What we heard was true - crops were washed out, land was ruined, and food was lost. A people already in the midst of a famine who already eat only once a day had even more hardships thrust upon them. But you wouldn't know it by being with them. They welcomed us with open arms ready to serve and worship. They spent every night praising God. Sure, we were able to cook and feed them meals, but they stayed well past mealtime. My bead-making girls came during the weekend and brought me a ton of necklaces - an average of 40 each! The teachers spent their weekend meeting with us to discuss the progress of the students. And the ladies who cook for us were constantly fetching water, cooking, and cleaning. So, when my friend Jennie and I were called up on the second night of worship to share in the service, we looked at each other dumbfounded. What could we possibly share with these people who grasp living for eternity much more than we do? During my other two trips, we were called up to say hi on the first day and then called up again to say bye on the last day. We had already said hi, so what more was there to say? We are not the pastors. However, during my other two trips, there were male American pastors who would also share. I suppose Jennie and I were called up again because we were the only Blancs (white people) on this trip. There were no male pastors to share the gospel. So, we walked up with our bibles. While Jennie talked I just kept thinking about Matthew 25. That chapter has been penetrating my heart and my life over the past couple of months, specifically verses 31-46:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

I felt God saying that the least of these are His sheep too. We do not feed, quench thirst, invite people in, clothe people, look after the sick, or visit people only for them to stay in a cycle of destitution. We do for the least of these to draw them to Christ and to teach them the truth about His love. And His love does not stop with salvation. It transforms us. It gives us new, everlasting life. We are blessed and we receive His inheritance when we allow Him into our hearts and lives and allow Him to transform us. How could I not speak this truth to these hard working amazing brothers and sister? Aren't I, one of God's sheep, called to lead others to the great Sheppard so that they can have the privilege of leading even more sheep to Him? The good news is not only that Christ died for us but also that He transforms us and gives us a life of meaning filled with sacrifice and partnering with Him in His mission. We have the privilege of dying to self so that we can be released from the chains of our sin and our selfishness and live a life of freedom in Christ. How could I go and help the least of these only to let them become goats rather than sheep following the good Sheppard? So, I shared this passage and I spoke about how we do not come to them simply to bless them, but to share Christ and His truth. I shared that His word says that anyone who knows Him is to go out and share and give. That dying to self is a calling to all Christians and that when we die to self, then we experience life in its fullest glory and are able to take our inheritance. I got some blank stares and a big grin from Jonathan, my pastor friend who was translating for me, so I think it was good.

The next night we were called up again. (Talk about feeling inadequate!) So, once again, I prayed that God would give me something to share and once again He brought me to Matthew 25. This time I read verses 14-30:

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

I shared how I saw most of the village take what God had given them and multiply it. I saw mothers and fathers loving their children well and raising them up in the Lord. I saw teachers giving of their whole lives to the children and the community. I saw children taking care of each other and helping their families while trying to study and learn so that they can finish school. I saw women coming up the mountain with barrels of water at the crack of dawn and cooking food well past 10 o'clock. But, I know that we are human and sinners and that the temptation to care only for self and live a life of fear that leads to hoarding is great. I shared that in America we are fearful of losing anything - our lives, our loved ones, and even our status and our belongings. We are this way because as we acquire more we hold it tight at the expense of our spiritual well being. And then I shared that my prayer is that they will take whatever it is that God has given them and use it to multiply His kingdom. I pray that they will not become a people that acquires more stuff in order to live an easy life that ends up Godless, but instead will be a people who are blessed so that they will bless others. I pray that they will give and love unconditionally and that they will be a light to their community and their country. I know that this was not the typical lesson that is shared to a people who already goes without. But it is the God's truth. We can never acquire anything more precious than God's love - a generous, compassionate, steadfast love.

When I came home from my trip and got thrust into Thanksgiving busyness and the Christmas season, I became antsy to share on here what I shared in Haiti. I scan through facebook posts and listen to people talk and watch commercials and listen to my Christian radio station and talk to family members and I hear a constant theme. I hear people who are turning into goats. I hear people who are so preoccupied with getting presents or holding tight to their comfort or their traditions that they are not even considering the hungry or the thirsty or the naked or the sick or the lonely. I see people who fearfully cling to whatever they have because they can't stand the thought of not giving that perfect gift or their kids being picked on for not having some new toy that they do not dare risk loss in order to multiply God's love. And then I see people who are hungry and thirsty and naked and sick and lonely and are chained to that. They are not released to know the fuller love of Christ that says take whatever you have and multiply it - even if it's just one little penny or 5 minutes of your time or a smile to a stranger or some cookies to your neighbor. See, the fullness of the gospel - that through our salvation and love for Christ, we die to ourselves so that Christ can transform us into His likeness - is a little easier to learn when we are not so preoccupied with so many meaningless things. So, how can I look at my facebook friends or my family who seeks the perfect gift for my kids rather than the richness of Christ or my brothers and sisters who know about God's saving grace, but not His transforming grace and not share these truths?

Maybe you relate and need to change your holiday traditions? Maybe you need to stop buying those perfect gifts and start giving to the least of these? If so, check out this video and consider contributing to this or to another local charity that pulls on your heart string. It's ok to start small, but start somewhere. Our spiritual health is at risk.


  1. Once again, Mika, you captured another awesome trip to Haiti in your words here. I relived the trip as I read it and am reminded that God is at work every minute of every day. In me, as a I serve, and in the people of Chauffard, who always seem to serve us so much more gracefully. I thank God that we can serve together.

    1. Jennie, I thank God for the same thing. He has blessed me with such an amazing friend and mentor in you. I don't know why I get to partner with you and His mission, but I am filled immensely by having the opportunity to go. Thank you!