Marceil and I have had a bunch of interesting experiences over the last few months of a traveling ministry since her retirement from Goshen Schools.
Most recently was a trip to Haiti to do some teacher training (Marceil) and pastor training (Me). We were set up to meet in two different places and ended up doing training in three spots—from the deep in the Southern part of Haiti and way to the North. (At one time I think we must have been 90 miles from Cuba)!
Likely, I will share some of the experiences as we are able to process them mentally/spiritually and fully recover physically. It was great to meet up with Pastor Tim Fisher and the team he led from Crossroads Church. They built both a School and a Church in the Hinche Region—raising the money to do so before leaving on the mission trip. Pastor Tim, our wives, and Marc Dume all have some interesting stories about some things we faced together in our travels—but there is one thing I wanted to share on this Tuesday morning that shows us that people are the same everywhere on the planet.
On a bright and warm Monday morning we were set up to do Pastor and Teacher training in the country side about an hour outside of Hinche, Haiti down a practically impassable rutted path.
We showed up and the Pastor took us to the old school that was used for years. It was a grass hut with a dirt floor. Pastor Tim and his Crossroads Team were finishing up the new school while Marceil and I did our training.
There was one particular guy who spoke a little English. He explained that he was a Pastor in Hinche. He then proceeded to take a chair at a table in the very front of the grass hut. The table was obviously set up for Marceil and me but this Pastor pulled up a chair to the table, sitting directly in front of all the Pastors and Teachers and started writing on a sheet of paper.
I was thinking it must be their custom to have someone sit prominently in the front and keep notes (or minutes) of a meeting.
The problem was with the Pastor sitting at the table writing profusely and not looking up; he wasn’t able to anticipate my movements or Marc Dume (our translator, road manager, security, and trip advisor) as we moved in front. He was flat out IN THE WAY. Marc Dume couldn’t move, I couldn’t move and the Pastor writing profusely didn’t look up.
Finally I shook the table a little to get his attention. Marc Dume translated to him that we needed to move the large table to the side. I apologized for any inconvenience to his “note taking” but it would work better to get the table out of the way. Marc Dume translated back to me what the Pastor said, “I’m not taking notes, and I’m writing you a thank you note.” I expressed through Marc Dume my appreciation for his note and for allowing us to move the table. (There is no reason to offend others in a culture you don’t understand, especially if you are there to help equip).
At this point we are about 15 minutes into a four hour event and we have successfully moved the table and the Pastor sitting at it. About two minutes later the Pastor’s cell phone rang (LOUD), he answers it—stands up while talking—walks in front of me—continues to talk out loud on the cell phone down the center aisle of the grass hut—out the back opening and walks away. He never comes back the rest of the day.
I didn’t think about the guy until the next day. We are on a seven hour drive in the back roads to Cap Haitian when I remembered about the Pastor’s “thank you” letter. I remarked to Marc Dume—“It happened the way I thought? First, this guy is the first guy to greet us and tell us all about himself. Second, he pulls a chair up in the table, distracting everyone in the hut. Third, when we move the table so we can move and he became less prominent in the room his cell phone rang. Fourth, he answered his cell phone, talked all the way out the back and never came back. Did I understand that right, Marc? He was there for 20 minutes of a four hour training?”
Marc Dume said, “That’s right—he gave the letter to the Pastor of the Church—and the Pastor gave it to me. The letter is in my bag!”
I wanted to know what the fuss was all about so Marc Dume read and translated the letter. Marc’s translation from Creole is: He did thank us for coming, and then launches out on the fact he started the Church we were helping (Crossroads Church built a school building and a church building with funds raised by the people of Crossroads)—AND he named four other Churches he had started. He then went on to say that it was him that needed the help financially. He then clearly asked us in his letter for $90,000 US dollars for himself.
I realized at that moment that no matter what country, culture, socio/economic status, race, or creed—people are the same. Here was a guy who liked to have prominence, making a case to us of his prominence and then trying to advance his own position.
The great thing about the teachings of Christ is they aren’t from the United States culture, or Haitian culture. The teaching of Christ is for all cultures.
When Jesus said—“Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me”—he was meaning something that transcends culture, history, or time. We DON’T need prominence—but we NEED to deny ourselves. We DON’T need luxury (although nice once in a while)—but we NEED to take up the cross. We DON’T need a “following”—but we NEED to follow!
People are the same where ever we go—BUT—Jesus calls us to be different!
Marc Royer Ph.D.