And as I've talked-it and thought-it and prayed-it through, it's even more painful.
And through pain comes growth, so here goes.
Friends and experience have often told us how easy it is for Christians in Haiti to add Christ to the traditional voodoo worldview, adding in Jesus, but not turning from voodoo tradition. Adding in Jesus, but not walking in the Light. Deciding to follow Jesus, but not actually falling in step behind Him with their cross. Taking the parts that work for them, when they work for them, wanting Him, sitting by the well, but not abiding.
It's an easy temptation, and it's hard to turn from culture and tradition. It's WHY discipleship is so important. I know that. I get that. I've heard about it. I've seen it.
It's not any different in any other culture. We all want some good Jesus. But often times, we all want a bunch of other stuff in a bunch of other situations MORE. Otherwise known as sin. The wages of which we know to be death.
But I've never really known it like Saturday, and Saturday's breaking my heart.
I went to Bible study, and Junior was right ahead of me. Nora on my hip, I was so excited to get into the next lesson with the new-ish Christians, and as I walked past dozens of people sitting along the side of the road, they all nodded, "Going to Bible study?"
But when I got there right behind Junior, something was wrong.
We came in the yard through the cactus gate, and as soon as our hostess saw us, she put her head down and literally ran behind the house. Like, booked it. Everyone else immediately looked at the ground. A couple people came in after us, but today there were no chairs set out. I started greeting everyone and asking about everyone, and asked about our hostess. Where is she? "She's not here," I was told and rushed through the greetings.
But she was.
I knew everyone in the yard, all Christians in Saccanville, and everyone started leaving, though we'd just arrived. It was like everyone knew something that I didn't...like something was obvious to everyone but me. Then, a good friend and long-time believer came out of the house. I headed over to her happily, thinking now things would improve, I greeted her, but she acted really weird, too. She was obviously not happy to see me, which is just about the rudest thing in Haitian culture you can convey.
She told me the same thing : our hostess was not here, we should go.
Everyone was rushing me away, when normally everyone is anxious for conversation. Finally, I said dumbly, "So...no Bible study?"
"No," someone said, "Her son's sick, and she's not here, so, no Bible study."
Our friend kept sweeping and sweeping the front porch, and finally I said, "Hey, I know she's here, what's going on?"
She smiled a huge false smile and swept, swept, and finally said, "Her son is sick, so I am helping her. She isn't here. No Bible study."
I didn't understand at all what was happening, so I turned to June.
"Let's pray" he announced loudly, which was also weird, because everyone was leaving, no one was asking for prayer, nobody seemed interested in prayer, and so he just did. He prayed for the house and yard, he prayed for each person there, he prayed for the sick son who was nowhere to be seen and nobody seemed to know anything about, prayed for the missing friend who was there, but hiding, and finally said, "Lord, help each person to have faith in you, and to resist the temptation to leave you."
He finished, and we left, and you could feel the relief as we did. Everybody clearly got what was going on...except for me.
I was SO stinking confused.
As soon as we got back to the EBS campus, I said to June, "What in the WORLD was that?"
Junior was incredibly quiet.
"Did you hear the pilay?" he finally asked, referring to a large wooden bowl and rod used for crushing herbs.
"No" I said, confused. "What?"
"Inside the house," he said quietly. "A pilay was pounding, inside the house. Her son is sick. Stace, there was a witchdoctor inside the house, making a potion, medicine, for their sick son."
It all started coming together.
Everyone who came in the yard (but me) heard, and knew. Knew what the sound meant. Knew what was happening. They didn't want us to see. She hid when she saw us because she was ashamed. And everyone knows you don't have Bible study in the yard when a witchdoctor is in the house. So everyone that came for study, heard, knew and left.
I thought of a million things as my blood boiled.
I thought of God first, coming into the garden to walk in the cool of the evening with His children, but they were hiding. They were ashamed. And the last thing they wanted to see in that moment was His face.
I thought of His broken heart.
I thought of my friend on the porch with the broom, who's been in the church 30 years, who is a spiritual leader, who is the family's spiritual maren, or mother. I thought of how she saw her friend in need, and was sweeping, sweeping her porch. Making the front of the house look nice, lying for her hiding friend, listening to the poisonous pilay, trying to be a good friend by caring for the physical all the while BEING the worst friend in the world, disregarding the spiritual. Standing by with her broom, all the while enabling her new sister to engage in death and destruction, as one who claims to know the path of light and life.
I thought of all the people watching the new Christians in Saccanville walk by, watching Junior and I walk by, knowing we were going to Bible studying, hearing the pilay, knowing why we all headed back home moments later, knowing that Bible study and Voodoo both happen here. One one week, one the next.
I thought of one of the men in the yard, who only days ago was in need and EBS gave him a job for the day. Just Friday I handed him his pay, and he praised the Lord and thanked EBS because God had provided. God had provided Friday. And Saturday he called the witchdoctor to heal his son.
I thought and I thought and I boiled and boiled...the knowledge of Christ and settling for VOMIT, the testimony of Bible study and now the testimony of SATAN, the many brothers and sisters, lying and leaving and shrugging and standing by and sweeping.
Our friend, HIDING. Our friend, a Christian for a year...a powerful testimony of forgiveness, a powerful conviction to marry the man she's been living with, FRUIT. Fruit. HIDING behind her house.
I love them. This is so painful. Jesus has so much more!
I came in the door, just 20 minutes after leaving, and blew it all off to Matt...disappointed, sad, frustrated, angry, confused.
