Thursday, November 3, 2011

Comin' Round the Mountain

Last weekend was our first family hike to the very top of the mountain, and none of us knew what to expect. With 7 miles of rough terrain, we all knew it would be Abby’s first real test to see just how far those 8-year old legs would carry her, and I have to admit I thought it would be her dad’s tired and wobbly legs that would be carrying her home. 

Chelo, my good friend and our Creole teacher here in Haiti, decided he was coming with us, to help translate.  We are simply not as fluent as we think we are.  Finally, to top off our little band of travelers, Bruiser the Tramp decided we would need protection. Our 4-legged friend trotted just at my side, growling at our every step as we began our hike upwards.  I wondered if he planned on doing that the entire trip.  He was certainly not on board with me leaving the village.  He was wary of the goat.  Wary of the bull.  Wary of the trail, Wary of the smells. Just plain wary.  He had no idea how far we were going, but he was determined that he would not leave me.  Such loyalty, from a wild dog!

There we were, a crew of 6, with a mission to reach the home of Miss Rose Bertrand, a teacher living high atop the tallest mountain in these parts.  From near her home, we’d be able to see the Caribbean Sea on 3 sides, all directions except North.  We talked about getting some coconuts up on the top, and I brought my machete along in case we’d need to get our own.  It was great incentive for the kids.  Instead of a ring, we were the Fellowship of the Coconut.  My son even brought his camera.  I've told him I wouldn't be surprised if he works for National Geographic or something when he grows up.  He's quite the documentary photographer.

I have to report, I don’t think I’ve ever been more impressed with my kids.   Abby didn’t complain a bit, and Logan made certain to encourage her along the way.  
We crossed the Sahara Desert mounds and even Chelo (the Haitian) looked a little winded.  We took a couple of breaks ascending the last ridge to Coconut Junction, and when we got to the top the kids really took in the view.  

We made a quick jaunt over to Oberline’s house to say hello.  
Her father had gone back to Port, so once again she was left with another family.  She was wearing the dress we’d given her last year.  It was tired and worn, but Oberline was all smiles.

I am a very one-track person, so I was ready to move straight up the path the remaining 1/4 mile to Rose’s house.  But Kari stopped me and said, 
“I would like to ask if we can have devotions here.”
“Sure, I suppose, as long as you ask first.”
Right away we were invited in, and we had devotions.  I read to them from James, and Chelo translated.
‘My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. 
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’

I told them about how I’d just had the confrontation with the teenagers in Ti Rivier, how I’d become angry and shown my foolishness.  I told them that my words were ridiculous and in perfect contradiction to my reason for being in Haiti. My anger.  My unrighteousness, and my actions which did nothing to bring glory to God.

And that is what happens when I read the Word, but then don’t put it into practice.  I become this man who forgets what he looks like.  My faith, my purpose, is in vain. 
I told them how glad I was that God’s Word is righteous and everlasting. 
“Long after I leave, God’s Word still stands.”  I pointed to Oberline, “After you are gone, His Word still stands....”
They began to focus on me tightly,
“After this house has gone....Still His Word stands.....yes and even when this mountain has passed away, God’s Word will still stand.”

The rain began to spatter as we sat and poured over the words.  It was sweet and refreshing, and one of the grandmother’s in the house asked me for a Bible.  Her voice was shaken and tender.  Her eyes were soft and her heart was open.  We’d brought just one Creole Bible with us.  It was, as always, just enough.

Soon after, Rose Bertrand arrived, ready to show us to her home.  
When we got there, her brother ran to get us all coconuts, and even Bruiser the Dog got to have some coconut meat.  
I’ve never seen a dog eat that before, but he was more than happy to scarf it down.  We were introduced to Rose's mother, and her new niece.

We sat in her home, and Rose went to her dresser and pulled out a Haitian Songbook.  She’d didn’t know Chelo well, and didn’t know he was a Christian, so she asked him if he’d received the Lord.  
Chelo gave her a stern look and told her that he didn’t know Jesus, to which I began to object. He shot me a look which meant, ‘play along’. I knew he was a Christian, and it took me a few seconds to catch on that he was testing her.  

Rose Bertrand sat there and gave this young man the gospel.  She told him all about Jesus and how much He meant to her.  Finally, Chelo began to smile.  
“Very good.” He said.  “Yes. I have received Jesus.  Thank you.”
Rose opened her songbook and began to sing praises.  Her mother, her cousin, her brother, and then the rest of us joined in and began to sing along.  An hour slipped by just singing songs together.  

Then Rose spoke up and out of the blue asked me to preach.
“Preach?”  I said.  “What? Me?”  
“Yes.  Tell us something about life and death. You are not afraid of death.  Tell us why.” She said.
Wow.  I sat back for a moment.  Where did that come from? Where to even begin....
‘How about letting the Spirit lead’, I thought. Philippians came to mind...

‘Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain...(MORE...BETTER...IN ADDITION TO). If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. 
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come - (UP THIS MOUNTAIN) - and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.’

We sang more songs, and every time we’d finish a song, Chelo would ask her to sing another.  It finally became time to leave, and we said our goodbye’s. Rose walked us back out to the main trail, and we saw a strong storm heading straight at us.  It was an eerie feeling that came upon us as the cool wind hit us.  It was as if the mountain suddenly knew we were there.
Time to run for it!

We began double-timing it, fast as we could go to get down off the mountain before the rain hit.  If we were still on top when it came, we knew we’d be sliding down on our backs the whole way.
Abby cut her hand on a cactus, and Chelo had to hold her hand.  I wouldn’t let anyone stop as we began running.  
I’m sure we were a sight to see as we were comin’ round the mountain.
The rain was falling like a wall, just 3 ridges over.
I prayed, 
“God, please hold it back. We need to get down this mountain.  If you don’t hold it back, please make our footing sure.”

The rain came marching up the ridge just across from us....and then it stayed there.  We could feel spatters of stray drops falling from the dark clouds, but the direction of the storm changed by almost a full right turn.  There was a wall of water, falling just on the hill across from us.
We began to sing praises, and the rest of the trip home was a joy. 

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