Often, when we think about going on a mission trip, we think about the things that we will do in order to help the community we visit. We think about the churches that we will build, the houses that we will repair, the people we will feed, and the children we will teach. We think about all the good that we will do for them.
This mindset makes me cringe a little, and remember the words of Lilla Watson, an indigenous Australian woman. She said,“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
During this trip, we had the blessing to work together with the Haitian community we visited. We got to laugh together, cook together, swing hammers together, play together, haul rocks together, sing together, worship together, and pray together.
For me, one of the most powerful experiences was praying together with my Haitian brother and sister, Esdras and Marietta, along with a Haitian-American member of our group, Darly. We woke up in the cool of the morning, before sunrise, as our Haitian friends do on a regular basis. Picking up a Bible and a songbook, we made our way out of the gates of the compound, and up the dusty path to a nearby mountain top. As we climbed up the hill, the sun was just starting to peak out from behind the horizon. The pleasant chatting slowed down, and more windows into silence appeared. While we walked, Marietta started to sing a song under her breath.
At the top of the mountain there was a clearing with a view of the valleys all around. A few large cactuses surrounded the flat spot. Coming up to this place, it was clear that it was well worn by the feet of people who come up here to pray. It was clear that this was holy ground. In a quiet voice, Esdras explained what they usually did. “First, we’ll each find a spot to pray by ourselves and confess our sins to God. Then we’ll come back together to sing, read scripture, and pray together.”
It’s hard for me to describe this time of prayer in a way that really communicates its power and its beauty. It’s hard to wrap words around the action of the Holy Spirit, both within my own heart and in the midst of our little group in those moments. Standing huddled together, on the top of that mountain, we sang Kreyol hymns at the top of our voices. We cried out our prayers to God. We wept together for the suffering and illness of the people in the valley. In those moments, we had a tangible experience of the familiar scripture, which Esdras even spoke of at the time, that when two or three are gathered together, Jesus is there in the midst of them. In those moments, I came to understand, not only in my head but also in my heart, the very scripture that I had preached on just a few days before—that there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, woman or man, black or white, Haitian or American, but that we are all one in Christ Jesus.