Monday, April 15, 2013

Love Greater than Peanut Butter

Coming home from Nassau always feels a bit dizzying...and this time is no exception.  I'm also returning from my first-ever-soon-to-be-repeated trip to Haiti, which adds another layer of experience to debrief.

There really aren't words to describe the emotions of tonight.  Horror at some of the things I have just seen.  Immense joy as I think about the kids in Nassau and how blessed I am to call them friends.  Tremendous pride in my students, who wisely and bravely navigate cross-cultural relationships to share the love of Christ in the face of injustice.  My heart is swelling.  I am so thankful.

There were many highlights over the past ten days:

Playing with kids at the orphanages in Haiti and meeting the people who care for them.

Hiking up a hill to a little makeshift church where nearly 100 people have come to know Jesus since the earthquake, and hearing the pastor say that the Voodoo temples in the area have mostly disappeared.

Greeting my little friends in Nassau and hearing them read their nursery rhymes or tell me about school.

Watching my student, Will, fulfill the dream of his year-long senior project to plant a vegetable garden at Carmichael Church that will feed hungry kids in the neighborhood.

Dancing and giggling into the night with a group of middle school girls and women my own age at the church {{pure joy!}}. 

Spending a lazy Saturday playing with the neighborhood kids.

Taking peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and popsicles to our friends at Anna's house.

Tonight, I settle back into the old rhythms.  Take Aiden molasses cookies and feel the spring breeze on my back as I ride.  Get a manicure to remove the grime of the past ten days from under my fingernails.  Order takeout.  Cozy up on my plush sofa and call my parents.

But as I slide easily into my comfy life with all its little luxuries, the children I met in Haiti will still have to climb a half mile or more up hill with the day's water.  And as Will wisely remarked today, our friend Ronell is still sitting on the same dank stoop in the hot Bahamian sun.  The precious kids I love still don't have a clean spot to lay their heads.

And the same old question haunts me:  
what must change in my life to make a difference in theirs? 

It is one thing to travel to these places and offer love, encouragement, a PB&J.  But it's another to effect lasting change.  I want to do that.  To make a difference that counts.  And as I lie between my soft, organic cotton sheets writing this, I confess that change--real change--feels far off. How can it be near when I'm so comfy-cozy-not-lacking-anything?  These are the questions with which I wrestle, without exception, each time I return from the little Haitian slum on Carmichael Road.

Sister Mona at the Good Shepherd Orphanage in Carfour, Haiti says that presence is the most important thing we can give.  "When you come with your smiles and play with our children," the articulate orphanage director quips, "we know that we are no longer forsaken." 

And so it is with my Jesus, who had dirt under his fingernails.  He stopped to spend time with the down-and-out, the brokenhearted, and the outcast.  He invited children to come sit on his lap.  He offered some loaves and fish.  Even he, our Good Teacher and the Healer of the whole world did not solve the problems of poverty and hunger and injustice in a day.  He just moved on into the neighborhood (John 1:14) and visited a while. 

They know Him best, these little friends of mine with not much in their tummies.  And spending time with them, I come to know Him better, too.

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