Saturday, September 26, 2009

I Met Christ Incarnate.

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 DSC_0309what 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.

IMG_0631

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.

IMG_0651

This is the Pastor of the
Les Rois Church.

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.

Rob

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Video: Motorcycle Ride Through River

After a long day of finance work here in Haiti, we took a break and rode motorcycles out across the valley and up into the hills.  This is the sort of thing that I don’t get to do in the US!  Gary, Benjamin and I had a great time!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lover of Prostitutes Found. Religiously Right Lost.

prodigalgod Timothy Keller’s book “Prodigal God” insightfully revisits the Parable of “The Prodigal Son” in Luke 15.  He appropriately renames it… “The Parable of the Two Lost Sons”. 

After reading this book, I am more embarrassed with self, yet more confident in Christ.  I am more aware of sin within the church, yet more motivated to love missionally within that church.  Conviction. Fresh wonder. Awe.  Heartache. A celebration of the sufficiency of the Gospel message. Wow, what a great transformative read. 

If you read this book, the sin of self, that you may be very aware of, or totally unaware of, will be laid bare.  You will encounter your depravity as if looking in a mirror.  You will be called to repentance.  You will find love.

BTW, “prodigal” means lavishly extravagant.  Yes, God is/was lavishly extravagant in his love for me, for you, for all of humanity.

Truly, a phenomenal read.

His point?

We mistakenly focus too heavily on the wandering son.  He asked for his early inheritance, went and blew it on licentious living, and was welcomed back by his father.  The grandeur of the father throwing his arms wind open and welcoming him back is truly a story of hope and joy that we all can rejoice in.  We allow this wonderful and positive message to overshadow the almost more important tragedy in the rest of the story.

You may be this younger brother, the wanderer.

But…if you are “in the church”, you may more likely and tragically be the “elder brother”.

Keller suggests that Jesus’ main point is more about “Elder Son’s” journey.  The elder son is left in a unreconciled relationship with his father at the end of the story.  How dramatic, yet we have missed the importance of this.  “The lover of prostitutes is saved, but the brother of moral rectitude is left in a lost state.”  Wow.

Keller argues that the elder son’s actions teach us that his religious moralism (dutiful obedience and right living), which is so broadly present in today’s church, is a particularly more deadly spiritual condition than the younger son’s gross selfish licentious debauchery.  Our rightness becomes our pride and joy.

Did you know that the Romans called the early church atheists because they were so non-religious?  They had no religion, only a deep faith is the sufficiency of the Gospel of Jesus.  That is cool.

I have seen this self driven religious moralism in my own life, in my own churches.  My pious obedience has nothing to do with the Gospel.  In fact it blinds me from my own sin, and causes me to think I am better than others. So many times I have disgraced the name of Christ in my superior attitude toward others of many other persuasions, classes, races, careers, etc.  We do this in our church communities.  The body’s collective proud celebration of our rightness, to the offense of another, is embarrassing.  The Gospel will offend, but our “rightness” should not.  I am too often a Pharisee (to whom this parable was written). 

One all too common expression of this is politics in the church.  Political posturing and superiority in the pulpit and pew should not be cheered and applauded.  The Gospel will change lives, not one’s politics or government.  The church’s mission is to seek and save the lost, not to rally the troops for political purpose.  Let me be clear, I believe there is an important place for government and the Christians influence of such.  But I also feel so strongly that political endeavors should never disrupt one’s opportunity to be found by/in Christ.  Our Gospel convictions, rightness and confidence should oppositely empty us of our pride and inspire us to self humbling, people loving, Christ exalting missional living.  We will passionately give ourselves to ministry, evangelism, service, seeking the lost, loving the “unlovable”, caring for the marginalized.  Our celebrations should be about the advancement of His Kingdom, not our earthly kingdoms.

The elder brother was left lost, unreconciled with “the Father”.  He was ultimately blind to his spiritual depravity.  The younger son was quite aware, yet repentant and found. 

Which is more desperate and dangerous?

Rob

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Video: We are going to Haiti!

I created this video for a missions conference we will be attending.  This version is slightly altered.  I have also embedded this on our website homepage at www.robandbecky.com.

