Today was water day #2 and in so many ways it felt climactic. It's as though all of the messages, themes, and lessons from the previous three days culminated in today's experience. It was certainly the pinnacle of our physical service!
After a day of acclimating Monday and an emotional day serving in various orphanages on Tuesday, we got our first taste of delivering water yesterday. With the exception of the few who had served in Haiti previously, none of us knew quite what to expect, but needless to say we were all overtaken with various emotions - joy, love, humility, frustration, wonder. Personally, I was moved by the hope and optimism of the children, epitomized by one word: Jeff.
In my quest to practice Haitian Creole, I have been speaking with the children, asking their names, how old they are, and how they are doing. Without fail yesterday, the kids replied "pa pi mal", which means "not too bad". All except one kid. An eleven year old boy finally replied "mwen byen" - I am good. But it wasn't just the fact that he was so upbeat that touched me (despite a serious skin condition which he casually indicated), it was the way he smiled and pointed to Hope Church, saying, "Jeff".
Jeff Gacek is the founder of Healing Haiti and, while I won't go into the story behind the organization, Healing Haiti has provided a church, a school, and soon a clinic to a neighborhood in desperate need. And with all of this, it has brought hope to this little boy and so many others nearby.
In our group conversations and prayer last night and this morning we discussed the role of religion in providing hope and greater purpose and noted the transformation of the neighborhoods in which there were churches and schools. The leaders who have been here before attested firsthand to the progress and development they've witnessed in these neighborhoods over the last several years. Hope Church embodies this purpose and the need for God's presence.
These discussions and observations seemed to segue perfectly into this morning's devotional. Before embarking on our mission today we studied the role of righteousness in our relationship with Jesus, which served as a timely reminder of not only what we are called here to do, but more specifically HOW we are called to do it.
Righteousness ultimately has 3 pillars: legal, moral, and social. Legal righteousness is simply abiding by the commandments and the law. Moral righteousness deals with the heart, mind, and motives from within. But the third pillar, social righteousness, is more complex and deals with spreading God's love and Jesus' message in a way that is not boastful, self-righteous, or self-defeating. For example, rather than lecturing people on practicing Christianity and bemoaning their sins, build them a church, feed them, heal them, and educate them.
Today, in particular, it was our mission to spread the word through service - although we only had three trucks full of water and not enough time to build a church, let alone a school and a clinic :)
Coming off the heels of our experience yesterday, the group was cohesive and well-coordinated. With the additional (and invaluable) help of locals Max & Jonas, it seemingly couldn't have gone smoother. The lines were orderly, the process was refined, and there was not much fanfare; however, that calm was tested during our next two stops.
At the next stop it seemed as though the crowd was a bit more spirited, with some angst growing among the people. A small fight broke out between two young boys, which was quickly broken up, but you could see the forces working against us. By the third stop, those forces were fully palpable.
The third and final stop was far and away the most challenging. As our leader, Ray, put it, there was certainly spiritual warfare taking place. Through it all though, the team remained calm and delivered more than just water. We continued to deliver the message of Jesus and that we were here in his name with love in our hearts. Incredibly, each time we spoke these words anger turned to joy and scowls turned to smiles. Personally, I told every kid I met today "Bondye beni ou" (God Bless You), and I will forever remember the glow on each of their faces.
Today was a day I will never forget for so many reasons. It was physically grueling and uniquely intense, but it was the fulfillment of the mission that will stay with me forever. While our literal purpose was to deliver water, the greater cause was to deliver the message of Jesus' love. And while one can self-righteously and dogmatically profess this message, it is better delivered by service and demonstration. I truly believe that the glow on the children's faces (among so many other signs) was the receipt and understanding of that message. Though today felt somewhat climactic, I think we are just now realizing our purpose and I am excited to build on it these next few days.
Bondye beni ou,