Do you ever get tired of me telling you stuff God is teaching me?
I am apparently incredibly hard to teach :)
Several months ago, quite randomly at the end of the school year, this crazy thought came to me. It did not come by way of guilt, it did not come by way of convenience or comfort or glory or pressure...and so I paid attention.
I felt like God was asking me to take our relationship with our students to the next level. Because they are NOT just our students, though we love them dearly simply for that. They are our fellow missionaries. They are our fellow-workers, both our mission field AND going out to our mission field.
The men and women around us, staff and students, are our brothers and sisters.
And I felt like God gave me a vision, as such, for hemming them in better as family. We have greatly depended and widened our family around our big Haitian wood table these years, living in the chaos of dinner time together, eating and enjoying, talking and laughing, crying and praying, wisdom of those who have lived far longer, faith of those who always spill the drinks.
Eating with the students in the cafeteria is good...but I felt like God truly showed me our students around our dinner table, IN our home, IN our marriage, IN our parenting, IN our cooking and cleaning up and prayers and fridge.
This idea, of course, was complicated for many reasons. We have over 80 students. Some of them we're really close to. Some of them we don't know well at all. Not everybody likes American food, (hey, not everyone likes MY food, either!), evenings are supposed to be a break. Culturally, eating dinner together in Haiti is very different than the North American style dinners together we have in our home. We have three small children, some of the students with discipline issues might not WANT to eat at our house, more cooking, what if it was awkward, etc., etc., etc.
It was the end of the year, I let it go. If the Lord brought it up again, we'd see.
Over the summer, on one of our many road trips, the Lord brought it to my mind again. My first thought this time, however, was that Matt would NEVER want to do that. He works hard with and for students all day and most Sundays and evenings are his down time. So I said simply, "Lord, if this is something you want us to do, make Matt say YES."
I explained to him the vision, and without so much as a shrug, Matt said, "Sounds good! Let's do it!"
Not even ONE what-if!?
But then we got back here. And we had tons of visitors, and I was cooking like crazy, and we have lots of new students, and Nora ain't sitting in no Bumbo on the counter while I cook anymore! I delayed, and delayed and delayed.
And then last Friday Claudin asked me to preach.
Being no preacher, I told him I'd share what God's been sharing with me, and as I spoke that day to our staff and students about how to be more fruitful and effective disciple-makers, I started to share point number five with this question:
"Why was Jesus so good at discipling? What made him so good at training up and teaching his men?"
The students had lots of good answers about humility and divinity and love, but ultimately I dove into my focus on intentional hospitality by saying this: "Jesus was so good at discipling because HE WAS WITH THEM."
And He WAS. He ATE with them, He slept with them, He walked with them and cried with them and taught with them and prayed with them and was with. them.
As I shared, the Holy Spirit drove into my mind clear as day, YET AGAIN (I'm SO glad we serve a patient and perseverant God!) the image of sitting around our dinner table WITH our students.
Cooking for them, serving them, inviting them into our lives (the good, the bad and the sticky), risking awkward, risking toddler melt-down, risking food they don't like, being WITH them.
As soon as chapel was finished, I burned the bridge. I went to Claudin, the dean of student life, told him my vision, and asked him what to do to make it happen.
He suggested that we have four or five students at a time, and instead of inviting 4 first year students or 4 seniors, that he would make a schedule including one student from each class, each Thursday. Ever the detail man, a few days later I had a printed schedule in my hand for the rest of the school year with groups of students whom he knows don't know each other well.
And tonight, I finally obeyed.
We were really open from the start. We are glad you are here, thank you for coming to our home. We are always loving you and praying for you, but we want to do that BETTER, so we wanted you to come and spend time with us and help us know you better and love you better and pray for you better!
"Good," our female fourth year student said honestly, "Because I thought I was in trouble! And I don't even know this guy's name!" she said, nodding to our first year student next to her, Fresnel.
"Hah!" laughed Sofie. "I eat here EVERY night, and I'm not in trouble! You don't know Frank-o?"
When dinner was finished, Lily and Sofie brought everyone lemon bars and we asked each student to tell us what was going on in their lives, what we could be sincerely praying for them for. By the time they each finished pouring out the struggles in their hearts and lives and ministries, the burden to pray for them was heavy, and we passed the rest of the evening lifting them each up, together.
As they headed out in the darkness while I held back the dog, they were chattering...probably about our crazy cultural blunders, or the cucumbers, or the fact that we let our children speak at the table...but they were now new kinds of friends.
And we were not Director and Madame Matt. And tomorrow when I see Ismael, it will be different. And next week, when I teach Seliphane, it will be different. And tomorrow when the girls go to the cafeteria for breakfast, they will have more friends, and tonight, as I pray for our students, it will be different, too.
God knows what He's talking about. No excuses. Trust.
Let us stop thinking of a million plans and strategies and comparisons and instead ask Him to show us what to do and DO IT.
Burn the bridge and OBEY, no looking back.
Do not preach it if you're not wanting to DO it.
Discipleship is best done altogether. Declaring AND demonstrating.
Let us open our lives and pour Him out. Let us be so authentic that in church or around our table looks the same. Let us see each other always as the body of Christ, different members, our family.
It does. not. have. to. be. perfect. (You know who you are.)
Let us involve our children in the pouring as often as we can!
Let us love in ways that are not always comfortable, upon those who need not ever return it...or even be able to.
Let us pray for each other as if we are family.
Because we are.