I sat on the floor in an unused classroom, under the walls decorated with illustrations of the alphabet and vowel charts, watching a dynamic unfold. Seated were Haitian men ranging in age from teens to late twenties; standing were three of the American men I have been living in community with. Welcome to the Thursday edition of a twice-weekly Bible study. Chris Greene was teaching the group a worship song, and sometime during the chorus I realized: this is more than theological discussion. This is binding people together, this is creating a space for two sets of friends from two nations to meet on an even plain. These are men that couldn’t be more different, but find common ground in their pursuit of Truth. The group started with Apps McNorton and one other man in the Jubilee gazebo, and though Apps isn’t in Haiti anymore, what he started continues to grow. From the floor I saw bridges being built; I saw a heart for God in that room that tore through layers of man-made heartache and doubt, replacing it with a yearning to see the face of God in whatever form He would reveal Himself; I saw the kingdom coming, one question at a time.
The first weekend in September Emory facilitated a gathering in the mountains south of Port Au Prince. The objective was to round up the people who have poured into the vision for Jubilee, to get them in one room and discuss community and how individual and corporate relationships play into the will of God. What has been realized is that relationship is the will of God. We aren’t here to provide this community material things. We aren’t here to teach people how to craft. First and foremost, we are here to advocate the worth of each person, as God places worth on each of us. We are here to live out what Jesus lived, and died, for. This changes the dynamic of any vision, it places the individuals and the relationship above what can be accomplished. As Brian Smith said, “We are finished and whole in Christ. Now what defines us are our relationships with each other. We are not striving for a product or an end-- Jesus is the end already. It is the process that matters.” This is lived out well in the connections being made in Jubilee and through working with medical care facilities, local churches, and individual families in Gonaives. These endeavors have never been, and might never be, easy, but they have produced life and what we are harvesting is well worth what was sown. We think it is beautiful now, but the glories of it have yet to be revealed. Kathy Brooks presented an idea during the gathering, challenging the common illustration that we are all climbing the mountain of life, striving to get to the goal at the top. But what if the goal isn’t at the top? A mountain climb suggests that one person can be further up than another or made more progress than his neighbor, or that either of those things matter. It also suggests that there is an end we are trying to reach, and like any goal, the faster we can get there the better. As she put it,“...maybe we are in a field instead, and all that matters is how close we are standing to each other.”
In the mountains we also discussed how to build up this community and each other effectively, instead of unknowingly doing more damage than good. Emory explained that he didn’t want to put rules or limits on this vision, but stressed the importance of walking in discernment and intentional love. Remembering 1 Corinthians 13, it is absolutely necessary that we do everything in love, lest we become resounding gongs or clanging cymbals that do no good. Putting form to the vision meant defining mission statements to allow for better communication, brainstorming ways to keep ties in the states strong and alive, expressing what God has laid on each of our hearts for specifically, and educating ourselves through reading and discussion. Through trying to understand the history and culture of Haiti we were better able to understand what our role is in the relief, rehabilitation, and development of this nation.
We began to listen to what God was laying on our hearts and comparing that with how the community is in need. Needless to say, the two lined up. Ben, Chris, Isaac, and Josh moved into a house in Jubilee tonight, with the intent of becoming as much a part of the community as they can. They want to be with the people, not just go see them. They are also being deliberate in the discipleship of a few teenage boys and the “greening” of Jubilee. Loads of dirt have already been brought in to create a raised garden just outside the school, and more time is being poured in to seeing that the project is one the whole community can be excited about. Grace Deal has also been working in Jubilee, trying to maximize the clinics potential. In addition, she is teaching in-service classes in the Gonaives hospital, which the staff has met with open and thankful arms.
It is Saturday, and it is in this same spirit of thankfulness I am living as another week in Haiti ends and a new one begins.