Today I woke up, put on a dress (my least favorite thing to wear, ever, which is why Sunday afternoons are basketball shorts/sweatpants capri days to reward my morning sacrifice), and walked to church with Dexter (also known as Rogelin, who is a student living at the Pathways building). Who consequently got some friendly teasing from the guards on the way out the gate for walking with one of the white chicks to church. Amy would have been with us, but I have a group coming tomorrow that I am leading, so she had to take the one that came yesterday and they are out at Leogane.
It rained last night, thank the Lord for rain to knock down Port-au-Prince dust, so it was muddy on the way to church. The Chacos didn’t fail me as we navigated muddy rocks, large puddles, the part of the path we affectionately call ‘the bush’ because it really needs a good machete chopping, torched patches from neighbors burning their trash and gravel piles as our neighbors work to build up their homes. Really, this is how everyone should have to get to church, because riding in a car is so easy. There is something about the walk soaking in the morning sun and Haitian humidity that makes church a place you have to make an effort to be present.
Turning the corner on the home stretch, we came upon the woman who goes to the market for Jumecourt and a friendly ‘Bonjour!’ was tossed her way. She was in a beautiful coral colored dress and high heeled shoes with her hair resting in perfect ringlets around her face. My frizzy mop knotted on top of my head, long dress and sandals paled in comparison.
When we walked up to Ebenezer Church, a couple of the girls from Source de la Grace were making their way across the street and one grabbed my hand. We all got stopped by the ushers at the door, because they were praying inside. As I stood in the doorway, I couldn’t help but notice the man decked out in ALL white sitting at the front. White suit, white shirt, white vest, white tie, white socks and white shoes…Pastor Claude was in his Easter suit.
Dexter came to my side and said, “I’m going to sit with the kids.” I replied, “Great! Me, too.”
As the prayer finished they beckoned us inside, and started walking toward the kid side when the usher tried to redirect us. Telling her we wanted to sit with the kids got us the Haitian hand slap basically signifying ‘whatever.’
I slid into the row with some older girls and Dexter sat next behind me with his ‘village son’ who still lives at Source.
The singing began and I pulled out my Chants d’Esperance to sing along. I wasn’t listening well, so I missed the song number and the girls next to me were quick to help out. Several of the kids turned around and saw me there, sending big smiles and small waves. The fresh scent of soap drifted into my nostrils as I took in the kids in all of their Sunday morning finery. Girls with perfectly twisted hair, barrettes and bows. Boys in slacks and polos or buttoned down shirts. Haitian men in perfectly ironed suits, and women in beautiful dresses. Haitians dress for Sunday, Sunday doesn’t dress them!
As I started singing, some stared at the white chick singing in Creole. For whatever reason, it always mesmerizes them that I am really participating in the service and it makes me smile to myself every time.
Stand up. Sit down. Sing. Pray. Sing some more. Announcements…these can go on for well over 30 minutes. This is their community time to let everyone know what is going on in the life of the church, and they do not waste it. The choir sang, and then more prayer. Friends, talk about storming the gates of heaven, Haitians know how to pray. Complete lack of caring that anyone else can hear them. Their voices are released into the atmosphere as the most beautiful chorus reaching out to their Savior.
Merci Seigneur. Thank you, Lord.
Jesus vivant. Jesus lives.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Prayers for Pastor Claude’s message came next, and then we dug in.
The most poignant moment of the entire Easter service was Pastor Claude weeping while reading Isaiah 53. Weeping, friends, weeping…
“He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed…It was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and fill him with grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs…” [Isaiah 53:1-5; 10]
I was so caught up in the text he had read thinking about being in Jesus’ lineage as an heir that I would have missed Matthew 18 if it hadn’t been for my friends looking out for me and pointing out we’d switched back to Matthew.
I am accustomed to Easter services in the States being all about joy and light and resurrection. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are for the somber services, right? Easter is reserved for joy and new life! It’s not that Haitians don’t have those services, we could hear them singing over the walls at Jumecourt the other night. And it’s not that they were not celebrating resurrection, because they definitely got their praise on with ‘Jesus vivant!’
It’s almost as if the bearing of their sin and the call to go is so intense in their lives that the hope in resurrection lives through each of those moments, instead of having its own separate time. Truly, new life and the new Kingdom is such a strong focus here that it does make sense. Though, remember, my Creole isn’t stellar and these are simply observations merged with what little I understand.
Pastor stopped in the middle of the sermon and had the congregation stand and sing this chorus:
A toi la gloire – O Ressuscité! A toi la victoire – Pour l’éternité!
To you the glory, O Risen! To you the victory – for eternity!
Death became life. Life defeated death. However you want to look at it, what happens after is the call to go. The call to be love. The call to move forward the message of the Gospel. The call to live out the resurrection. Without living out an answer to Jesus’ taking on the pain of the entire world’s sins, without accepting the reality and miracle that was his resurrection…who are we? Definitely not one of his heirs.
There is a reason Jesus didn’t appear to the disciples and say, “Fellas, I know it’s been hard, so hole up here in this room and they won’t kill you. This is the safest place to be and I want you to be safe.” That looks weird even to type it. Instead, Jesus sends them out with the exact radical message of love, grace and championing the least in their world that got him nailed to a cross.
The entire chapter of Matthew 28 was read during service this morning. This is what happens after resurrection:
“Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this; I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]
Complete authority, not partial, complete.
Go and make disciples. Or the “Stephanie Interpreted Version,” go and love Jesus so much that others are drawn to do genuine Gospel life with you.
Baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Teach to obey all commands.
I am with you always.
Read between the lines…the Trinity is real, God’s love justifies, Jesus fulfilled every single prophecy and that is a message people will be thirsty to hear and learn in doing life with you. You are a redeemed people. There is hope for this world to be restored. God has not forgotten his creation. The Kingdom is present now.
A large part of that Kingdom surrounded me after church was over…as Pastor Claude had read from Matthew 18:1-6. Kids shaking my hand and giving the customary benediction that for today changed from ‘Bondye beni ou!’ or ‘God bless you!’ to ‘Bon fet Pak!’
Happy Easter, friends!
Jesus is resurrected and says GO.