Haiti – A snapshot
Photo credit: Rebecca Clever (2014)
I had the opportunity to preach yesterday and share about my experiences of being in Haiti recently. Here is a snippet of my sermon, a story that has already shaped me in profound ways:
“This story has been sitting deep within my heart since I returned, it is the place where I most clearly saw and heard and felt and experienced the Good News. It is the story which has opened wide my imagination for what the Kingdom of God is like and will be like in all its fullness.
On the second day that we were in La Victoire, there was a funeral service taking place in the church while we were working in the lot next door. We were right next to the building, the windows were wide open; we could see and hear everything. We were working in the rock line again that morning. The rock passing had a steady rhythm to it. Each time I turned to my right to hand the rock off to the next person, I swung back around just in time to sigh loudly at having to receive yet another rock that I could barely pick up! We all had cuts and bruises all over our arms, not to mention a few smashed fingers or toes.
We were working for only a short time (which when you are carrying 50 lb rocks, feels like an eternity!) when the congregation at the funeral service began singing. The church has no instruments, so the singing was all acapella. I didn’t recognize any of the melodies, but was so moved by the singing that I began to try and hum along quietly. After a moment or two of humming by myself, two older Haitian men, Amie-aqui on my left and Jack on my right, began singing the words in Creole. A few more moments had passed, and Amie-aqui started to sing out the Creole words ahead of the congregation so that we would be able to sing along. (Granted, he sang them so fast that I still had trouble picking them up!) Amie-aqui made it possible for those of us near enough to hear his words to sing along.
This went on for a few minutes, the length of about two songs. When the singing stopped, I realized something incredibly profound—for those moments that we were singing all together, I had forgotten that we were carrying these oppressively heavy rocks. No longer was I thinking about how tired I was, or how hot it was, or how badly my arms hurt, or how hungry I was. For what now seems like a fleeting moment, our burden was lifted by our singing. For just a instant, our hearts were fixed above and our burden felt light as a feather.”
I noted elsewhere in my sermon yesterday that we have a great poverty plaguing our churches in America. It is a spiritual poverty. And one of the deepest symptoms of that poverty that I see is our inability to truly sing, to raise our hearts and voices fully in joy, gladness, hope, and lament. We judge people and places like Haiti as being “poor” and yet we are so blind to our own poverty. May we open our eyes and ears and hearts and imaginations to the love of God and sing a new song!