I shake my head every single time I hear the notes begin to play. There’s this song that is following me around and chasing me down and I’m thankful every time it finds me, if we’re being honest. It helps me remember.
So I sing it and raise my hands and I don’t frankly care what the person next to me thinks – whether in a church building, on a highway, or in a classroom. The song is a popular one and so it splashes across radio stations often, but every time I’m convinced it’s a gift just for me.
At least it was that one time in Haiti.
Standing in a conference room full of bloggers, argued about in a college classroom, while driving down the interstate, playing from my phone while I fall asleep or hummed quietly on the dirt streets of Haiti, this song has gripped my heart.
Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence Lord
I sing these words as I type them, instead of a quick Google search with a copy and paste. Welcome even here on a small blog in a little corner of the Internet. We welcome, He comes.
It was a regular day in March as I sat in my 9:15 Christian Theology class. I was super pumped because we would be discussing the Holy Spirit that day. (Can we hit pause and laugh over “discussing” the Holy Spirit? As if breath can be contained or explained.) After taking a class in the fall on pneumatology (the study of the Holy Spirit), I was nearly beside myself to dig back into the part of the Trinity I never heard that much about while growing up.
What I never saw coming, though, was getting into a “friendly discussion” on a popular song by Jesus Culture, titled Holy Spirit. Come to find out, my classmates thought it made no sense at all to sing a song about asking the Holy Spirit to come because, well, the Holy Spirit is already there. Some went so far as to say the song was wrong and they disagreed with its theology.
I don’t even know what came over me because I am not, mind you, the type of person to “start something” in class or to get into a heated debate. Especially with people I barely know on a topic (a Person) I’ll never begin to even grasp a small percentage of. But then words were coming out of my mouth and I couldn’t stop them, one after one tumbling out.
The room was quiet and not because of eloquence, but likely because I am not one to burst out and passionately defend a string of song lyrics in a classroom discussion. By that point in the semester it’s obvious that I’m a thinker, a processor, and would rather ask questions than make statements.
But there we were.
Well, there they were. I, however, was right back in Haiti with dirt between my toes. And that – that – is why I could not stop the words.
Monday morning found us back in the village visiting with the people and the children of Boukeron. Our team split up into three groups to go door to door collecting a census of sorts. To best partner with the people of Boukeron, we need to know what their greatest needs are. And so we walked. Mud house to mud house, person to person. We stopped at the first house on the left, and please understand that by house I don’t actually mean house, but I know no other word but hut – and were immediately met with opposition. We asked the questions and received no answer save but a refusal to give information. We continued on the beaten path and the same thing played out again and again. As we left each house children, teenagers and a few adults would begin to follow several feet behind us.
Voices raised and the following turned to arguing, the sound of our voices faded as their words grew heavy and pointed. You don’t have to know a language to be able to fully understand deep inside that something is very wrong.
We weren’t in danger but as a group of nearly ten Haitian men started shouting over one another, shouting something about us and what we were doing, we each quietly slipped a few feet away. Two friends stood in the distance and started whisper-praying. I racked my brain for anything that would bring peace to the situation, but I only understood the tone, not the actual words being said, and so all I could offer was a silent “God, I am so helpless here. I have nothing.”
My eyes searched the sky until I finally looked down into the eyes of a sweet girl in a little, dirt-covered pink dress. She didn’t have a smile in sight but I reached my hand out, her mother eyeing me. I could see the hesitation on her face and the dare in her eyes to walk further from the shouting, but there I was praying to the sky for bridges to be built and so out my hand went. I’m not sure if she took it or if I slipped my hand into hers as I knelt down to look into her face, but nonetheless my white skin was held in her brown hand and it was beautiful.
I don’t remember her smiling for more than a split second, just a flicker of white, but it was something. The noise died down and we continued on as the little girl ran back to her mama. That was when I started singing.
I couldn’t pray more than “God I have no idea what to say. Just be here. You’ve got to come and be with us.” Those sentences on repeat, not because He didn’t hear me the first time but because I had nothing else.
And then the notes played in my head and so I sang along. Not because He wasn’t already in Haiti, but because we desperately needed His presence. Not because my welcome would bring His power sweeping through, but because it acknowledged the power already belonged to Him.
Holy Spirit you are welcome here…
Quiet, timid, under my breath
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere…
Lord, only You can smooth the language barriers and bring peace to the chaos
Your glory God is what our hearts long for…
We’re here for You, only for You, always for You
To be overcome by Your presence Lord…
You’re already here and I know it, but come and sweep us up in your love, power and truth
Over and over from house to house I hummed the tune. Sometimes the humming turned to singing, and if you know me then you know that God performed a mini-miracle (can a miracle even be mini?) right there in Haiti because this girl does not sing out loud.
But embarrassment was the least of my worries. I didn’t care about the theology of welcoming God to a place He already was. And I didn’t care that I was sing-asking for His presence while knowing He was right beside me.
