The climate of Haiti perfectly fits her. The sun burns away the extras, it is too hot and sweaty to be often comfortable, it is beautiful. Beautiful.
Every day is beautiful. Breathtakingly. The kind of beauty you don't understand, you don't wrap your mind around. And yet each day is so intense at the same time that you go to bed a bit burnt every night.
There is so much you think you understand when you see it, and then, if you stay, you realize you don't understand anything. You just watch, and learn, cry and grin and grow.
It is easier to see, as a foreigner, that I know nothing. That I don't understand. Yet I know that I will quickly remember in my home culture in just a few weeks now that I don't understand anything more than I do here. Have far more to learn and listen than I do to tell and judge.
When I first came to Haiti, I saw the poor children. They were hungry, they were naked, they were playing in the dirt with garbage, and I thought I should take them. Love them. Fix them. Poor children.
I don't know when everything changed, but somewhere down the road, most of the poor children disappeared from Haiti. Now, I see that they are grinning, playing with their ingeniously designed plastic-bottles-turned-cars. Now, I listen to Sofie beg each blistering day to PLEASE be allowed to take her sweaty clothes off. Now, I see the dozens of watchful eyes around them, each child everyone's child (including mine), see ten people snatch them up when they get too close to the road, see grannies and aunties and cousins and brothers give up their lunches with a grin to the little ones.
If you think the poor children of Haiti are unloved, try to take one.
I once had the audacity to think that a life with me, a life in America, would be far better, obviously.
If you saw Claudin and his wife today, beaming, BEAMING over their little one in their tiny home with no electricity, no water, no fridge, no Pampers, no crib, no fan...you would think--you would KNOW--there is NO more blessed little baby than baby Christie Noralus.
Not in the whole world.
If you saw the way Granny brought us, all 12, into her home after church, picking and cutting open all of her coconuts, if you saw the way so many fiercely love and watch and guard our children, if you saw the way Junior drops everything to be a good uncle, to be a friend, to share the Word, if you saw the way Moliere walks through the blazing sun, alone, from hut to hut, inviting people to come hear the Gospel, if you saw the way our community continually comes around us, giving and giving and giving and giving. All of this, just today. (see what I mean about intense, but beautiful?)
You would think there was no better place to raise your children.
You would stop thinking that everyone needs what we have and starting thinking the only thing ANY of us need is Jesus. Jesus.
You would stop thinking the trash, the stick houses, the naked kiddos were a travesty. You would start seeing through them and see so much beauty.
You would see our team, trying to get the boa constrictor out of the printer, bravely approaching it and then squealing and running when it moves, and you would laugh. And forget that our poor kids don't get to go to the zoo.
You would see so many grinning children running over patches of dust in their bare feet, kicking at coconuts and winning World Cups, and remember blissfully happy days of your childhood.
You would see the families, each day, working to buy and grow the food just for that day, buying one egg at a time, and be humbled to tears when you walk in the yard and they fix you a heaping plate and grin while they watch you, insist you, eat it.
I'm not saying there is not heartbreak. Of course there is. As much heartbreak as surrounds you each day. Maybe more obvious.
On Friday, our intern-sister Rosa shared her testimony in chapel of a horrifying childhood of abuse and loneliness and unspeakable darkness turned redeemed and lovely by Him.
Instead of shaking their heads in disbelief and horror over unimaginable years, like I did, there were nods of understanding and tears of compassion from those who remembered. Maybe your story was equally nightmarish. Mexico, Haiti, America, has nothing to do with it. Many of us were raised in great love and care. Whatever that looked liked, naked and barefoot or not.
And many of us did not.
But He is close to the broken hearted, and you can see Him close.
A few weeks ago, when we hiked to Coup-a-David, I was introduced to a shriveled old lady. White haired and grinning, Enick explained that she was the woman he'd been telling me about, for whom the church has just finished building a little house for next to the church. Incredibly poor and widowed, the 2-hour hike had become too much. She took me to meet her son, whose withered, crippled hands and arms were faint next to his huge smile as he told the story of how they now had a place to live. Close to their community in Christ.
As I listed to his story, I found myself staring at his mouth. With only two or three real teeth still in his smile, small worn pieces of different colors of glass were wedged permanently and crookedly into his gums every few millimeters, handmade, hand-done tooth replacements. I shuddered at the thought and sight and forced myself to look into his joyful eyes as he spoke, instead. Jesus. God had answered his prayers, God was taking care of he and his mother, in their physical impossibility. God lived with them. What joy.
Can you imagine such poverty?
You see it every day.
You may not know anyone with glass teeth they put in themselves in order to eat. Your child may not go to school with lovely orphans. You may not know anyone without running water.
But guess what? His crippled arms, his teeth, are with him for such a flash, soon to be transformed. Our mansions, our hand woven twigs huts, our riches, our hunger, our toys, electronic or recycled trash, a drop in a bucket, soon to be transformed.
There is only ONE kind of true and lasting poverty.
And it is spiritual.
We have Jesus, a life redeemed and full of His fruit---that which is lasting.
Or we have ourselves, full of our own fruit and short as a blink.
We ALL know a LOT of people with beautiful teeth and lost souls. We all know a lot of people with beautiful homes and broken stories He has not been invited to redeem.
Haiti has taught me that it is a distraction and LIE of the enemy to think that what we SEE is what MATTERS. To think that those who HAVE are those we should be envious of. To think that those who DON'T have are those to be pitied. To think that THIS LIFE is what it's all about. To think that THIS kingdom is our own. To think that WE are the solution to ANYTHING.
Man. It's a life abandoned and abiding in Him, or it is NOTHING.
It is not about our teeth.
This morning, we worshiped with our family in Plaine-du-Nord, and during the worship, they asked Matt to please preach. Being Palm Sunday, Matt preached about why the same people screaming Hallelujah and waving their branches cried out for His crucifixion just a few days later.
He talked about what they thought Jesus was going to do for them as The One We've Been Waiting For. How they thought He was going to overthrow Cesar, overthrow Rome, overthrow their enemies. How they thought His kingdom was going to be an earthly one. How they thought His throne would be one they made for Him.
How bitterly disappointed they were to find out that instead, He was going to DIE for Cesar. That instead He was going love their enemies. That instead, it was a spiritual kingdom He was building. In heaven. AND on earth. That following Him would look a lot less glorious than they had thought.
And how the very people who abandoned Jesus, didn't even believe Him enough come looking for Him on that third morning, who didn't even recognize Him....He stood on the shore, resurrected, cooking them breakfast.
I had a very me moment last night.
Explaining how I got there doesn't really matter (you would only tell me I was justified, and I was NOT), but I heard myself actually say out loud to myself, "I give and give and give...when is it ever going to be enough?"
I actually threw my hand over my mouth the moment it escaped, ashamed to have let frustration and some wounded rights trump Christ in me, the hope of glory.
This morning, Matt reminded me of the answer to my wrong question.
It will be enough when I die for my enemies, when my friends deny me, and when I cook them breakfast.
Until then, I can love others like He did and does...without expectation, without rights, without limit, trusting Him, working to see as HE sees, building on our Foundation with that which lasts, seeing and sharing the unshakable joy that comes from KNOWING Him and nothing else...
or I am simply wasting the blink He's given me.