I was watching an online TV rerun recently that included the U.S. President in its story line. As the dramatic action unfolded, the man was getting ready to debate his opponent in the upcoming election. The President, wanting to be reelected, intended to do everything possible to display confidence to the people. This particular President has been seriously hurt earlier in the story, but he hid his struggle, constantly communicating that he was strong and "in control."
I contrast that scenario with one very familiar to some of our Stone Ridge people who have made the trip to work with our ministry partners in the Dominican Republic. The DR is a third-world country, working hard to strengthen their economy and provide livelihoods for their people. Though many of them are poor by our standards, they often live rich lives filled with family and friends and faith. One glaring problem that they need to address is what to do with the Haitians who live in their country.
A quick look at the map will show you that the Dominican Republic and Haiti share the island called Hispaniola. Though the natural barriers that divide them are often small and porous, the two nations are radically different when it comes to resources. The Dominican is still a third-world nation, but Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. What do Haitians do when they need jobs to feed their families? They find a way across the border into the DR. Sound familiar? At least a million Haitians live in the Dominican, with some estimates as high as two million. The DR has about nine or ten million of its own citizens, so the comparatively large number of illegal Haitian immigrants is disruptive. While the Haitians do much of the work in the sugar cane fields and are often easy to spot in the cities as well as the agricultural areas, they aren’t allowed to own property and are often subject to the racial prejudices that were the norm in the U.S. 40 or 50 years ago.
Add all this up and you get a picture of what life can be like for a Haitian living in the DR. Now let your imagination carry you to the little Haitian children who grow up in a country that rejects them. If someone doesn’t come along to educate them and encourage them, their little lives can be considered of no more value than the raw sewage that trickles down the dirty paths in their shanty towns. In a society where they are regularly considered outcasts, those kids can rightfully be described as weak and out of control. Unlike the fictitious American President I mentioned above, they are the broken and the helpless of their culture…
…except that’s not how Jesus sees them. And it’s not how many Dominican Christians see them. It’s not how the people in our church who have been there see them. We see them as precious little lives, full of hope. Jesus said, "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule." Matthew 5:3 (The Message) Those Haitian kids start life at the end of their rope, but Jesus promised them what other Bible translations call "the kingdom of heaven."
All of this brings me to a picture I received yesterday. It was taken last week in La Muñoz, a Haitian village where our church has a partnership with a church and a little Christian school. We have been there many times, laughed, played and danced with the children and rejoiced that God gave us their friendship. The picture is of Korean missionaries washing the feet of Haitian kids. I looked at it and wondered, "Which group is 'poor in spirit?’" Isn’t it both? Then, don’t they all get what The Message calls "more of God and his rule?"
We will talk about that verse this weekend at Stone Ridge. It’s the first weekend of "From broken to blessed," part of our new series, "From here to where?" It is our brokenness that sets us up for God’s blessing…pretty amazing stuff. I hope to see you there, but catch the podcast if you can’t make it!