A few months ago, I was talking to someone in the States about the pressing needs of those around us, heavy on my heart.
I talked to them about trying to get Micheline's kids in school, and how impossible that is for her at $100 per kid times five kids...on her $120/month salary, which is already far higher than the average annual income of $350 / YEAR.
I talked to them about Belony's roof, pieced together scrap tin, dripping and pouring with every rain, soaking their things, filling the house with muddy water. A few thousand dollars would pour him a new roof, a real roof. But a few thousand dollars?
I talked to them about our friend's daughter, needing medical help, and the 500 gdes (about $11) that would get it for her. Talked to them about how our friends still hadn't taken their girlie in, because they were saving up until they had the money, each day her growing worse.
As they asked how I was doing, this was what I shared, because how I was doing that day was HEAVY with these burdens.
In response, they quickly told me that lots of people are suffering everywhere, that it is just the same in America, people struggling to make ends meet. End of conversation.
I've thought about that lots of times since then.
I catch myself thinking one night last week, "MAN, I wish there was a Chinese place I could call and order dinner. Just ONCE." The desire is quickly hushed by an image so common in huts all around us...my children coming around me, hungry, asking for dinner, and imagining that I have truly NOTHING to give them. The desire for take-out is silenced trying to truly feel that reality.
I wish I could order Chinese? Really?
I try and I try to understand, to KNOW what it would truly be to have NOT ONE THING to give my Lily, my Sofie, for dinner tonight. NOT ONE PENNY to go buy something.
I try to understand until I feel sick.
I know (you must know) that there are many--MANY--around the world right this moment who know it full well. Who don't need to pretend like I do.
Many who can't imagine, instead, MY reality. My reality of ALWAYS having SOMETHING I can give them.
Of course, the person who told me America is just the same is right in a sense. There are lots of people struggling everywhere. Pain is pain, need is need.
Just because America has lots of things Haiti doesn't have, like insurance, like free education, like programs, like food stamps, like welfare, like child support, like food pantries and homeless shelters and aid and a 5.5% unemployment rate (vs. 40%) that doesn't mean that life isn't still very hard, very expensive, very challenging, very stressful. Very broken.
And ultimately, it is not a competition. Lots of people need help. Lots of people are desperate today. Once the Lord allows us to know, see or experience that great need, it should burden us...it must.
What matters, ultimately, is what we are doing and how we are doing it and why.
I can't tell you how many times someone has said to us, "We need what you are doing RIGHT HERE. We need that Gospel message HERE. Why are you doing it in Haiti if we need it here in America?"
You know what I want to say to them every time?
"Praise the Lord for YOU! That's exactly why God has YOU right here."
It doesn't matter where things are worse. We are not here because it's worse here. You're not there because it's worse there. We are here because He brought us here, burned it heavy on our hearts, paved the way where there was none, provide what no person could provide, and continues to.
It matters what we are doing where God has us. It matters what we DO with the things we see and that He allows us to know about. And it matters why.
When our staff and students got to the children's home on Saturday morning, they were told adamantly not to touch the kids. They smelled. They were dirty. They were covered in their own filth, and none of the workers wanted our group of pastors to get dirty.
As I've asked Haylie, Rosa, Leme, Junior, Claudin, Mona, Edlin and countless students, "How was Saturday?" every single one of them answered first, "It was sad. I cried."
They all cried. They've all come from a whole spectrum of reality, from life in the States to impoverished upbringings in the mountains, children of mamas who answered "nothing" to "what's for dinner?", and yet the reality of Saturday broke every one.
And then they wiped their tears, picked up plates of gruel and responded firmly,
"We are HERE to get dirty. That is why we came."
I think about the many people Jesus--Jesus, the ONLY clean man--must have been told not to touch. The lepers. The Samaritans. The children. The outcasts. The lame. The demon-possessed.
They were dirty. They smelled. They were covered in their own filth.
They were unable to do anything for themselves.
How many times Jesus must have been told not to do something. Because it wasn't how it was done. Because culture wouldn't allow it. Because it was embarrassing and shameful. Because it would get him dirty.
Like leaving his heavenly throne of light and righteousness and becoming flesh. Like holding the children and touching the crippled. Like carrying the weight and burdens of billions. Like being spat on and beaten and nailed to a rugged cross. Like taking on the putrid sins of the world.
I bet He wept, too. I bet He cried at the world's broken reality so many times.
And then He touched. Then He prayed. Then He went. Then He gave.
He was here to get dirty. That is why He came.
If we think for a minute that we are here on this earth to get rich, to get blessed, to get beautified, to build up our own little kingdoms, to get presents, to get famous, to celebrate ourselves this Christmas...I don't know what to say except that you are following the wrong Jesus.
Christmas : Jesus came to get dirty and to suffer and to die. And by His scourging, we are healed.
Family, if we are following hard after this Jesus, wherever we are, we better be here to get dirty.
For His glory.
He had no stately form or majesty
that we should look upon Him,
nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken
a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief;
like one from whom men hide their face,
He was despised.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
and our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
smitten of God, afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the chastening for our well-being feral upon Him,
and by His scourging we are healed.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted
to proclaim liberty to captives
and freedom to prisoners,
to comfort all who mourn
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels
so that the surpassing greatness will be of God and not ourselves
we are afflicted in every way
but not crushed
perplexed, but not despairing
persecuted, but not forsaken
struck down, but not destroyed
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body
-2 Corinthians 2-