I got in the van next to Em a few minutes later with our team, and talked to her the whole way to town, frustrated and sad.
And each time I shared, the Lord met me.
Deepened my perspective.
Every time I think something is about someone else's problem...He seems to bring it close to home, using other's stories to address His story in MY life.
As we've talked and shared, for years and years, about how important good Bible training and discipleship is because it is so common and easy for Christians in Haiti to embrace Christ but continue to dwell in darkness, who did I think I was talking about?
Other Christians, that's who. Not MY Christians. Not HER. Not him. Not them. Other people. Not MY people. Many, does it sock you hard when it has a face. When it's personal.
It's ALL personal to God. All those people I don't know, HE KNOWS. Each and every person enslaved to darkness and sin and Satan is LOST, people. And it's supposed to ANGUISH us and it anguishes HIM.
Even the new believers knew when they heard the pilay to turn around with their Bibles and go home. You can't have a Bible study in the front when there's a witchdoctor inside!
What a message.
And I know it sounds crazy dark and primitive...a witchdoctor, asking things of Satan. Maybe we don't do that.
But is it really any different to God?
It might be voodoo. But it also might be money. It might be SELF it might be pride it might be anger it might be greed it might be refusal to forgive. WHATEVER. If we're holding on to Christ AND another god, whatever his ugly face looks like, we are NOT. IN. CHRIST.
If we rely fully upon the Lord when we wish, when it works, but then abandon Him entirely when we choose worry, when we go to ten other people but Him, when we rely on our own strength...does it really matter? We can abide in God, fully, relying on Him, trusting in Him, waiting upon Him...or we can have selfishness, darkness, hatred, grudges, anger, arrogance, worry, fear, voodoo on the inside.
There is NO POINT in having your Bible open on your lap in the front yard if there is nothing but darkness inside.
Maybe everyone can't hear the pilay in our lives. Maybe no one saw the medicine man come in.
But if our lives are all about US...if our hearts are dominated by fear and envy, jealousy and anger, strife and selfishness, they're NOT in Christ.
How painful. What a painful image.
But let me tell you what pained me the most.
It was that sister, sweeping the front porch.
How quickly the Lord helped me see MYSELF.
While she was trying to be a good friend, trying to be helpful, she was instead allowing darkness to reign in this new believers life. She should have thrown down that broom and said, "NO. We're not going to do this, I'm not going to let you do this. God has something far better for you, and HE CAN BE TRUSTED. We are going to trust Him. I am going to pray with you, I am going to pray with your son, I'm going to go get people to come pray for your son. But we are NOT settling. We are NOT choosing less. There is no point in me making your house beautiful on the outside and letting you dwell ugly on the inside.
She knew there was ugly on the inside, and she allowed for it.
She wasn't a good friend. She was a terrible friend. She knew her sister was tempted to choose LESS than Jesus (which is SIN, family, it IS), and she allowed for it. Even supported it by sticking around and sweeping.
How OFTEN am I that well-meaning sweeper.
I don't WANT to risk offending you. I don't want to tell you something you don't want to hear. I don't want to upset you by saying, "I SEE this ugly in your life, I see it in your heart, and I LOVE YOU too much to let it root there while I just make you feel justified. I love you too much to beauty-it-up...to pretend like it's not there, to settle for less.
I love you too much to sweep your porch while there's rot inside.
It's painful. This is painful. Reproof, correction, confrontation. It's awful painful.
But it is LOVE.
It is why He corrects us! It is while the Bible is ridiculously offensive! It is why Jesus ticked everybody off! Because He loves us. And we're supposed to love like this.
Family, believers today in fear of being "judgmental", in fear of offense, are "loving" the world by beautiful words and gestures and services, all the while HEARING the pilay, all the while knowing that the witchdoctor is inside. All the while KNOWING of the sin that so easily entangles leading to death and destruction, all the while knowing that Satan seeks to kill and destroy, all the while knowing that the path is NARROW, all the while knowing that not everyone who says "Lord, Lord!" will enter the kingdom.
All the while knowing THE sweet and better and true and only free life, the only road to salvation, we sweep the porches of the world without telling them.
We sit around the well with the world and make them comfy seats, so thankful we have sweet and lasting Life-Water...and yet somehow NOT GIVING IT TO THEM. Because it might upset them. Because they might not want to hear about it. Because we just want to LOVE them. Because it's HARD.
Why am I not sharing the Gospel when I have it?
Why are we not confronting sin when we see it, and leaving our brothers and sisters with pretty porches and lost hearts.
Why do we settle for idols when we have Jesus?
Why do we think that being kind is enough, when only JESUS is?
Why are we sweeping porches and ignoring what's inside?
Why are we settling for half Gospel, slapping what we want on what GOD wants and calling it good enough.
What do we do? I finally said to June.
"We pray for them, we love them tomorrow, and next Saturday, we go back with the Gospel again."
He is mighty to save, and quick to forgive, and already victorious.
We ask Him to show us the duplicity in our lives and to reign. We pray for Him to fill the houses of the lives around us. We share Him boldly as the one and only Way. We confront the darkness inside with love and truth and without fear.
And tomorrow, we go again.
are you with me?
For we do not preach ourselves
but Christ Jesus as Lord,
and ourselves as servants for Jesus' sake.
For God who said,
"Light shall shine out of darkness"
is the One who has shone in our hearts
to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 4:5-6
But thanks be to God,
who always leads us in triumph in Christ,
and manifests through us the sweet aroma
of the knowledge of Hi min every place.
For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved
and among those who are perishing.
2 Corinthians 2:14-15