Aug 11 2014

Home from Haiti, Day 1

pillow

Our plane landed in St. Louis late last night. My wife picked me up from the airport, and I thanked God for a reliable vehicle that could transport us a hundred miles without much worry of the vehicle dying.

I got home late last night (or early this morning, depending on how you look at it). One of the first things I did was make sure the air conditioner was turned on and set to a temperature that I would find comfortable. I thanked God for this modern convenience.

I took a shower, and thanked God for good water pressure and warm water. I got in bed, and thanked God for how clean my sheets felt, and how my pillow and mattress were both soft yet firm, just the way I like them.

I woke up and hugged each of my kids. I thanked God that I did not have to worry too much about them last night or even last week for that matter. I had taken it for granted that they would be safe and well-fed.

I didn’t do much during the day. I felt pretty sore from last week. Most of the day, I sat on my comfortable couch, beneath the ceiling fan which blew a cool breeze down on me. It felt great. I checked the temperature in the house at one point and it said that it was¬†81 degrees. I hadn’t even noticed that it was that warm. I made sure to adjust the thermostat cooler so that the others in my home would be comfortable.

I haven’t fully processed everything from last week yet. Some normal everyday things feel different. Some parts of my daily routine feel empty. And other parts seem more meaningful. I know that I still need to think through how God wants me to live based on what I experienced last week in Haiti.

But today I just didn’t have the strength to do that. I simply had to rest, and thank God.


Aug 10 2014

Haiti Mission Trip Day 8

IMG_2028.PNG

I had the awesome privilege of preaching this morning at a church in Haiti. I preached about how we are all called to be God’s witnesses, and how we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit to do so, and we are compelled by our joy in Christ. And we’re to do this in our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. For all of us on the mission trip, Haiti was our “ends of the earth.” But for the Haitians present, Haiti is their Jerusalem. It’s their hometown. And they will remain there to continue to be God’s witnesses.

Near the end the service, we sang and danced together, moving throughout the building freely. It was a neat experience because not only was it different from our normal services back home, but because there was no separation of Haitians and Americans. We were thoroughly mixed together, praising God together.

As I write this, I’m on a bus heading to the airport. We’re going home. Back to our Jerusalem.

I’ve heard many people over the years talk about how eye opening it is to see third world countries and the poverty they experience with your own eyes. And it is. As much as you might see these things portrayed on television, seeing them in person is entirely different. It’s personal.

And I’ve talked with many people who, after going on one foreign mission trip, cannot wait to go on another, and then another, and then another. Because they have found that God is using them to touch lives and share His love with people who desperately need to hear it. I praise God for them. And I praise God for those who spend their summers in Haiti, and those who have moved to Haiti and such places in order to minister there full-time. We need more people who will answer God’s call to do such things.

But that’s not for me.

I don’t say this because I had a bad week in Haiti. On the contrary, I had an awesome week, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity and all of the people who helped in making it possible for me to come. And if God makes it clear to me that I should return, I will certainly jump at the opportunity. I loved my time in Haiti this week, and I would love to return if God wills.

But at this point, I don’t think it’s my purpose to come back.

In coming, I was reminded exactly what my purpose is. I’m a pastor of a specific church in a specific town. I exist to shepherd them, to teach them, to encourage them, and to train them to follow Christ.

We can’t all be missionaries in foreign countries, but we can all seek to be faithful to encourage the people God has called us to, whether our families, or our church, or the people across town, or even the people on the other side of the world.

Find your calling, your people, and love them in such a way as to show them Jesus. And then encourage them to find their calling, their people. Some of us will go to Haiti. Some will go to Africa. Some will stay home. But all of us are called to be God’s witnesses.


Aug 9 2014

Haiti Mission Trip Day 7

IMG_2013.JPG

Today I talked with a voodoo priest about Jesus.

His name is Johnny. He lives in Blanquette, which is a beautiful town on the top of the mountains. This is also where his voodoo temple is.

I met Johnny in the Christian church that we came to visit in Blanquette. When Johnny heard that we were in town, he came to the church to see us. He knew some our of group from previous years. Bob (our mission team leader) introduced me to Johnny, and let him know that I am a pastor. He was very interested in this, and we immediately started talking about following Jesus.

Johnny says that he believes in God and Jesus, but is unwilling to give up practicing voodoo. He even admits that he knows that he should, but he’s afraid of what might happen if he does. He says that he gave up voodoo once, but his voodoo spirit made him sick because of it.

Johnny is also afraid of what the people he leads would think if he became a Christ-follower. He’s afraid that they would desert him, or even worse. He feels an obligation to them. I let him know that many of them probably would desert him, but that he was in a great position to actually share the true gospel with many people, and that many of them would likely follow Jesus as well because of their respect for their leader. This seemed to resonate with him.

Johnny took me and a small group of us down the road to his voodoo temple. It was simply a large empty room with several wooden doors. I was told later by members of our group that had been there before that some of these doors contained voodoo dolls and even human skulls.

