5 Minutes of My Day: Picking Thorns
We have just arrived in Haiti and we’ve booked it to Manze Marie, a mountainside village just outside of the city of Jacmel. We’ve just spent the past 45 minutes driving one of the roughest (if not the roughest) road I’ve ever driven. But now, here I am, standing at the church, overlooking the beautiful forest and thinking just how blessed I am to be here. It’s hot, Edison is on my hip and we are all ready to get to work assessing and planning with pastor.
We get to meet Pastor Elbarre for the second or third time, deepening our relationship as he greets me with a wide smile.
“Betani! Herick! Sonson!” he greets us.
I’m overjoyed at this new partnership, since my home church will be coming here in a few weeks on their first PPM trip and first time in Haiti with Eric and I! I start to see the whole community through the lens of my mom, my friends and my pediatrician, who will be on the trip with me. It is their first time in Haiti – some of them it’s their first mission experience ever and I am so excited for how God is going to work in their lives through this trip.
Pastor introduces us to some of his leadership at the church, they came specifically to meet with us. The deacons, their wives and pastor’s wife are all there to greet us. Even the eldest member of the church (and community) is there for us to meet. Pastor tells us that no one knows how old he is, but that Pastor remembers him as an “old man” when he was a little boy. The elderly gentleman stands at the door every Sunday to greet each person who comes in and take the membership attendance cards up to be recorded.
As we walk the grounds of the church, parsonage, garden, bathrooms and corn mill, Pastor tells us all about his vision for the property and we confirm ministry details for our teams coming. How much money will it be to complete the roof in the parsonage? What steps are next to get it done? Does he has foreman we can hire? How far off is the corn mill from working? The list goes on.
We talk about the garden and how it’s producing this year. The deacon who oversees the garden rips some corn from the stalk and I talk to him about when my family used to grow corn and how my mom would make me clean it, scrape it and freeze it for winter. And how has a child, I hated when the corn would ripen and I knew the work that was to come, but how now I love thinking back to sitting in a chair under our big trees in the backyard with my whole family cleaning corn. He smiles and tells me about his kids.
I tell him about my mom coming on the trip – he laughs and jokes, something about her cleaning the corn.
As we head back to the church to talk through the itinerary, pastor points out an entire table full of fruit and vegetables from the garden. He explains that they are our gift to take home with us to Port-au-Prince. Tears well in my eyes. Thank you Pastor Elbarre.
As we sit to go over the itinerary, I notice little thorns and burrs stuck all to Eric’s pant legs and socks. I start getting them off of him and notice the deacon and pastor have them as well. They are working diligently to get them off of their clothes – like a little OCD habit, we are all intent to rid of ourselves of them. Madame Elbarre plays with Edison in the back of the church.
Then I notice my skirt – it is literally covered in thorns and burrs. I try to play it cool and not draw attention to it, since we are in the middle of a meeting. I slowly pick them off, one by one, but after about 10 minutes I give up and resign myself to allow the washers at the apartment to try and get them off later. They are the magical ladies who can get every piece of clothing you give them cleaner than when it was even brand new. I know they can help me.
As we end the visit and Eric loads the fruit and Edison back into the car, Pastor notices my skirt. He bends down right there and begins meticulously picking off each thorn and burr. I beg him over and over not to, he will get his nice clothes dirty, I can have the ladies help me when I get back. He simply says
“No Betani, this is my honor to serve you. When we serve others, the Lord is glad and He blesses! Let me serve you to give Him honor and receive his blessing.”
And so I waited for him to finish cleaning my skirt. A few minutes later, with tears in my eyes, we headed back home.
As I awkwardly stood there that day, thinking over what he Pastor Elbarre had said and being overwhelmed by his humility and servant heart, I wondered why I felt so strange. I couldn’t pin point why I was so focused on him getting up. Why I wanted so badly for him to stop cleaning my skirt. Why I didn’t want to accept his help.
It’s because of who he was – a partner pastor, a man of God, a leader of so many, a man I respect.
And he’s here, lowering himself to do a task so small and meticulous, a task I gave up on and moved on from.
That is the heart of service. Putting yourself aside and giving all of yourself, regardless of what others may think – because it’s in the serving we honor our God. It’s in the serving that we grow.
And you know where I’m going with this right?
A man, (and God), lowering himself to serve the people he is leading to do a task that was small and unexpected, to move in the hearts of those He was leading. And boy did he move them.
And as I came to that realization…my heart soared with gladness and inspiration.
Oh wow, can that please be my heart?
Can I please grasp you Father in a way that I see every single moment of my life as a moment to serve you fully?
Can I please know your heart well enough that I can jump upon each chance to imitate your Sons likeness the best I can?
And so here I am, once again surrounded by these big picture things that seem to hit me squarely in the chest while I am on Haiti soil. These big, life-changing lessons that only she can teach through her heat, her chaos, her order and her quiet.. And I just want you to know Ayiti, Cheri, I’m listening.
Allow me to serve in such a way, that there is no other option than for blessings to rain down upon my life. That in every moment, my life would bring you honor and glory and praise.
5 Minutes of My Day is a series of the more intimate moments in our ministry. Launching off of something Eric said to me one day: “When you are overwhelmed or stressed and Satan is on you, focus on the little things. The small moments that make you remember why you live this life. Why you love this ministry.” So here it is, the good the bad and the ugly. Snapshots of 5ish minutes of my day.