I read “The Furious Longing of God”…

fuirouslonging Sadly, I wouldn’t really label this a must read.  It was a short book, with an intent to motivate us to really appreciate the depth and intensity of God’s love.  Brennan Manning is very well respected, and he should be, but I just didn’t really get this book.  I appreciated some of the “story” parts of the book, but other than that I was sort of lost.

Many many seem to love it.  I guess I am in the minority!

Also, I could have done without the overly verbose and mystical style.  Maybe I am too simple minded, but it just seemed that he could have come down to earth a little.

Rob

I read “The Hole in Our Gospel”…

hole-785804 I sort of joked halfway through reading this book, “if I could write a book, this is the book I would write”.  Well, that remains to be true.  Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, does a great job of calling the church to action.  This book took so much of what I have thought, experienced, and dreamed about and put it between 2 covers.

This book is really a must read for Christians and non-Christians alike.  Stearn’s thesis, which I think he supported nicely, is that we as Christians often forget that caring for the needy is inherently a part of the Gospel, not a potential byproduct of the Gospel.  Jesus’ heart’s passion was for the weak, the needy, the unjustly persecuted, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, etc.  Many believer’s focus so much on praying the salvation prayer, or even on our individual relationship and eternal life with Christ, or even on getting others saved, that we forget what it means to love Jesus and therefore love our neighbor in a Gospel oriented missional way.  We don’t want to turn the Gospel into a social Gospel either devoid of evangelism (as has happen in certain movements), but we can’t let the pendulum swing the other way by focusing so heavily on “how many got saved” and “how many got baptized” without feeding the hungry and healing the sick.  True, salvation is the ultimate, but feeding the hungry should not be done for the sole purpose of “getting them saved”.  I don’t love my wife in order to get her to do something (ok, sometimes I do).  I love her because I love her.  We need to love our neighbors, even the unlovable, because Jesus loves them first.

This book reminds us of the embarrassing reality that there are millions(unsaved I might add) dying from treatable and reversible causes, while the church falls short of it’s responsibility to respond and act like Jesus would.  It’s sounds so critical, and I hate to be so, but we care more about building our personal families and nests and local church kingdoms than we do about extending the kingdom of God by loving others outside of these.  “The Church” needs to “Go”.  Love Jesus, Love Neighbors, Make Disciples.

We here in the West, myself included, are chief sinners in this regard.

Rob 

Friday, September 11, 2009

If you could’ve heard her scream…

you would have thought someone was murdering her.  Tessa: 3 years old, sweet most of the time, with the tendency to be borderline-whiney.  This precious girl tells me at random times throughout my day, “I love you Mommy” and with pure joy and excitement in her voice “I grow up in Haiti!”  Not to paint a perfect picture, I have heard her scream before:  at Drew when he teases her or in anger at Braden when he steals a toy (or just sits down on her toys) or just when she doesn’t want to share!

IMG_0746

Today I heard Tessa scream and cry in pure fear, and there wasn’t much I could do to calm her down.  The culprit: a massive mosquito with a leg-span the size of a nickel. We were driving to church to drop Drew off at preschool, driving thru traffic at a snails pace for who knows what reason.  Drew says, “Mommy, there’s a fly in the car” and I look back to see a huge mosquito flying around.  The next thing I know Tessa is screaming  and crying with her arms frozen in the air because the mosquito flew by her and landed on her window.  I was trying to convince her to shoo it away, but there is no reasoning with a hysterical 3-year-old.  The next thing I know, the mosquito landed in the underside of one of her arms that she had over her head.  She was screaming even louder and frozen with fear.  I’m trying to drive during all this and the area we were driving in has these huge orange road-construction drums lining the edge of the road, so there was no way for me to pull over.  All I could think to do was to start tossing stuff at her arm.  The thing within reach of me was my bag of trash from  Chick-fil-a this week, so I chucked it at her, successfully getting the nasty bug off of her arm.  But she’s still screaming because it’s still near her.  Fortunately, putting her window down sucked the nasty critter right out of the van.

I have never seen her like that and you can bet I gave her an extra big hug and kiss when we got to church.  I know there are going to be times in her life when she’s going to be that scared again.  I know I can’t protect her from everything.  I wish I could.  And I wish I could “fix” everything she faces in life as easily as I did today by just throwing trash.

~Becky