Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Mango Tree Church

On my last visit to Haiti, I met a man who loved Jesus. He sat under the shade of a mango tree talking about many miracles and graces this God of the Bible bestowed upon His people. How this precious God still does so today.

Soon, people stopped to listen.

The people of the village were poor. They went without food for their bellies and shoes for their feet. They lived too many in a single dwelling with tired eyes and tired souls.

But they listened. 

The man continued to speak.

He heard God telling him to build a church. Build it here. In this place where God's people had nothing.

So he did.

This is that church:

Held together with twigs and thatch, holding together the hearts of God's people. It stands under the mango tree. A house of truth. A house of hope.

The pastor greets us. It has been a long time, he says, his thick calloused hands reaching out to us, but God has been good to bring us back. We hug tight his heart, his love, feeling every bone, his skin keeps his body together. I wonder when he last ate. 

We have come with supplies for his people. Bags of rice and beans, button down dress shirts and ties for the men, dresses for little girls.

But he doesn't even consider the heavy bags we are hauling on this hot afternoon in July.

He talks about how good God is. He tells us how his neighbors have hope. He tells us that 70 people gather every service. Seventy starving people feeding on God's truth. He tells us they do not have enough to eat and yet God always gives enough at just the right time.

They are eating the manna daily. Not knowing what will come, when or how much - but trusting God will not lose sight of them. God has been so good to them, he says. God has been so good.

They held a worship service on New Year's Eve.

Word spread.

Over 300 people from all over gathered at the tiny thatch church under the mango tree to hear about this God they heard whispered about on the streets in town.

They stayed for hours. They prayed for hours.

A revival under the mango tree.

The pastor praises God! Only the Almighty could bring 300 strangers together.

Inside we look closer. The dirt floor more magnificent than any marble laid, knowing the weathered hands that swept the dust for his Lord must be blessed. 

We look at the church pews. How long they saved to purchase the wood and nails. If you walked into a church and these were its pews, would you stay? 

Wilfrid, the man in the blue shirt, begins to speak. Their greatest need is to fix the roof. The rain comes through, drenching the worshipers as they sing and pray. Rain will not keep them away. But the tarps, the good tarps - the ones that can withstand better the torrential downpours and the whipping winds of the storms - they are expensive. Too much money to spend when your neighbors have no food.

The tarps are $61 US dollars each. They really want four, he says, but they pray for just two. It will take forever.

Sixty one dollars for a tarp to keep the rain out on a tiny thatch church. I spent more than that going to dinner and the movies. I hang my head and press my shoe into the dirt.

We ask what the next greatest need is for the church building. Oh, wood would be good, but, no. He shakes his head. To think about wood is frivolous. I ask, just for fun how much would you need? 10 pieces of wood. But they are $20 US a piece. He could never think of getting $200 to spend on wood for the church. Besides, the people are starving. There is no food.

We walk along and talk some more. We learn that the pastor's son is a smart man. He has one more year of schooling to complete in order to graduate high school. This grown adult man dreams of one day finishing his schooling. Of earning his certificate. But there is tuition (since Haiti has no public school system) and the required uniforms and the books and papers and pencils. $400 US is needed for the school year. How could he dream of earning and incredible amount like four hundred dollars - and then spending it foolishly on school, when all around him people go hungry.

They must be fed. Their bodies and their souls. The priority is the people. They must hear about God so they learn about His love, His hope, His forgiveness, and His mercies and grace.

They do not spend time on what they do not have. They do not dwell on what is without.

We walk through the village. At the first house we come to we meet a woman with the greatest smile. We ask her what her greatest struggle is, what can we pray for? She answers not for prayers for herself but rather prayers for her mother. Her compassion and selflessness overwhelms me.

I have so much to learn from these people.

I think of what I spend on my car. On my groceries. I think about my list of wants: an L-shaped couch comfortable to lounge on, sturdy enough to withstand an active 5-year old; a trip to Nashville with my friends that includes good food and a decent hotel room with a hot shower and plenty of pillows on the bed. I think about what I paid the last time I got my hair colored, cut and styled.

All they want is a tarp.

The good kind.

For $61 US Dollars.


Pamela Mohan said...

Well said, Bridget. This is a very powerful message we all need to hear. Thank you for posting.

Janet Versweyveld said...

Thank you for sharing your beautiful gift with words to tell the story of this wonderful man of God!