Personal presence and germs

We discovered that one of the best cures for people who hover on the “germophobe” side of life is to go to Haiti. Dust is ubiquitous, and especially if you are playing with kids, “sanitary” is a relative term. At some point, you just decide you are either going to be present with a kid or try to protect yourself from one of many possible diseases. I do not struggle with germophobia, but one day on this last trip I had a couple of encounters that stretched my boundaries.

Teammates hold kids at the feeding program
One afternoon we went into a tent city to visit and pray with people. In the first tent we entered, there was a mother and her son, who looked to be about ten years old. They were both burning up with fever, possibly from malaria. Mother was lying on her stomach on the tent’s only bed. She was covered with a white sheet. The boy was clothed but lying on a thin mat on the ground. I looked down at him and crouched to feel his skin. Hot as an oven. Then I thought, “Here goes nothing,” and I sat on the ground on the edge of his mat. We were there to pray, and I was not going to stand above the boy and pray while he was lying on the ground. I sat on the dirt floor next to him and put my hand on his knee. He was in obvious discomfort, but he didn’t complain. When we sang a worship song, I was surprised to see him participate. I knew it took effort. I set aside my guesses about whether his illness was communicable. I wanted to represent God’s presence to him by praying at his side.

A few minutes later, we gathered the children of that small community together in an open tent that serves as their community center. We wanted to sing worship songs and pray with them. I grabbed a seat next to a girl maybe 12 years old, who was holding her baby brother. He was running a fever and coughing. After the second song, I asked if I could hold the baby so she could enjoy the songs. She told me his name was Robertson and gently handed him to me. Then she got a blanket and put it over him to keep him warm. As I positioned him in my arms, I noticed that his bottom was covered, but he wasn’t wearing a diaper. And he didn’t smell like baby powder, if you know what I mean. But he was so cute and helpless that there was no way I was putting him down. I held him until we had to go, and I prayed for him. If you want to stop right now and say a prayer for Robertson and his sister, that would be wonderful.

Presence means not being foolhardy with communicable diseases but doing everything we can to convey God’s love to someone. Haitians are tactile people, and touch is an important means of communicating love to them. It’s worth it to take some risks.

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