Monthly Archives: May 2014

Haiti – Part 1 – Jesus is alive!

Jesus is alive!  Alive and well!  Wait a second, Easter was a month ago, this is a bit late, no?  Or – after looking at a picture coming up in this post – you may be thinking, wait, *you’re* Jesus? No, that’s not it either.  My wife lovingly reminds me of this on occasion, which definitely helps in the humility department.  Besides, my skin is way too light and sandals way too comfortable to make comparisons with the Big Man on Campus that walked this earth 2,000 years ago.

So why talk about Jesus spottings at the end of May? We have holiday grilling to enjoy, pool parties to attend, summer vacations to plan, all that good R&R type stuff. Well, I found Jesus, alive and well, walking amongst the people of Haiti recently, and want to share this Good News. Or maybe, at least the way it turned out, Jesus found me.

Earlier this month, a group of six people from two South Florida churches traveled to Haiti to assist with a Vacation Bible School (VBS) at a school we sponsor.  The trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Port-Au-Prince Haiti is only a 90 minute flight, and yet worlds away. For five days we’d jump in the back of a flatbed truck each morning, enjoying the local sights and sounds of an hour-long bumpy ride down dirt roads. Our destination was a rural school of 640 students, called the Village of Hope.  On arriving we led VBS for groups of elementary grade kids.  During the day students participated in games, arts & crafts, and a Bible story.

I helped with the Bible story portion, working with a pastor from our area and a local translator that bridged the gap between our English and the Creole that is commonly spoken in Haiti. During this time we covered the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers from the book of Luke. To set this stage, children were asked to put brightly colored stickers all over themselves, their arms, legs, face, ears, nose, everywhere. We then described leprosy, what it does to your skin and that because it was really catchy they would have to leave the village. To symbolize this, the kids with leprosy went to one side of the room and were separated from others with a black and yellow police tape barrier.

Ten lepers with bright spots, separated by police tape

On the other side of this barrier, the three of us without leprosy spots then proceeded to throw a ball around for fun. “Would you like to play ball with us?” we’d ask the kids. After expressing interest they were told “no, you’re unclean, you can’t be by us.” Next we staged a small birthday party, singing Happy Birthday to You and blowing out a birthday candle. “Would you like to have some of the cake?” the kids were asked. Of course they would, but no, you’re still unclean kids, don’t come any closer. The looks on their faces told the story best: the kids didn’t like being unclean, and the separation from the life of the village that it caused.

Next, as one pastor began to tell the story of the ten lepers to the children I walked back behind a simple chalkboard at one end of the room for a quick wardrobe change, donning a robe, rope belt and sash. On hearing their cries of “Jesus, come heal us!” I went in character to the kids, first removing the barrier between them and the village and then asking them to “go show yourselves to the priests.”  As they went they were told, amazingly you have been healed! The kids removed their spots, were now back in the village, and seemed much happier. The story then continues; only one of the ten that was healed went back to thank Jesus. This leads into Luke 17:19 where Jesus makes the distinction between being healed – as all 10 were, and being made well by expressing our thanks, as the one did.

The rest of the time was perhaps the best, with former lepers, now clean, partying with Jesus and others from the village, free of restrictions and full of joy. We celebrated with a balloon relay, enjoyed Oreo cookies, did a maze game and colored a picture of Jesus and a leper being healed. What a party.

Jezi, walking side-by-side with the children of Haiti

After the first day of VBS the word got out: Jesus is here.  It took me a while to figure this out.  When I first saw kids walk by, pointing my way and whispering it brought back memories of my own childhood. Wait, what did that little boy say? “Jezi!” I heard. Whoa, this isn’t teasing, that’s Jesus, spoken in Creole! These sightings and exclamations increased throughout the week, with kids walking by shouting, waving, smiling, many wanting to walk with Jezi for a bit, to hold hands and touch the garment, hair and beard. This simple faith expressed with high energy and full of joy was an amazing testament.  Here Jesus didn’t have a tainted image.  Here he was a rock star.  Yes folks, Jesus is alive and well in Haiti, I’ve experienced it first hand, and what a blessing it was.

And why not? In a country where 95% of Haitians profess to be Christians, Jezi is a well- known figure. Here, what Jezi, and by extension Christians, are best known for is largely positive – supporting schools, feeding programs and providing healthcare. Here, in a place still recovering from the earthquakes of 2010 that claimed over 160,000 souls. Here, in the poorest country of the Western Hemisphere, where over 75% of the population lives on less than $2 a day. Here, how we choose to model Jezi for those in need is welcome, and appreciated. And incredibly humbling.

Titanyen, mass grave site where 50,000+ people that died in the 2010 earthquake are buried
Titanyen, grave site where 50,000+ people that died in the 2010 earthquake are buried

Here, a central value of Christianity – of being the hands and feet of Christ – is much more than a slogan. Here it is a way of life.

Spotting God

This is a little something I wrote up for our congregation’s annual report. Kinda like how it came out – much more interesting than anything I ever did whilst working in the world of market research – and figured it would be fun to share. Enjoy!

“Find out where God is at work and join Him there”  -Henry Blackaby

Since taking on the role of Director of Ministry in August 2013 this quote has been a very helpful guide. Where is God at work? Many, many places. The more I looked for God at work in and among the people of St. Michael the more I found. And I noticed that, in no small way, God sightings aren’t confined to just a building or two at 1925 Birkdale Drive. This God of ours is out and about, in communities, both locally and globally. Below are a few of these places and experiences from the past year where I have sought to join God’s work.

  • At Starbucks for a weekly Wednesday morning men’s Bible study.
  • At watering holes. In restaurants? In bars? SURE! The people of St. Michael have found God several times this year at Trees Wings and Ribs in Royal Palm Beach, engaging in well-attended events including Beer&Christmas Carols, Fat Tuesday Hymns&Beer, and Theology on Tap: Free Will vs. Predestination.
  • Between services for small group adult education, with the eight-week series All Pro Dad, five-week series on Living Generously, and one week topics including British Christmas Carols, The Flood story and Source Criticism, and Gay Marriage: For Better or Worse?
  • Between services for volunteer training sessions with Greeters, Ushers, and Nursery Assistants. It’s easy to spot God in the people that volunteer for each of these ministries.
  • In our children with a class on Kids in Worship, participation in our Christmas Musical, lending a hand with the February Youth-led Sunday and assisting with the always-popular Easter Egg Hunt.
  • In outreach near and far, helping to coordinate Project Angel Tree and 40 days of Water. The latter was a Lenten experience that raised almost $1,000 towards building wells in Africa that provide people access to safe drinking water.
  • In Haiti, as part of an upcoming missions trip from May 4-10 that includes three St. Michael guys: Steve Rizzo, Tim Warner and myself. While there we’ll lead Vacation Bible School at the Village of Hope, the school where our congregation sponsors three students. The people of St. Michael donated over 200 pounds of school supplies and contributed over $2,300 towards this trip. Each of you will be with us in spirit.

What will our focus be in the coming year? Perhaps it is the same as always, to find where God is at work, and join in on the fun.