Saturday, May 3, 2014

It Doesn't Take a Village

You've heard the phrase "It takes a village...", an old proverb that today is a popular way of saying, "it requires a multitude of people".
I'm a missionary, strike that, a ragamuffin, with boots on the ground in Haiti. I very seldom get anything right. I've learned the longer I live here that I really know nothing. But I need you to help me out with this...

I was watching a cargo truck on the main road, normally filled with goods like coconuts or rice, instead being loaded to the gills with Americans. They were all bouncy, happy, drinking sodas and cramming their faces with food. They were snapping selfies, snapping photos of the truck, of their friends, of Americans standing up in the back of a truck. Americans love to do that here. On any given day you can sit on the National Road and inevitably a carload of Americans will go flying by with white people hanging on the floorboards or out the windows like dogs with their ears and tongues flapping in the wind. The more daring love sitting on the roof of the car. They have no clue how many accidents we see here. How if one goat or cow or moto hops out in front of them they will find themselves, maybe, in a Haitian hospital where the reality of medical care in a third-world country will come bitterly seeping in as you slowly bleed to death on the floor next to your Haitian brothers and sisters. Maybe a doctor will look at you. Maybe not.

But it's a liberty. Something they don't get to do in America because of those pesky laws and State troopers, but here, aha here, there are no laws. Americans love that. Freedom is something we crave, probably because it's slowly being prostituted away.
Still, we love getting completely immersed in....ourselves.

Around them was the picture of money. The latest in sports wear, technology, earrings, sunglasses. The most innovative water bottles and backpacks... This is the modern day missionary team...

This isn't Disneyland. America, please understand the rest of the world is not Disneyland.

Haitian people were standing there watching them. None of them were smiling. None were happy. Most look anxious like they are living in a bad dream. Those are probably the paid translators. The leaders of the group pulled out in an $85,000 Land Cruiser, and off they went. Most likely they'd already saved-the-day for a few dozen, or maybe a few Haitians, and this was just the now coveted "beach day" that all Americans must have if they are truly expected to take up the cross for a week, or excuse me, 5 days.

The Haitians are the most hospitable people I've ever met. They'd give you the shirt off their back, their best chair in the house, and the only fruit in their tree. I'm told much of the rest of the world is the same way. And we come here to serve or to be served? Are we coming in humility or pride? Are we placing them above ourselves, or are we thinking our ways, our ideas, our education, our everything is better and therefore superior? I can tell you this. In one of these options love can thrive. The other is a vacuum where life itself cannot exist.

Do you detect some cynicism? There is some I admit. Because I don't understand. These are the people, my people, coming here literally by the truckload, week after week after week. It's no wonder to me why the Haitians stereotype me. They see me and if they don't know me, they immediately yell, "Hey White! Give me money!" It's all they know.

They insult me in their language because they assume I don't know a syllable of their own. They think my only language is money. That's all my people have shown them. They don't see love because it's not what gets handed out.

The compassion of today, your hurt in my heart, is being translated, twisted into something self-serving. Is this the treasure, here? Where moth and rust destroy. Is this the end of the rainbow? Where my only hope as a native is to somehow get my family to your idea of paradise, so they can drown in the Sea of Forgetfulness.

Pleasure. Comfort. Money. Me. These are the names of Gods. The Living God? Who is He?

Folks, it doesn't take a village. We don't need a village to come here. We don't need to come here and create a village either. They already have the village. Thousands of them. Each one unique, there for a purpose. Natural communities, families, farmers, widows, orphans, problems. We're supposed to meet them in their afflictions. Help those who can't take care of themselves. It requires one + Jesus. Love them. Do life with them. We're not supposed to come and take the tour, build them what we think they need, hug their babies as if we know we are leaving them in Hell and then go home, armed with our memory-filled cameras...because that's exactly where our compassion lives, on some memory card, lost between a sea of family vacation photos as we get back to the grind... We can't just go back to Wal-Mart after seeing the heart of God.

Why does James say it? Ask yourself why?

"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."
He calls us into the dark places to bring the light. Without reciprocation. Unconditionally. Anonymously if need be. Where the only residue that is left behind is not the stench of another culture's gods, but the beautiful fragrance of the Living God, desiring to meet them in their needs, to walk with them and love them through His people. Christians bear His name. But if He is on our lips and far from our hearts, what are we really doing?

Let's revisit the Biblical model, can we?
This is the American model. It's the Money model.
It's a model for failure. It's broken.

Let's go back to the model God already laid out, and see what happens when the Divine intercedes.
Let's return to following Him and not ourselves, to obeying what He's telling us to do, not what our pop culture is into, and let's see if the promise of that Gentlemen doesn't ring in our hearts, "and surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age."

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