5 Minutes of My Day: De-segregation
It’s Sunday morning and I’m with a team who comes to Haiti often. They are a beautiful example of consistent and long-term partnership, returning back to the same community and partnering with the same local pastor. Even more exciting is that the team is even working within the church plants that have come from the sending church. It’s really awesome to see the relationships that have been built through their continual return.
Today it’s their third or fourth trip (I’ve lost count) and we’re at church. As we arrive, we see that Sunday school is still in session on one side of the small church, with almost 30 people in attendance. Everyone there is Haitian. Our large group of north-eastern Americans file into the church with a melting pot of backgrounds, true to American form. They begin filling up the opposite side of the church and I notice it’s looking very segregated: almost all Americans on one side and all Haitians on the other.
Now, what is different about this group is they truly desire to become like family with this church. They always desire to return to this church and take the time to participate in service. Their leader is the kinda guy who cannot allow this situation to remain–being separated or set apart. Most groups just go with the flow out of respect for the culture (which is the expectation), but not this group. They’ve fabricated a relationship with these people that allows them to step in at this moment. Their leader gets up in front of the church and asks if we can mix it up.
It’s so beautiful to see the shocked looks on both sides of the church turn into smiling faces as they begin to understand what he’s asking. He wants us to be “one family of God, worshiping side by side.” After a few awkward minutes of shuffling around, all tension and nervousness in the room created by the divide down the middle has vanished. Now, everyone is sitting next to someone they don’t know and we’re all outside our comfort-zones.
Young Haitian boys are sharing their song books with our young American boys on the team.
A Haitian woman passes off her sleeping baby to an American woman next to her.
Little Haitian toddlers take hold of the opportunity to run around ask for a candy from the American man with a pack of gum.
A simple cultural bridge is built. Person to person contact happens. Connection is fostered in that moment.
We have the most beautiful worship, singing in Creole and English as our languages blend together to form one unique melody for our Father in Heaven.
All it took was someone to step out in faith and ask.
It’s a new week, new team, and we’re at church again. Divided down the middle once again by the running late of Sunday school. As soon as Sunday school is over, one of our Haitian staff members stands before the congregation and repeats the events of the week prior.
Before we know it, we are all back in the moment of having our comfort zones shattered and social walls crumbled. Connections are made. In those moments, you don’t see the person next to you as an American or Haitian: they are a person. They are a brother or a sister in Christ. They are a child that reflects the same innocence in their eyes as your own child at home. A person broken by an abusive family member. A person full of wisdom. A mother proud of her son as he plays in the worship band. A human feeling enslaved to an addiction, isolated by the lies of Satan and in need of a Savior.
As our time of testimony ends, participants take their seats and find their hands being filled by those next to them. No language translation needed: I hear you, I support you.
It’s a new week, a new team. I’m at church with one of my last teams of the summer and it’s happening again. Since Sunday school was in session, we are divided down the middle. I tell myself that at the next break for prayer, I’ll ask the church to mix it up. But then, before I can say anything, the Pastor gets up and says: “We need to be unified as the body of Christ, not separated in any fashion.” And he requests for our team and the church to cross the aisle and sit with someone they don’t know.
I just stood there, blown away. With eyes full of tears, I smiled inwardly. I shared a few knowledgeable glances with my staff–they had caught it too. The Pastor continued something that one man started the first time he was in the church. He understood why that man desired desegregation and the value that it brought to the service. He caught the reason why our staff wanted it to continue as well. He wanted that too.
With lines of nationality blurring, we can find our true identity in our Father in Heaven. Together, as one body, we can petition His throne and worship His name in unity.
We simply need to find courage, follow our hearts, and ask to cross the aisle.