The Family

The Family
Justice, Logan, Jacy Klaire, Joy, Josie Kate, Luke, Megan, Judah, Kerry, Jaxon

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Power of Belonging

I was met at the back of the bare concrete block church by a sea of lime green shirts. Our fishermen and the women in our women's group all had on their New Vision Ministry T-shirts and black jeans we had helped them get. They were also all wearing white latex gloves Roger had found in our medical supply box at the fish house. It made them look strangely official. They were all serving as ushers. In the front of the church was Marcus' coffin...draped with his lime green T-shirt.

I was called in the middle of the night to tell me Marcus had had a stroke. Stephen and Autumn took him to the hospital where he died the next morning not long after I visited. He was one of our guys. He left behind two precious girls and a wife.

I gave the family strong encouragement to immediately take the body to the public morgue in St. Marc. I told them I would help with the funeral but I would not cover the cost of a private morgue. I thought they took my advice.

Two days later the family comes to me to say that a private morgue picked up the body from the hospital and had assured them they would do the funeral for cheap. Now the director of the funeral home was demanding $20,000 Haitian or about $2500 usd for the funeral. This was from a family worth about $200.

I helped the family with the money I would have paid for the simple funeral and then bought Marcus's bwafouye (canoe) from the family to do a memorial for him at the fish house. The family continued to come to plead for more money for two weeks while they sold everything they owned and borrowed money from everyone they could find to pay the morgue. I hate that system.

Finally they got $15,000 Haitian and the funeral home agreed to bury him. That is where the funeral picked up. They had a big wake the night before in which everyone present gets to drink and party at the expense of the mourning family. If the crowd feels the family did not produce enough liquor, beer, and sodas, the crowd starts throwing rocks at the family and the house. It is a very stressful time for an already stressed out family.

The funeral service was preached by a Christian pastor to an uninterested crowd. Everyone just stood and talked until he finished at which time the funeral home workers came forward to get the coffin. That is when the show began. Before anyone touched anything all of our women and guys posed in front of the coffin for a picture with their official uniforms.

As soon as the coffin was touched, dozens of women began to scream at the top of their lungs and wail. Four of our girls took the T-shirt off of the coffin and carried it one at each corner at the front of the funeral procession right behind the marching band as we went down the road in the pouring rain.

The procession lasted about half an hour until we reached the family's house. The criers cried and screamed the whole way. But now they turned it up a notch. Women began falling onto the ground and rolling in the mud screaming. One girl in particular kicked and screamed so much that the funeral officials who are responsible for getting them could not pick her up. She hit and kicked until she finally rolled off of the mud path into the water filled ditch in her best white dress. I don't understand all of that but everyone else acted like it was normal and since I was the non-Haitian in the whole processional I acted like I was used to it too.

We finally got to the tomb that had been the tomb in which Marcus' mom, aunt, and cousin were buried. They just pushed the remains of the old coffins to the side and shoved him in. Then a mason was there and ready to seal it up.

All of our group was then gathered together for a photo in front of the tomb with their matching shirts. My first group photo at a burial site.

We then visited the widow as she sat in the floor of the family mud house and each one of us passed through and kissed her. Everyone then was offered one more beer and it was over. All the crying and screaming ended as soon as the coffin was in the tomb.

It was so evident that our women and the fishermen were in a position of respect just because they were part of our group and had a T-shirt. They had a whole new self esteem. I can't wait to see how they respond when they realize they are a part of the family of the one true God.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Freedom vs. Bondage

The fourth of July came and went here without fireworks or fanfare. Haiti's Independence Day is January 1st. In 1804 Haiti became the first black independent nation. The US did not support this newly free nation out of fear that our own slaves may revolt and our white independence would in some way be threatened. In the years that ensued Haiti began to fall from the most wealthy Caribbean nation known as the jewel of the Antilles to the economic mess we all know of today.

The freedom the Haitian slaves fought so hard for did not result in freedom from the depth of bondage that they had dreamt of. Today the average Haitian is only free in theory. The bondage they endure is something we as Americans can't really fathom. The life of the people we encounter everyday is the epitome of the slavery described by the apostle Paul in the book of Romans. It is the slavery to the desires of the flesh. Our daily mission is to help our friends and aquaintenances here understand the true freedom available to them through Jesus Christ.

Just last night we lost another friend to a motorcycle accident. A young man that had been to our home on several occasions through the basketball outreach of Philip, Logan, and Wesner. He left a disco drunk last night and crashed his motorcycle into an on coming car and killed himself and his young cousin. Luke had been his friend and we had shared the truth of the gospel with him at our basketball banquet last year to no avail. Just like you and I in our preconveresion state, he enjoyed his sin and rejected the Light. He chose bondage and slavery over freedom and eternal joy.

I shared frankly at our Celebrate Life women's ministry meeting last week at the fishing village. These women are the ones we found living in shredded tents with their kids by the river. We rented them all homes and now have them working in our senior feeding program. I shared with them about the plan God has revealed in His word about how to live in freedom. Most of these women have multiple children from different men and many of them have lived a life of prostituting themselves for food for themselves and their kids. As I shared the model of one man for one women for a lifetime they could not bring themselves to believe that model is for them. I tried to convince them that at this point in their lives they need to stop looking for a man to sell themselves to for food and shelter. I tried to get them to begin instead to seek God and wait for Him to send the man He has for them. One of the women objected that she can pray all day for God to send her a man but she can't wait if she can't get food for her babies. Bondage. Slavery. I tried to explain that now they have houses. Now they have jobs. Now they have food for their kids. And these things did not come from a sinful relationship but as grace from God their father. As a proof of God's perfect planning, there was a short term missionary here visiting and she had the testimony of a life just like these ladies live. She shared with tears how God had delivered her and how he could deliver them too. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to reveal the truth and we can only pray for deliverance.

One of our fisherman has been delivered. Junior is one of my favorite guys. He was living the typical life of alcoholism and womanizing. One day he came to me and grabbed me in a big hug and said that he did not understand God or anything but he knows God picked us up out of North Carolina and put us here to change their lives. It took about six more months of sharing but now Jr and his wife are converted Christians and active in their church. Now he wants to learn to read so he can read his Bible with his family. Freedom.

No matter where we live the eternal issues of freedom and slavery are always the same. Christ bought our freedom through His death and resurrection but we all must choose freedom or live our entire lives in bondage. The chains may look different. Here chains are dirty and smelly. Poverty, oppression, prostition. In America the chains are shiny and polished. Big houses, nice cars, soft church pews. But in the end they are all chains. They hold us in bondage and often we deceive ourselves into believing we are free. It grieves the heart of our Father to think he offers us freedom and liberty and we chose bondage and chains because we are comfortable that way. Let's chose freedom so we can share it with others before more people like our young friend Wade die and are dragged to the depths of eternity by their chains.