Fellowship

This is the second post in my series about my recent short-term mission to Haiti. The first was titled ‘Excess’, and explored what I consider to be the most shocking experience of my entire trip – our return to American culture after a week in Haitian culture.

In this post, I want to talk about my best experiences in Haiti. There are three or four that jump out as the kind of memories where you don’t even need a picture to remind you because the image seems like it’s seared into your brain on an entirely different level. Know what I mean? The common thread running through all these memories is an idea that we misunderstand all too often in our culture – the idea of fellowship. I’ll run them down in the¬†chronological order that they occurred in.

Sunday, April 5, 2009 – We worshipped on Palm Sunday at an orphanage in Jacmel, on the south coast of the island of Haiti. Our group leaders, Jeff and Rita, have been supporting this orphanage since 2006, and in that short amount of time it has changed from a complete and total dump to what is in most respects a nice place to live, particularly by Haitian standards. There is a chapel in that orphanage, and so at 10AM all eight of us, plus a group of five or so from Canada, plus the 73 kids who live there piled into this little room and had a worship service. It was something I will never ever forget. At one point I nearly lost it because I was so overwhelmed by the import of what was happening – We were singing ‘Lord I Lift Your Name on High’, the Haitians singing in creole, us and the Canadians singing in english, and the Holy Spirit moving through everyone. It was a truly beautiful moment.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009 – Our main project for this trip was to build a chicken house at another, smaller, much more needy orphanage near Christianville. As we started to build it, several men from nearby came to help. They never asked for money in return for their labor, never asked for a share of the chickens that would be raised there, they just showed up to help because they understood that the chicken house would benefit the orphanage and the community alike. Despite all the barriers that we felt like were in the way (language, race, economic status, culture differences), God once again showed that fellowship doesn’t hinge on any of that. There was a moment on Tuesday when we were putting the roof on the chicken house when several of the Haitian men and myself were standing around watching (when roofing, the guys on the ladders do the lion’s share of the work). The Haitian men were joking around with Exod, our Haitian ‘foreman’ for the job, and Jeff. Even though all of those supposed barriers separated me from these men, I felt like I was being included in their fun. We had ceased to be Haitians and Americans, dark-skinned and light-skinned, creole-speaking and english-speaking, impoverished and well-off… We were simply a group of men building a chicken house together and enjoying one another’s company.

The theme of true fellowship was heavy on my heart throughout our entire Haiti mission. I have thought more than once over the last couple of years that we might not truly understand fellowship in the United States. In our churches, the meaning of the word fellowship is often restricted to, ‘standing around in the fellowship hall talking’. In reality fellowship is much more closely related to the concept of ‘doing life together’, of sharing all of our meaningful moments (both good and bad) with those we are close to. In Haiti, people are much closer with one another than they are here. It’s out of necessity – the Haitians we were around understand that if they don’t work together, none of them will survive.

It’s a lesson that I think we could stand to learn here, too.

Peace.

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