In a small lush river ravine, mostly forgotten and hidden, just north of Les Cayes on the southern peninsula of Haiti, I unexpectedly met Christ (or at least one who took being Christ-like serious).
This is a video of the River and School.
It happen during a visit to a country church called Les Rois (pronounced Lay Wah), in the Picot (pronounced peeko) Church district. Picot Church is in a long term Sister Church Partnership with Trinity Bible Church in Lafayette, LA, facilitated by Reciprocal Ministries International. Trinity Bible has donated substantial funding to help build/rebuild a school in Les Rois. We were going out on a recon mission to figure out what needs to be done. After riding out across the valley and up into the mountains on our four motorcycles, we quickly found ourselves scaling down the side of a mountain (which I would think is impassable even by 4 wheel drive vehicles), wading across a swiftly moving river just below the falls, and hiking up the opposite ridge. Finally we arrived at this remote church. We found the church building to be in good condition, and the church body to be likewise. The church has 180 members and about 250 attending on a weekly basis. After a short hike further up the muddy river wall, we came to the church’s school, our intended destination. We found the school to be in dangerous disrepair.
Les Rois School, More pics here.
This school is perilously perched on the side of the mountain, almost tempting the weather to take it down. The school had obviously been there for a long time. It was a falling down, cracked and crumbling, unsupported mess. The only possible solution is to tear it down completely, and start fresh. I was shocked to find out that this broken skeletal facade of a building is the current home to a Christian school that provides an education for 300 students! Are you kidding me? Wow.
After listening to the Pastor praise Jesus simply for our willing presence (RMI president Dan Shoemaker calls it the ministry of presence, others call it incarnational ministry) on behalf of Trinity Bible Church, we started back down the muddy path. No promises were made, except to continue to join together in prayer for a solution. I did not expect what was about to happen. I had already been confronted with the tragic existence of so many brothers, sisters and young children at this remote impoverished church and school, but I was wholly unaware that I was about to be wrecked and rocked by the very presence of Jesus and the poverty of my own soul. My mind had already turned from pondering the daily sod of these church people, to anxiously considering my own immediate journey before me; the river crossing in bare feet again (I had already fallen during the previous crossing), and the fear of trying to navigate my dirt-bike back up that rock course on the other side. Coming down proved to be about bouncing from rock to rock, just trying to control the decent. How was I going to ride back up? How many times would I fall? How embarrassed would I be? I had to prove myself to my already but not yet American and Haitian compatriots! My manhood and pride were on the line, more than I realized at the time.
After removing our shoes once again, we carefully crossed the river. Each step was cautiously chosen (I didn’t fall this time). The Haitians may have tough, experienced and calloused feet, but mine are not. More accurately, mine are like baby feet. I digress.
Once across the river, I sat on a small rock to catch my breath, wring out my rolled up jeans, and put my socks and sneakers back on, still fearing this seemingly impossible ride up the mountain. That is when it happen.
The pastor of the Les Rois church came over, taking a small rag, and starting wiping and washing off my feet. I quickly forgot about the looming motorcycle ascent, and was only thinking about this Pastor’s Christ-like descent to my feet. It was awkward for me, but totally natural for him. I was thinking… please don’t do that. I am not worthy. I said to him, “please, you don’t have to do that”, but he didn’t understand my English, and I didn’t know Creole, so he continued. The message he was delivering to me was beyond any language or cultural barrier. He didn’t realize it, but he was Christ incarnate to me. I am sure he wasn’t thinking about it like I was. He was just naturally serving me. It pains me to realize, that I can’t imagine I would have done the same for him. I should have been washing his feet. He is the one to be served. He is the one who needs the compassion and love of Christ. I was not there to be served, but to serve. I was there to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Right? Wrong. He filled that role far better than I was prepared to do.
I will never forget it. Hopefully the next time, and the next time, and the next time, I am going to wash “his” feet. I say “his”, in quotes, because he represents all of humanity to me. As Becky and I go to Haiti, it is not about us. It is about loving others as Christ would love them. The incarnational ministry of presence is about the constant emptying of self for the sake of meeting the needs of others. It is about considering my life worth nothing (Acts 20:24). Yes, it is even about washing their feet.
Christ did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. He made himself nothing, even to the point of death. So should I.