The last place I thought I’d hear about Janine’s brother was in a medical clinic in Canaan, through a curtain that divided me from a private triage area as a team member shared a story about someone that she didn’t even know.
Covered in sweat, half pacing/half reminding children to ‘stay out’ in creole every
five two minutes/half making sure everyone was drinking water (yes, that is three halves. Welcome to leading a team in another country.) – I heard a gentle voice reaching out to a patient who said that they “would be ready later” through a shower curtain that kept blowing into my face. Held up by PVC pipe, it helped transform the tin-and-tarp church into a clinic but it did not keep me from hearing what happened in each interaction when I tuned in without even meaning to. Kids called my name outside as I started to tune in to a story I had told myself being retold by a nurse. Immediately pulling away I opened the door to respond to Billy asking for water to drink and gently asked him to move aside as I let two more patients in to get their vitals taken while they waited for an available nurse.
All the while, a story of one of the heaviest days in Haiti for me was being told by one of my new friends on the team.
You remember Janine, right? Kiki’s mom, makes me great food – including fresh chickens from the yard? She’s the closest to me in the family that lives next door, so I refer to her family in relation to her, “Janine’s brother, Janine’s mom…..”. She’s a middle child, with older brothers as well as as a younger sister and brother. At 22, she’s almost as old as me but has way more years of life throwing stuff at her. Her mother is a widow, she has a son, and she’s worked her whole life – including having the initiative to work both in market and sell from her home daily. Last August, Kelly (another intern at the time) and I visited Janine in market and bought pates (all you need to know is delicious Haitian food) a day before heading to America.
It was a weird day, we went to Cabaret way later than planned and in market happened to run into people all over, getting distracted with conversations and pushes to buy all kinds of merchandise. All you need to know here is, we were NOT on our own schedule. I’m still sure that God took over our timing.
Mickens started on Route Nationale #1 on the moto with us to get back to Bercy (home) and before getting halfway, there was a crowd on the side of the road. We didn’t have to stop, but we did. (Not normal.) Kelly, an EMT in America, hopped off to see if someone needed medical attention. (Not normal for her.)
She broke through the crowd, a white girl that people were confused by at the scene, to get to the center. Once she got there, she looked at me with a “seen-a-ghost” face and said “It’s Janine’s brother”.
To make an extremely long and emotional story short, he had been in a moto accident. I didn’t know until we were at home, there was no hope – he was killed on impact. Of all the people, in a crowd of Haitians, we were the ones to call his mother and to call Janine. I was the one who had to hear Richard, 15 at the time, ask where his brother was as I stood at the scene. Kelly was the one to hug “Mama” when she arrived and began to publicly mourn.
He was 27 years old.
He was a vodou priest.
No matter what cultural lines and differences there are, even if we could break through them all, there’s still no way to comfort in that situation with words. There’s no “He’s in a better place”.
Kelly and I had no idea what to do. What was God’s purpose in this? Why were we there? He clearly planned it, but why? He placed us in the center of this, for Kelly a day before leaving Haiti for good, why? What was He going to do with this? Why were we there?!
There could be a week long blog discussion on this, but we’re not going there today. We’re focusing on one aspect.
All the time in Haiti, you hear a common response to the gospel. “I’m not ready yet.”
For this neighbor, he was witnessed to constantly by Pastor Pierre. Pushed every interaction. Every time his response was “One day.” For the money that comes in with vodou ceremonies, for the rules he wasn’t ready to follow (sadly, the church can be known for rules more than relationship in Haiti. This is keeping people away from saying yes. Sound familiar….?), for wanting to live life to the fullest in his twenties. That was still his response to the gospel when he got on his moto to come home after a ceremony ten minutes away.
Pastor Pierre talked about this with me after hearing that I was at the accident and my heart only cracked more. What reason can I hold onto for a lack of urgency for reaching people with the gospel? For a lack of persistence?
And then, months later, teams started again in Haiti. Which meant leading people around to homes to build relationships and also share personal stories of salvation, while hearing where others were at. Over and over again I heard it: “I’m just not ready yet.” “One day.” “When I’m older.” From the mouths of twenty-somethings who are planning on plenty more years.
So I felt a push. And I followed it, asking people if they would be gracious enough for a five minute story. And every time there was a respectful silence, there was even response emotionally….but “not yet”, still. “Thanks for the story, but I’m not ready.”
And this has happened a few times. Every time, that push to tell. Every time, “not ready”.
Okay, whatever, I just know that God was pushing me to tell it. Thanks for listening.
The first day in the community with the medical team in Canaan, I told this story at a house while both the family and some of the medical team listened. One of the nurses used this story about Janine’s brother as she wrapped up triage with her patient. This nurse killed it relationally and was not pushing but talking about life with her patient before parting ways, and I heard that story intermingled with a dozen other voices in the background before getting distracted.
Dust blowing, sweat pouring, door opening, kids calling, patients asking, sun beating, pharmacy running, translators talking – and then a cheer from behind curtain #1.
The same curtain where I had heard that gentle voice retelling a story that surprised me since it was my own.
The young mother had accepted Christ.
Six months down the line, someone else’s conversation, a completely different community, a situation you’d never picture in the moment of the disaster and the questions of “Why?” and “How will He use THIS?!” – He doesn’t waste a thing.
And when He uses things, it’s in ways that we could never imagine in our limited imaginations and knowledge.
It’s so fun to see what He does when we release the control & trust that He knows how the pieces we don’t even know exist will come together.