11 January 2015

never finished.

On January 11, 2010, Emmaus Biblical Seminary's new campus was finally dedicated.  There were TONS of people, lots of rain, many friends and so much to celebrate.  The future felt so huge, potential for impact and change limitless, the biggest unknown being that nobody knew tomorrow would change Haiti forever.
Tomorrow was January 12th, the day I thought somebody was trying to take the chair I was sitting in out from under me, the day only one picture frame fell to the floor, the day we all laughed with relief a few moments later when we realized the bizarre experience of having the GROUND shake underneath your feet was just an earthquake, so minor the kids didn't even notice.

January 13th was the day we realized it wasn't so minor everywhere.  Was NOT minor only 80 miles away in Port-au-Prince.

January 16th was the day I went, the day I saw, the day I smelled, the night I slept in the courtyard of the hotel, the day they started realizing that a few hundred was a few thousand...that maybe a few thousand was a few HUNDRED thousand.
230,000 people died that day, all without hours and days of each other, most, within moments.

I remember sitting in the main soccer stadium in Port, trying to catch my life-breath, watching thousands of people trying to do all of life.  There was nothing to fall on that field, so it had become a refuge of sleeping and cooking and crying and playing soccer.

I remember looking around at the cheerily colored seats, 1000.  I pictured every chair full. Then dead.

Full again.  And dead.  And full again.

200 times.
 You can't wrap your mind around that, even still, no matter how much of the horrific reality of it you see.

I was stunned by the magnitude, I was stunned by the destruction.  Most, I was completely and utterly stunned by the will and the work and the beauty of the Haitian people to survive.
I thought I'd find thousands huddled on the ground in mass confusion.  Instead, there was cooking and soccer and building and helping and buying and selling and worship and community and p-e-r-s-e-v-e-r-a-n-c-e.  Persistence.  Resilience.

Haiti knows how to struggle.  And she does not quit.
As soon as I got back, we traded for one-year old Lily and Matt took down the first team.  We stopped running as a school just days after we had started and instead starting sending down huge teams of staff and students, ready to share the Gospel, ready to pray, ready to meet with thousands of people looking for refuge in the only thing bigger than the Earthquake.
For a month Emmaus lived in "the tabernacle", a hot white tent set up as the final stop to an emergency clinic set up right outside of the crumbled city, a place where everyone came for prayer, for comfort, for Hope.
When it was time to start again, Junior stayed, taking hundreds of new and hurting converts and planting a church.  Everyone else returned, but not alone.
We put an ad on the radio about Emmaus, offering a free and safe refuge, home, meals and education to Bible students in Port who survived collapsed campuses.

We ended up with nine.
I remembering registering Leme, who lost his father that day and came very near to losing his own life.  He pulled up his pant leg, revealing a grotesquely still bloody, still seeping leg covered in bandages.  I don't remember when he stopped being "the student from Port with the terrible leg" and became our dear friend.  Somewhere.

With literally everyone in Haiti having lost some loved one, today being five years is no small deal.  The nation that has been celebrating loudly the New Year and the hard and bloody independence has grown quiet, remembering, thinking, shuddering, welling.
For Rose Altha, it is wondering and grieving, again the loss of a daughter she never found.  For Lucner's family, it is celebrating again the miraculous recovery of his young brother, who had only moved to Port-au-Prince four days before for university, and who took 4 more days to find.  For Simeon, it is remembering so many classmates, for Leme, his father.  The difficult life his mother and little sister continue to have in Port.
The Heckmans asked Leme to come and share his testimony with the team this past week, and he nervously began.  I settled in to listen again with Lily, completely forgetting that THIS Leme was THAT Leme.  As he began to share about that day five years ago, about the way those 30 seconds changed so much, he mentioned his father, briefly.  He mentioned his miraculous survival story, for a moment.
But what he talked about most was how that day brought him "into my beautiful family."  I wish you could hear his voice describe his coming to Emmaus--where he was when he heard about Emmaus on the radio...how nervous he was to leave the devastation and chaos of the only life he had ever known to travel north, how overwhelmed he was to walk onto the quiet peace of the campus and be accepted, with nothing but a bloody leg, no bill.  How many nights it took of sleeping in the chapel on the floor before he could sleep in the 2 story men's dorm unafraid.  How he had thought he had lost everything...and days later, knew full-well that he was loved and that the Lord was NOT finished with his life.   How studying God's Word in the midst of such suffering was all he could or wanted to do.
"And now I have this beautiful family," he smiled sheepishly, always too aware of imperfections in his English.
I'd never heard any of that.

Never realized that Leme feels as grateful and blessed to have us in his life as I have always felt about having his in ours.  Never had really thought about how God brought such beauty from ashes for Leme, how He used our community to do so, never really thought about that for so many.
I remember, today, with great pain in my heart, still, for all the great pain, the great loss, the great devastation.  And I remember today, too, that He is not finished.  Not yet.  That He takes beauty from ashes, still.
You're walking with, into, past someone--today--who is heading into or heading out of or holding on to the day the very ground shook and everything fell apart in their lives.
Remember today that we can, no, we MUST, be beautiful family, life-changing family, to those who have NO hope.  Loving them and accepting them free of charge.

Because He is. not. finished.