Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Love Your Neighbor...Hug a Voodoo Priest

We came up with this slogan (which I think would make quite a catchy bumper sticker) as I was walking to the cove down the street from our compound with several of my fellow missionaries. It's easy to say the first part without much thought as to what it really means...

Everybody's heard the story of the Good Samaritan. It was Jesus' response to the "holier than thou" Pharisee who wanted to know the precise definition of "neighbor" in order to make getting into heaven a little easier. "Neighbor" is less about geographical proximity and more about relational proximity. Jesus modeled this in many ways: he touched the untouchables (lepers), befriended the friendless and unfriendly (prostitutes and tax collectors), and forgave the unforgivable (the ones who crucified him). Jesus also said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. (John 14:12)

So how does that translate to everyday life in Haiti? Let's be honest, it's not the safest, healthiest, friendliest place in the world to live. The water is contaminated, the pavement along the road (if there is any) is unsafe, and the culture is unfamiliar. There can be a tendency to be less neighborly in favor of maintaining a sense of safety. We can feel good about the work we do with orphans on our self-sufficient compound with our clean drinking water, high security walls, and double-layered metal gates. But what good is any of that if we don't show love to our neighbors? How can we do that if we don't get out in the neighborhood? What if our neighbors happen to be restavek owners, or unmarried women with multiple malnourished children covered in scabies, or a voodoo priest/priestess who hosts gatherings with loud music, chanting and animal sacrifices that keep us awake until all hours of the night? How do we love them? Some things we do, even if it means stepping outside of our comfort zone (or our perceived safety zone): food for the hungry, clean drinking water for the little restavek girls to carry back to their "owners", medicine for the sick, and every once in a while, a hug for the voodoo priest who lives across the street. Why? Because if Jesus lived in Haiti, that's what he would do...

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