Yesterday I held an old woman in my arms while her heart ripped and broke over the unexpected death of her daughter. The people in my village tied rags around her arms so we could keep ahold of her. Her grandchildren felt such shredded agony that they tried several times to run into the road to die, hoping to be struck by traffic. They couldn’t bear the thought of living without their momma. My eyes were so heavy to see one of the girls just coming home from school, still in her uniform as she heard the news that her mother was gone. She fell faint into the arms of her friends and family. Kari helped as best she could to calm the daughters, and I asked Pastor Pompee if any were Christians. “None of them are.” he said, and the hopelessness in their mourning was dank and harsh.
“We can still pray for them.” I said.
“Yes!” He said. They seemed so lost in a sea of burden. All I could pray was the most simple request…Lord, please, come here. Please come here. Bring your peace that passes understanding, rain down on us here, Please!
Then today I stepped into a church of wailing women and came to the open casket of my friend and brother, Jean Denis, a pastor and leader in his community who also died unexpectedly after complications from a motorcycle accident.
He was one of the most gentle men I’ve ever known. I took my first communion in Haiti at his church, and gave many messages from his pulpit.
Once while I was visiting his church, a singing group of men came and performed. They were all dressed in the latest fashion, singing the newest worship song. They had the shiniest shoes and the best haircuts, and while their performance was gifted and laced with talent, it was painfully obvious that they were only singing for the praise and applause of the people. And how the people did clap, in total fascination of these young heart-throbs!
But then Jean Denis stood up, and this sage of a man quietly lifted his face to heaven. His arms raised high and his hands stretched as if he was trying to caress the very face of Christ, and immediately I knew that this pastor was in the hands of the Living God.
From his little church, nestled into the corner of a sleepy fishing village by the sea, he began to sing, alone and with confidence, and his voice filled every nook and cranny. Every brick resounded with glory as the most simple words came from his mouth. I watched a real shepherd, bringing the eyes of his sheep back to their Father. I watched him humbly teach them a valuable life lesson as he led by example.
“I adore you. I adore you. I adore you Jesus.”
That was all he sang, and I remember thinking to myself, This man is madly in love with Jesus.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will find rest in the shadow of The Almighty…”
There are a dozen villages in Southern Haiti that owe their thanks to this man. It’s because of him they have Bibles. Denis was one of two pastors that worked with me regularly in the first year, giving over 1100 Bibles by hand, up and down the peninsula.
One woman today told me through her tears,
“I couldn’t read, so he read the Bible to me. I couldn’t sing, so he taught me the songs from the song books.”
That is a true teacher. One who is willing to pick up the sheep and drape them around his neck, keep them warm and go the extra mile when they can’t make it on their own. Jean Denis took the extra time to make sure his church had a firm understanding of Jesus.
Every time I saw him, it was as if he hadn't seen me in a hundred years. His warmth will be certainly missed in my heart, but I still have a hope… I know I will see him again, and today I know he is singing those same words of adoration, with eyes feasting on the Lord.