Thursday, June 07, 2012

Outstation Adventure: Experiencing God on the Journey

We set out on an adventure with our three girls, two Haitianfriends, two backpacks filled with snacks and as many water bottles as we couldcarry.

We jumped into our pick-up truck and bumped along the roadto St. Raphael, one of the nearby cities where our ministry supports a largechurch led by Pastor Louis. The girls squealed with delight as we hit the bigbumps and were lifted off our seats. We rolled through deep mud that splashed onthe truck’s mirrors and windshield. The girls’ voices rang out singing alongwith the CD player – “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “A Little Walk with JesusMakes it Right.” The baby dozed in the back seat, bumps and music lulling herto sleep. Call it a developing world lullaby.

Our destination: Haute Garde outstation.

Throughout the week, leaders from the church travel tolittle “outstations” in the surrounding mountainside for mid-week servicesalmost like Life groups or house churches. These small groups of believers meetto sing, memorize scripture, share prayer requests and hear a short sermon fromthe leader or “laypreacher.”

Many of these outstations are in remote areas – some two tothree hours walk from the actual church building. Some meet in schools. Othersmeet in open air with small coverings made of woven palm branches for shade. Othergroups have small outstation buildings made of cement blocks with tin roofs.

Ericlee had the chance to go to many of the outstations lastsummer but since I was pregnant and the girls were even younger we often stayedback at the mission house. This year, we all wanted to be part of theadventure. We wanted to go to some of the places and meet some of the peopleGrandma and Grandpa Bell first met when they were pioneer missionaries back inthe 1950s.

Ericlee parked the truck under the shade of some mango treesand signaled that it was time for the real adventure to begin. We downed tunasandwiches, smeared sunscreen on our exposed skin and hoisted the kids intocarriers. Ericlee carried Giada in a hiking backpack and I had Zayla in a frontbaby carrier. Our brave 6-year-old Meilani said she was willing to walk.

Our friends Walquis and Wilcion gazed up the rocky mountainpath and looked at us as if to say, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

I didn’t really know what the day had in store but it wasanother day to say YES to God.

The first part of the hike was steep. Lots of rocks andswitch backs. But this didn’t hold us back. Our spirits soared as we hunteddown God’s handiwork in nature.

Meilani spotted butterflies with fiery orange wings. Shepicked a few violet blooms for all the girls to tuck behind our ears. Wilcionpointed out breadfruit trees. Daddy discovered the most curious species ofbeetle that was actually taking donkey poop from the path, rolling it intolittle balls and moving it to their base. Oh, the wondrous circle of life!

The sun beat down on us and the humidity swirled but we werestill hopeful.

We fantasized about why God might be having us climb to thissummit. Was there a large group of people at the top just waiting for ourencouragement? Would someone have a grand story to tell about Grandma and GrandpaBell exploring these parts? Were we to meet someone along the path that was indire need of help? Maybe someone who needed to hear about Jesus?

The minutes on Ericlee’s watch ticked by. He knew theservice was supposed to be starting but we had no idea how close or far we werefrom the outstation. We had no fancy GPS to guide us. Walquis talked to peoplealong the way, asking them if we were on the right path. 

I started thanking God for all those Crossfit boot campclasses and Go Mama workouts I had endured in the past six months. I had noidea those workouts would be training for a day like today when I was carryingmy daughter and water up a mountain in Haiti – some 20 extra pounds.

Sure, our girls whined a little. They begged for moresnacks. Giada wanted out and then back in and then out again of Daddy’sbackpack carrier. She longed to run alongside her sister but the combination ofsteep rocks, humidity and sun was sometimes too much for her 3-year-old body.

One foot in front of the other, I told myself. I distractedmyself remembering the myriad of hikes Ericlee and I have conquered together. Weforged our early relationship climbing Half Dome and Yosemite Falls inCalifornia. We’ve traversed some of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. We’veexplored trails in Tennessee. We’ve canoed and then hiked to waterfalls inKauai and Maui.

I still remember my first backpacking trip with Ericlee andour friends Doug and Brenda to Sylvia Lake in the Sierras. I had neverexperienced hiking with a heavy pack, including clothes, food, tent, etc.  On that trip, we had to cross streams of coldwater and cook over a tiny camp burner. We had to bundle up our food in a bearcan.

This trip felt different.

As we got further up we began to see little houses tuckedback into the trees. They were huts made of stones and mud. Some with rusty tinroofs. Cactus fences lined the path we hiked indicating property lines,protecting gardens of beans and other crops.

Of course, it wasn’t just the terrain that made this tripdifferent. The whole trek I felt acutely aware that God was teaching ussomething.

When we finally made it to the top of the mountain, we founda woman carrying her little half-naked son who said she was willing to take usto the outstation. We walked a half mile more and met up with another man, thelocal magistrate or governor of the area. He told us we were very close to theout station. He pointed out a group of kids in uniforms walking our way. Itturned out they attended a school at the out station where we were headed.

We also discovered the outstation met on Friday, notTuesday. Our hearts dropped.

In my gut, I knew it was never really about the summitanyway.

Suddenly we were surrounded by about 50 Haitian kids inuniforms. A generous breeze welcomed us. We could see beautiful green hills andrich fields planted with beans and avocado trees. We had a view of the wholevalley. Way off in the distance, Ericlee could even see the roof of the St.Raphael church with cross pointing toward heaven.

Ericlee got out his teaching voice and decided to share alittle Bible story. He shared about Lazarus and Martha, how Jesus waited twodays to go to Lazarus. He could have healed him when he was sick but he waited.Lazarus was already dead in the grave. Martha was disappointed with her Savior.Why had he not come sooner?

But it was all about His glory story. He wanted to buildMartha’s faith and show glory in a true miracle. He wanted her to experienceGod.

The Haitian kids were quiet. Very quiet.

We had no amazing altar call. We took a few pictures and wecontinued on our way. Thunder threatened in the back drop. We knew it was timeto descend the mountain.

As we headed down the mountain, we were tired. The weight ofcarrying the kids set in. Our water and snack supply was running low. It all feltquite anti-climactic.

We did meet many more people on the downhill. Walquis and Ichatted with a few in Kreyol. Most of them were women climbing the mountainwith huge loads. They were bringing baskets of onions and tomatoes and rice tothe market. The market on top of the hill.

Some of them knew us. They had heard us speak at the St.Raphael church the previous Sunday. They knew Ericlee’s mom, Christene. Somejust had to get their hands on our cute little white Zayla. How they giggled!

We learned most of them hike this path every day. Many ofthem walk barefoot. Walquis and Wilcion, city boys compared to these ladies,were floored.

We were humbled.

At dinner that evening, after 7 hours of traveling by footand truck, we uncovered the lesson. We started listing all the highlights ofour journey: Meilani pointed out that God had left us little gifts of beautifulflowers along the path. Ericlee noted that God had held off the rain for us. I recaledthe amazing women we met carrying all their goods – such a great example ofperseverance in all things.

Giada couldn’t help but sing at the top of her lungs – a made-upsong about her day full of adventure.

One of our goals in taking our three girls to Haiti is toteach them that living the Christian life is all about adventure. Too often wesee that Christians are people choked by rules and caught up into moralismrather than deep understanding that Jesus died to cover us with His grace. Wewant our kids to experience the excitement that comes when you have sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seatfaith. We want God to be real to them in the small things and the big moments.

We may never really know why God had us climb that mountain.There may have been a greater purpose. But I know it was worth the journey –trusting Him in all circumstances, experiencing Him in the everyday,remembering that each step up is living the adventure.

No comments: