Hours before meeting a former-witch doctor and hearing a story I couldn’t forget if I tried, I found myself crying in the middle of I-don’t-know-where.
In that moment, I saw heaven in a way I had only ever imagined. The beauty of it was more than I could put into words and as I stumbled through a silent prayer tears slipped down my dust-covered cheeks.
If you yourself had taken an hour ride into the village, or perhaps walked the 6 miles yourself, and had come across our little gathering of people, surely you would have wondered at the white girl wiping tears and smiling a little too big.
But I hope you would have thought she looked at home.
Because y’all, it was heaven come to earth. It was right and good and so very beautiful.
But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Here. Let me just show you.
We were sharing two benches, opening up packages of peanut butter crackers and passing them around, when the men of the village began to join us. Not saying anything, they smiled and simply sat down. Our benches were making a V shape and as they filled in across from us a circle was created.
Unintentional, I’m sure. But God knew. I think He was smiling.
I snapped this picture minutes before I felt heaven come down. It’s strange to think how oddly normal it all seemed in that moment, licking peanut butter off my lips, offering crackers to the men who joined us, smiling at the children shyly hiding behind the tree, and praying that the machine behind the men would finally clear the rocks and hit water.
They looked at us. We looked at them. We had nothing more than a smile to give and a few packs of crackers to split between several. We didn’t share a language and the words unspoken were almost palpable – how do we build a bridge?
I know that we asked a few questions and one or two men would look at the others and then answer for the group. We watched their faces and listened intently before turning to our two translators to find out what the men – who we discovered were the elders in the village – were telling us.
They thanked us for coming and then it happened.
Men began to speak up and say that they had seen nearby villages being helped and had prayed for years but nothing changed. They looked at us and dared to speak the truth of what life had looked like for so long. “We thought God had forgotten us,” they said. “We asked Him what we had done wrong and why no one would come.”
My eyes filled with tears as I forced myself to blink fast and look hard into their worn faces.
We had driven hours over bumpy roads (roads being a relative term here) and had gathered in a small clearing. And they had joined us, bravely opening their lives and letting us be part of their stories. They chose not to hide the hard places.
No one turned away or ignored what felt so broken. All of us, pale white next to dark skin, sitting under the wide open sky learning how to relate to one another… and then they shared their brokenness with us and I was undone.
Forgotten by God? It took us over an hour just to reach the clearing. How would anyone have found this village? Had anyone come to help? Where had I been? What was so important that I hadn’t come sooner? Blinking fast wasn’t helping and the longer I looked into their broken places the more I began to see my own brokenness.
But then they kept speaking. The story wasn’t over.
With my eyes still brimming, one man shared that when S.A.V.E. provided the money for the well for clean water, it was like heaven coming down to earth.
He said it. Just like that. Heaven coming down to earth.
And He was right. He was so right. But it wasn’t us that brought heaven down, it was that moment right there, arm touching arm and story intertwining with story, that I found myself thinking what I could barely put into words in my journal that evening:
This is what it’s supposed to look like… different colors, different languages, one same God.
With hope in their eyes and confidence in their voices they asked permission to pray over us.
Cue the silent tears. I bent over and lowered my face into my hands, desperate to not make them feel uncomfortable but unable to do anything but weep.
They prayed over us, thanking God that we would come and praising Him for Christ in us. And it was clear as day: We may have different color skin but our blood is the same. We’re brothers and sisters.
Sometimes heaven looks like a circle of strangers-turned-family in a little-known village in Haiti.
Interested in other posts from my time there? Links below to some of my favorite stories.
On Quieting Our Stories and Carrying the Light :: Nelson’s story. Out of darkness, light.
The Song of Haiti: Broken & Beautiful :: The song that makes me cry every time.
When God Teaches You How To Read :: So when you meet a man who can only read the Bible? That.
Our Walls Keep *Us* In :: The truth is, the walls we build aren’t helping anyone.