We had the pleasure and honor of following Bishop Jeune (the founder of Grace International) to three churches around Port Au Prince in Haiti. By 5:30 am, the team was dressed in our Sunday’s best with long sleeves, ties, full skirts, and shoes, piled into our little van, and roared down the dusty streets.
The first church was a gigantic tent outside, with hundreds and hundreds of people crammed into stools/pews that overflowed onto the side alleys and rooftops where other people who couldn’t see the stage, sat to just listen to the service. All I could think of was when I read the New Testament as a little kid, visualizing in my head all of the people doing anything they could in order to just hear Jesus speak.
The service was long and hot…Sweat literally and liberally poured down our faces as we listened, prayed, and worshipped along with the local Haitians. But through the heat, we saw the even greater fire in the spirits of the people in church. We were undeservedly given VIP treatment, as they had arranged for us to sit with the Bishop on stage, and were unexpectedly asked to lead them in a song.
Needless to say, we were shocked and humbled at the fact that they even wanted to hear us at all, and so we, without instruments or preparation, sang “Trading My Sorrows” to them, with the chorus quickly translated to Haitian Creole moments beforehand. Graciously, the congregation responded joyfully and we were, again, humbled and grateful. Pastor Abe, when speaking briefly with the congregation, said something that summarized exactly how we felt about what we witnessed there:
“We are going to go home to our church in New Jersey and let them know that the Church in Haiti is strong.”
They are so strong…
After the service ended, we walked out of the tent and drove to the next church, which was on the Grace International campus. Within a shell of a building (that was once, I assume, a gigantic warehouse of some sort, or complex) were almost a thousand chairs lined up in neat rows. Bishop led us to the stage again, where we sat and asked again to sing to the congregation. This time, we sang a cappella “We Fall Down,” where, once more, we were welcomed and received with open arms.
Oh, before I forget, I should mention that the musicians of both of these churches were comprised of a bass guitar, a small drum set, and keyboard. None of the instrumentalists were trained in any way, but when they heard our songs for the first time, they were able to pick up the basic feel and tune of it and played along without a moments preparation. AMAZING.
At the third church we went to, we had to take our van up a mountain where there was rubble at every turn, and people peeking into our vehicle and yelling out “JACKIE CHAN!” at the top of their lungs. I know they didn’t mean it in a cold way, and it was actually pretty funny.
The third church was, by far, the most affluent of the ones we visited today, with a full band, video projection, and cameras. But still, if you had walked into the tiny building in 90+ degree weather with tons of humidity and no air circulation, you would have probably turned and walked back down the mountain. By now, it had gone from 5:30 am to almost 1:00 pm, and our group was tired, dirty from traveling, hungry, dehydrated, and hot.
But when we saw the other people in the congregation, suffering through the same things that we were and not even blinking an eye at it made us all wonder in amazement.
It made us think, and Steph really hit it on the nose: “Would we be willing, back in the States, to go to church every Sunday and worship as passionately as these people do?“
What if our churches in the States were in dilapidated shells of buildings with no A/C or fans to push the air around? What if we had to get up at 5:30 every morning just to get a seat at church and if services were 6 hours in length?
Where is the passion for Jesus in the States? Are we that spoiled that we expect Jesus to be given to us on a silver platter with full media presentations and coffee with donuts, and no consequences for showing up 20 minutes late and in our Sunday’s worst?
The answer is “yes.” And I am saddened…because I am guilty of being that spoiled child. I have so much more to grow spiritually.
Actually, that’s an understatement in itself. I’m pre-infantile when it comes to my spiritual walk with God. I need to get straight and realize that God is not a commodity.
He is a necessity. More than the air that I breathe.
The people here who have nothing are the only ones to realize this. I need to learn from them and do the same.