I asked Johnny what their voodoo services were like, and he said that they came together twice a month to drink alcohol, dance, and fall to their knees and faces as they cry out to the voodoo spirits. I told him that if he would follow Christ, then he would receive power from the Holy Spirit, who is much stronger than these voodoo spirits (demons). He asked if I could pray that the voodoo spirits would leave the temple. I asked if I could also pray that his voodoo spirit would leave him, since he was the priest of the temple. He was reluctant at first, but he agreed. We asked him what the name of his spirit was, and he said it was Lucifer. We prayed for John, that Lucifer would leave him, and that all of the evil spirits would leave the temple, and that God would protect them and draw them all to know Jesus. John seemed to appreciate all of this, but when I asked if he would now give up practicing voodoo, he replied, “Not yet.”

I’ve never met anyone in the United States that has practiced voodoo, but I’ve met many people who cling to idols, whether it be their alcohol, drugs, food, sports, laziness, anger, or any other thing that they cling to instead of fully embracing Christ. Jesus spoke with one man whose idol was money.

“Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Matthew 19:21-22)

This describes so many of our friends, family members, and neighbors. They often say that they follow Christ, but when it comes down to it, they would rather cling to those things that are most important to them.

It might even describe you. If that is the case, I urge you, give whatever it is to God and follow Christ only.

Please pray for Johnny. He’s so close to trusting in Christ, just like your neighbor next door.


Aug 8 2014

Haiti Mission Trip Day 6

IMG_1999-0.JPG

Today we fed the hungry. We’ve been providing snacks at the sports camp all week, but today we served lunch to all the children and many adults who came to the church. Haitians rarely eat lunch because they cannot afford to. So serving to them lunch today was a great blessing for them.

It was an amazing sight. Close to 200 people (if not more) crammed into the tiny stone church building. We had them sit wherever they could: on the wood benches, on the small children’s chairs made out of straw, even on the floor. And they waited so patiently while we passed plates through an assembly line to each person. Then, after lunch, we talked, played games, and sang songs, loving them as Christ loves us.

I’ve struggled in the past about whether it’s better to raise money to go on a foreign mission trip or to raise money to send to established missionaries already serving in places like Haiti. There are certainly positives and negatives to both. The latter is certainly needed, but money can’t buy someone to hug two hundred kids.

I had a good conversation this morning with Miriam, who runs New Life Children’s Home, where we are staying and doing some work this week. I wanted to know what she would prefer. It’s not cheap to come to Haiti on a mission trip, so I wanted to know if she would prefer that I come back and bring others, or raise the same amount of funds and send them so that they can meet their needs and help people more.

Her response settled the issue for me.

She said that they have many financial needs. She named many of them, which added up quickly and most of which were reoccurring. Their needs are great, and it is certainly a worthy cause. They help hundreds of children, giving them food and shelter, sharing the love of Christ with them.

And yet as great as these needs are, she also greatly appreciates the help that groups like ours bring. Groups who come can bring the kind of manpower that they need to accomplish big projects. We can serve lunch to hundreds of people and show love to hundreds of kids. We can play with them and bring smiles to their faces.

Money can’t buy those things.

When it comes down to it, we need to do both. But the reality is that we will rarely give much until we see the needs for ourselves. So the best thing we can do is to go, so that we can become more passionate about giving. Not only will this invigorate us to give sacrificially, but we will also help the established ministries in greatly appreciated ways while we are there.

Jesus commended the poor widow who gave her two mites. She gave sacrificially. And certainly she wasn’t giving out of legalism, otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have commended it. She knew her money had a purpose.

Because I came to Haiti on this mission trip, I see that our missions dollars have great purpose. I’ve always kind of known that, but now when I give, I see the faces of hundreds of smiling children who are so thankful for the meal we are providing. And if you need to see the same so that you will give generously, I pray that you would go as well.


Aug 7 2014

Haiti Mission Trip Day 5

IMG_1945.JPG

Today was fun.

After working on the wall in the morning and early afternoon, we joined the children at the children’s home on a giant slip-n-slide. It was just a large thick tarp, doubled on top of itself for extra thickness to keep from feeling any rocks below it, and then coated with soap and water on top. It was so much fun! We slid, and spun, and laughed, and got cooled off.

I’ve been picking up some Haitian Creole throughout the week. I can say “Mwen rele Chris” to introduce myself, and “Komon ou rele?” to ask someone’s name. I can say, “Komon ou ye?” to ask how someone is doing, then respond with “Ca va” or “Tres bien” or “Bon” when asked how I’m doing, to say that I’m doing good.

And it’s always nice to say “Bon gou” to compliment the cooks for the “good food” made for us.

But when we’re all just sliding around on the slip-n-slide, none of that is necessary. Laughter doesn’t have a language. It’s universal. When we play together, we all speak the same language.

I don’t have a spiritual point today. I just want to remind you to let down your guard often, and just play. Play with your spouse. Play with your kids. Play with the kids down the street. Don’t be so serious. Laugh, and have fun, because these things allow us all to connect in truly meaningful ways, without needing to say a word.