Thursday, August 11, 2011
The setting was welcoming and filled with loving hospitality, even though within a stone’s toss was an eight foot wall topped with razor wire and spiked bars. Dust from the road on the other side of the wall billowed from time to time as a truck or motorcycle passed the house. Noises of people, goats, chickens, and truck horns interrupted our conversations. We had just been served a wonderful dinner of Creole rice with fresh fruit. Even though we were outside, fans were blowing to move the still, muggy, hot, tropical air. As we sat on his patio in front of his home, I wanted to know more about what made our host tick. I felt safe and at peace in this new place, but there was so much I wanted to learn.
Our host was a gentle, passionate man named Marcel. His home was in the bustling, crowded city of St. Marc, Haiti. I was there with a group of Ada Bible folk hoping to make a small difference in a broken place in the world. As it turned out, Marcel and his Haitian friends would make a huge difference in the broken places in our hearts. That night we listened to Marcel tell his life story of how he came to be part of helping 11 churches and seven schools grow to be overcrowded, joy–filled places of hope and faith in his community. We also listened to his countless frustrations, struggles, and points of discouragement. He’s an honest man who has worked tirelessly to do what he believes God has asked him to do.
Marcel grew up in a Haitian Voodoo home. After too many dark and evil circumstances, including the death of Marcel’s twin brother, Marcel’s mom left that world and pursued Jesus Christ through the influence of some Christians Marcel’s family knew. Over the years, Marcel fell in love with Jesus, the Bible, and church. He grew to understand that the only lasting change that could ever be brought to his country would come from Jesus through the church. The church would be his hope. Marcel spoke with passion, joy, and a consistent tear in his eye as he described the churches and the people that he’s privileged to serve. It was obvious how much he loved the people of Haiti.
We had been in Haiti for a couple days before we were able to find the time to hear Marcel talk in length about his life in Haiti. We had seen plenty in our first couple of days to realize the extent of brokenness and poverty that has plagued his country. I asked him, “Do you ever struggle with discouragement here? How do you handle the constant struggles of living here?” Marcel didn’t sugar-coat anything. He talked about daily problems with a corrupt and selfish government. He talked about the lack of identity, self-respect, and personal ownership that his fellow citizens have. He talked about the devastation from the earthquake, the hurricanes, and disease. He talked about his life being threatened by people who didn’t want him to succeed. He talked about Satan’s schemes to thwart his efforts. He talked about the pain of being separated from his family so his kids could receive an education in the States. In all this, you could hear the pain in voice. He was visually angry as he talked about all the opportunities for discouragement, failure, and quitting.
The tone in his voice changed as a familiar, gentle smile formed on his face again. He talked about joy being a choice that he makes every day. “Joy is never dependant on your circumstances,” he quipped. Marcel had come to learn the contentedness that the Apostle Paul spoke of in his letter to the Philippians. He had also come to grips with the fact that his personal safety would be found in the smile of God’s will. Joy, contentedness, and safety in God’s will were the lessons we all learned from Marcel’s story. As the week played out, we got to see these virtues in action. We also got to see the fruit of living with this mindset in the people he serves. Joy, contentedness, and safety were displayed beautifully in one of the poorest, most corrupt, broken places on the planet. How does this happen? Marcel realized he was redeemed to bring redemption. He was saved to bring salvation. He was given light to light up his world. He’s a beautiful example of Paul’s works to the Ephesians.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2.8-10