I couldn’t pray the words and so I sang them.
That evening I wrote the lyrics in my journal, followed by these words:
I tried hard to prayer-walk as we went around today but I didn’t even know what to say. These fit so much of what my heart was feeling and trying to pray. Maybe the lesson is to keep my ears and eyes open. I’m not sure – but I’m looking.
Jesus is so sweet. And this place may be dark, but He keeps showing me the light.
By noon the same people who had been upset with our team were coming up to their cactus fences and inviting us inside. One woman ran to her neighbor and told her we needed to visit for a little bit. And somewhere in the in between, we had stopped by the houses of two witch doctors, the song always on my lips.
When you don’t know what to pray and you don’t have the words to say, just say Jesus. There’s power in His name and there’s strength in humming a string of notes that welcome Him with praise.
So yeah, I had some things to say in that classroom. Because a Monday morning encounter in Haiti straight messed me up in the best way. When my words were few, He was found in abundance, His presence seeping through the mud-house cracks and overcoming language barriers.
It’s been a few months now and my memory is lacking, but to the best of my knowledge the classroom was dead silent as I said, “I love this song and here’s why. I just got back from Haiti and in case you haven’t been there, I want to tell you that there’s a lot of darkness there. We hear about voodoo and we believe it’s real but not fully, not completely. Because we haven’t seen it with our own two eyes. But guys, I have. And I have to tell you, it’s real. It’s so real.
But I also have to tell you that God is stronger. There is darkness, but He is brighter. And when Satan wanted nothing to do with us loving God’s people in a small village in Haiti, when I was empty of prayers and completely helpless in actions, all I could do was sing this song. Not because the Holy Spirit wasn’t there, but to acknowledge that He was. He doesn’t show up when we sing, but don’t you think He’s so happy when we recognize His presence and say ‘I want more of that’?”
In classrooms and on dirt roads hours from what we would deem civilization, may it solely be this:
Let us become more aware of Your Presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness
There are stories from Haiti that I long to tell you and are begging to be spilled out here. And yet I type with trepidation because I so long to honor the stories. So I wait. I relive the moments and reread the words scratched in that little blue journal and I wait until He says write. I don’t know who this one is for and quite honestly, it feels like the messiest of the bunch, the too tall flower in the vase of stories from that beautiful country. And yet, He said write. Now.
May these words be an offering to Him and a blessing to you. As my friend later told me, “Every time I stopped praying, I heard you singing. And so I began again.” And so may you remember the people of Boukeron, lifting up praise to Him and prayers for them when the tune comes out of your radio speakers.
Hi, Kaitlyn! This is a thoughtful post. I think you’re right – it’s not that God’s presence is ever NOT with us; it’s more that we need to acknowledge it. I’m so thankful for the Holy Spirit, and for His indwelling presence! Thank you for sharing this with us at Grace & Truth.
Exactly! So glad that came across in the post.
I love this song too. I heard it when we spent time in Arizona and haven’t heard it up in Canada yet. I must tell my Pastor about it. I love how you write and how you brought me into your time in Haiti.
I am following you from Still Saturday. I would you to link to Sunday Stillness. http://www.janiscox.com
Thank you for these kind words, Janis!
What a lovely post via Spiritual Sunday. It especially touched my heart as we sang this song in church this morning. :) I have never gone overseas but a couple of my kids have gone on mission trips while I stayed home and prayed and prayed AND PRAYED for them. We were all blessed to see God work so wonderfully and powerfully. Thank you for the sweet reminders. :)
I can’t even begin to tell you how important the prayers of others were while we were gone. Know that although you may not physically be going on trips, your role is vital – more than you know.
Kaitlyn, this girl can’t carry a tune without a bucket, yet that song and those verses echo in my head. Thank you for sharing their meaning to you and how they became alive for you. Hugs. Susan.
Ps-can’t wait to read when God says write the rest of your story!
Kaitlyn, we’ve been to Haiti, and the oppression is powerful. I found myself praying constantly. I love your words here, and may we always have open hearts that invite the Holy Spirit to do a work in our lives. Yes and Amen!
Have we talked about this before? Where were you in Haiti?
Oh Kaitlyn there is such truth here. What a beautiful story!
Oh and I love that song too! :)
Kaitlyn this is fantastic, thank you so much for sharing this with us at Good Morning Mondays. What a fantastic moving experience and it will surely touch peoples hearts and lives like it did mine. Blessings
Kaitlyn, there is so much power in your words, in this story, of course, the Holy Spirit. I have been blessed and thank you for sharing this intimate moment from your trip to Haiti, from how God used you, Haiti, and a theology class.
Amen and Amen.
Thank you for sharing such kind words.
Beautiful post, Kaitlyn! Thank you for sharing! Blessed to visit with you tonight! … And I absolutely love that song! Peace and many blessings to you, Love!
Thanks for visiting, Tai!
