There’s something different.
You can’t quite put your finger on it, but it’s not just me – people have commented on it and been processing through it. “Veterans” who have been here more times than you’ve thought of coming to Haiti, and those who stepped off the plane for the first time just days ago.
It’s a good different. The kind of “different” you wouldn’t notice or even get to be a part of without putting some time in.
We are still babies when you think of how long we’ve been here – I’m at almost three years and it’s been said that for someone in international work, five years is when you can say you are no longer “wet behind the ears”. But I can’t deny that there is something different – which is a surprise that both encourages me and only points back to Him choosing to do something with the nothing we have to offer.
I’m surprised because this very slow work is simultaneously moving quickly, in the context of how deep and wide what we are working at is.
Relationships, trust, new cycles, a fresh way of thinking, deeper conversations, a better understanding of the gospel than the broken “you need to be good enough for Jesus” false message that can pop up in churches all over the world. The way a teenage girl reacts to a stranger popping up in her neighborhood for the week. Open conversations about topics that no one else will talk about. Parents who smile and engage as opposed to stay back and watch with eyes trying to discern visitors – or already dismissing them before giving a chance.
- My favorite teenage mother coming over just to be with other women in the house, asking them questions out of curiosity about what is “okay” in church, and if she is welcome based off of certain criteria (Sidonie, our cook, vehemently says that there is nothing that can make you “not okay for church” – love her!). She’s being drawn into environments – not just this one, also Young Lights and church youth events and peer circles – that are not typical for her. She’s asking questions. She’s embracing opportunities given to her and working hard – and trusting me enough to not be pushed away when I challenge her to do better (because I know she can). Her son, by the way, also ADORES her.
- There’s mutual learning, listening, teaching, and conversation going on. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many one way conversations in the past (specifically when two cultures come together)…but I am seeing less and less now. And within this, I am seeing people show up more often, speak up more often, open more of themselves up…and everyone has the opportunity to grow more. I saw this in a seminary this week for example – one where everyone say in a circle and broke down power dynamics.
- Relationships that in the past would easily be put in the “they want an American friend” category – are different. I am seeing more and more true relationships. Chal is one of our best friends (including making weird sounds from house window to house window at night since he is a neighbor), ‘C’ comes to truly just BE in community and talk about life, people that have left me in the past like ‘A’ after a material benefit (or lack thereof) are showing back up without the “I expect ___ from you” factor…instead coming for real friendship. Being here longer is making a difference as people see – “yo pa prale”. “They aren’t leaving.”
- Neighbors are NEIGHBORS. You can just feel it. Now….this sounds basic – until you have lived in a cross cultural neighborhood, and you are the outsider, and there’s a lot of baggage with your nation towards the country you are in.
- Instead of being brushed off when Jesus comes up, there is real conversation, engagement, thought put into what we are saying, and more and more heart change as a result. This is huge. This is WHY all the other ones matter. It is NOT quick to be taken seriously for faith – not the deep issues – to outsiders that don’t “get” what it is like to be a local church attender from age 0 – present. This. Is. Huge.
These are the differences that we are giving our lives for, where Jesus is coming in. These are the differences that you can’t really put a word to…a simple paragraph does no justice. These are the differences we are seeing.
Praise Jesus, and Jesus alone.
The light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness cannot distinguish it.