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Showing posts from March, 2010

The message that is "from the beginning"

"This is the message you heard from the beginning: we should love one another" (1 Jn 3:11).

I am struck by the first half of this verse: "this is the message you heard from the beginning." John is saying that the message to love one another is an old message. It hasn't changed. In Jn 13:34-35, Jesus told his disciples that he was leaving them one commandment: to love one another. Surely John has that episode in mind when he says, "from the beginning." But he goes back even further than Jesus. In 1 Jn 3:12, he brings up the story of Cain and Abel. Cain hated his brother and killed him. "Do not be like Cain," cautions John. In other words, the central requirement to love one another (and not to hate one another) goes all the way back to the dawn of human beings.

A message that is "from the beginning" comes from God's heart, for "in the beginning was God."

A message that is "from the beginning" expresses the core …

People who listen, care, and pray

This week I casually wrote down in my weekly pastor's report that I am excited about people who listen, care, and pray. The more I think about it, the more excited I get about these people. How rare is it to find someone who does all three? How treasured is that person, especially when we need him or her?

Over lunch, I talked about these matters with pastors Joey and Dan. We remembered times in our lives when we have needed that kind of support or been able to offer it to others. We agreed that some of the best measuring sticks of real friendship is whether we listen, care, and pray for each other.

When someone is going through something hard, being a friend starts with listening. I think real listening is one of the greatest gifts we can give someone. But it is pretty rare in our hurried and insecure world.

Can real listening happen without caring? I don't think so. Real listening is an expression of caring. But caring also extends into what kind of response we give someone. Pat…

Worshiping out of the depths

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In the photo is Israel, a 17-year-old resident of Maison de Lumiere orphanage. Just a month before this photo was taken, Israel had lost his business partner and all their equipment. Their business had been solidifying, and we could see Israel carving out an economically successful future for himself. However, on January 12 when the quake hit, the office building where they worked collapsed, demolishing their equipment and killing Israel's partner. In 45 seconds, Israel's future seemed to have disappeared in a cloud of concrete dust.

Now Israel's grief over losing his business partner is intertwined with distressing questions about his future and the future of his "brothers" at Maison de Lumiere. It is out of that place of heavy suffering that he worships. This photo was taken on February 12, one month after the quake, while we were engaged in Haiti's weekend of national fasting and praying.

In after-quake Haiti, there are countless stories like Israel's. T…

The day we almost got mugged

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Haiti is no joke. A situation can turn from innocuous to dangerous in a matter of seconds. I have seen this happen a couple of times, and it was underlined again on this last trip.
No doubt I will receive a tutorial on what I did wrong that day, but here is the story.
We were running a medical clinic at a small slum a few blocks away from the guest house. About a dozen of us had walked from MDL to this further "ravine" community. The medical clinic was functioning smoothly, and four of us were heading back to the guest house – Chris Cannon, Ashley Hapak, Joy Bohlinger, and I. As we were leaving, I wanted to get a closer look at the little row of shacks beside this small community to see what kind of condition they were in following the earthquake. This involved walking a few steps down the road.
When I got to the row of shacks, I was no more than 75 feet from my three friends and still a stone’s throw from the clinic (in the photo, I was just beyond the farthest “tent” on th…

Loving kids Jesus-style

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Make no mistake about it – Jesus loved kids. And part of being the incarnational presence of Christ in our neighborhood in Haiti is loving kids. I preached a short message on Mark 10:13-16 at the final feeding program I attended. I asked the children, “Do you think Jesus ever got angry?” Many answered, “No.” I then read the passage from Mark and told them about how one of the few things that made Jesus angry was when his friends tried to keep children from coming to him.
Jesus did not have an “adults-only ministry,” as much as that might have seemed appropriate to his followers. They believed him to be a leader who would soon marshal an army and change the world. But Jesus’ ministry was not one of military conquest. He was more concerned with demonstrating the love of God through truth-telling, healing, exorcism, and compassion. He cared for people of all ages, and he seems to have especially enjoyed the company of children and outcasts.
Jesus seems to have made it a habit of showing k…

The shift from Spectacle to People

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A dear friend told me last night that she noticed that my blog posts seemed to change as I spent time in Haiti. At first I wasn't sure why that would be, but then I recalled a fundamental shift that took place in my experience there. It was what I think of as the shift from spectacle to people. I made this shift in a smaller way the first trip I took there, and it was replayed in a much deeper way on this last trip.
BTW, I think we need to make a distinction between before-quake Haiti and after-quake Haiti. They are two different worlds. Maybe "BQ Haiti" and "AQ Haiti" would do. (Sort of like BC and AD in Western history.)
When I went to BQ Haiti in May 09, I arrived armed with all sorts of stories about the lively culture, the voodoo, the poverty, and the relative lawlessness of the place. I took in Haiti, knowing that it was different from any place I had ever been. I saw, felt, tasted, and smelled all sorts of new things. BQ Haiti was a spectacle to me. It wa…

Roseline's Tarp Party!

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A reporter asked me last night where God was in Haiti. I responded that he is in the compassion and love shown by people, one to another. I talked about ministering to the Haitians, and about receiving ministry from the Haitians. In particular, I described what I think of as Roseline’s Tarp Party.
It was Saturday night of our last weekend there. I had one tarp I had stashed away to give to a local family before I left town. We had gotten a tent to the Senterras, so they didn’t need one. The next family on my list was that of Roseline, a five-year-old girl from the Ravine (in the photos, she is wearing the pink bandana). Roseline is another child I had gotten to know at the weekend of fasting and praying, and she is one of the most genuinely sweet kids I know. She never asks for anything, except for me to come to her house – which consists of bed sheets strung between sticks. Roseline has a button nose and a front tooth that needs to be replaced. She’s quiet. When she does talk, it is …

Some reflections on leaving Haiti

Today we are leaving Haiti. I wish I had an extra day just to blog more stories. I will try to do that over the next couple of days. I am not even sure how to describe this trip. Everything around here was still pretty raw when I got here. Life was just starting to return to some semblance of normalcy when Tom, Nancy, Rod, and I arrived. I came with a duffle full of MREs and emergency water bags, not knowing whether there would be food at the orphanage. The grocery store opened the day before we arrived. It was an amazing thing to have free access to food.

I remember that when there were just a few of us in the house and there were ongoing attempts to break into orphanage buildings, it felt pretty dicey. It is slightly more relaxed now, although just the other night one of our guards fired his shotgun to chase off two men who were hanging around the boys' home. It is said that the real security challenges might spike when the rains start in earnest. There has been rain the last two…