Kaitlyn, I enjoyed your story. I thought of Ichabod, “The glory is departed from Israel.” There are places and times that grieve the Holy Spirit. Acknowledging we desire His presence to fill us and where we are seems only right.
I love that song too. I love the beautiful way you used it to remind you of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Thank you so much for sharing today.
Oh, those sweet lyrics and the acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit’s work in that place. We experienced similar darkness in Guyana and I too had a moment where all I could speak was “Jesus”. Thank you for sharing your heart!
Sometimes it’s just all you’ve got. And it’s more than enough.
It’s incredible what the Holy Spirit does once we invite it to dwell in our midst and pay attention to its work in our lives. Thank you for this post! My soul is at peace after reading this. :)
So glad to hear that.. thank you for sharing.
He hat an encouraging story. I love that song as well, I can remember doing something similar when I moved into a new house share, I was really worried about who else might be moving in, but blessing the building and telling the darkness to go away really made a difference!
Kaitlyn – I saw your post on several link-ups today and was already planning on reading your post, but then we became neighbors at the “Unite linkup and so here I am :) I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your post. First because you are talking about the Holy Spirit! – Second, because we have a lot in common. I had never heard much about the Holy Spirit when I was growing up either, but 20 years ago, that all changed…. and well, He radically changed my world… I have never been to Haiti, but I used to travel and minister in the Dominican Republic 2 times a year – a portion of my heart is there. I know exactly what you were describing and what your experienced. Oh and I never spoke up in classes in either, with the few exceptions of when the words wouldn’t stay in lol – Third reason I love your post today – – Because I got to meet you, or rather read your heart and your beautiful words. Thank you, for sharing you with us. Blessings
Well I’m so glad you found your way over here! Thanks for visiting – looks like we have a lot in common!
Kaitlyn, I’ve come to love that song too. And I think Francesca Batestelli sings a version too. There is something so cool about the Holy Spirit. So much THIS:” As my friend later told me, “Every time I stopped praying, I heard you singing. And so I began again.” Haiti will always hold a special place in my heart since my friend Ben lost his life in the earthquake there.
I love her version! It’s gorgeous and is the one that almost always comes on the radio.
Well, all right!! Your experience was real and the Holy Spirit was your solution. Isn’t he always? Yea, he’s good that way. 80)
Oh wow, such a great post! This is one of my favourite songs right now. I do wonder about the words, yet there is something so precious and solid about verbally stating the fact that we long for the presence of the Spirit in our midst. It’s confirmation that we are wanting Him to move and whisper and nudge, that we believe in His power. And now I’ll be thinking of your experience in Haiti… thanks so much for sharing :) Stopping by from Me, Coffee & Jesus.
Exactly. Just what you said.
Your story is beautiful and the quiet, gentle strength of the Holy Spirit shines through your words and your actions in Haiti. Thanks for the reminder that we should always have our eyes open to where God’s power is, and join him there.
Thank you for those kind words
Oh girl, I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in Haiti and in that college classroom. What a beautiful experience that God then allowed you to use to teach others about Him. Love it and love you!
This song has been in my spirit for months now… it got me to Jumping Tandem and back and has been spilling out ever since. I don’t really listen to radio – and it’s an ‘older’ JC song so I had not a clue that it was ‘popluar’ once again – but I think it is timely… and powerful and freeing to declare the truth of those words as we sing them out! Love you bunches, girlie!
Francesca Battistelli recorded a newer version and it plays nearly every hour. :) So good!
I love that song and it’s one of those “Be careful what you wish for” songs for me. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s moving and an awesome reminder that God is with us all the time, but we can experience His with-ness even more.
Oh yeah, I know those kinds of songs/prayers. :)
You are a worshipper! Thanks for sharing your heart and your story.
Thank you for visiting back, Sue!
Kaitlyn, OH thank you so much for writing this post. I could feel the Presence of the Lord while reading it.
God is using you in so many ways and may he continue to Bless you.
I know you are a blessing to me!
Thank you again.
Your words are such a blessing. Thank you
Kaitlyn, oh oh oh!! I’ve been singing this song so much lately. And as I sang it yesterday on my way to worship team practice before church, He took me up on the welcome and totally flooded my vehicle after I stopped at the coffee stand. We’ve been having forest fires and the smoke was covering the hill with haze, so no outdoor service this time. :( I was struck that it covered like the glory of the Lord covering the Tabernacle. “I see the Lord, seated on the Throne, exalted. And the train of His robe fills the temple with glory.” Anyway, so much I sing this with you! And God is delighted in your singing and sings over you. Especially out loud. :D
Love that! And wouldn’t you know, I got in the car to head to church tonight and it came on within 10 seconds. Figures. :)
I love your story, Kaitlyn. Even more so because I’m in Kenya right now and I can finally truly relate to these words and these stories. They are a blessing!
Following your journey closely… can’t wait to hear more as the words come and there’s time to share.