During our lunch break from school today, I was talking to one of my students. It turns out he was born and raised in Citè Soleil, and I took the opportunity to ask him about it.
"Are there any white people living in Citè Soleil?" I asked.
"Yes," he said. "I know one or two."
"Are there any white women?" I said.
"Yes," he said. "Not very many, though."
"I want to go there," I said. "What would happen to me if I went there?"
"Well, people would see you, they would know you were an American, and they might even kill you," he said.
I knew he wasn't kidding. He had told me earlier of how when he was 9 or 10 years old, he saw a man murdered in front of his eyes, hacked to death with a machete, and then taken away in a big bag.
"Were you ever in danger?" I asked. "Did anyone ever try to hurt you?"
"Well, yes," he said. "Many times people say to me, 'I have to kill you.' I don't know why they want to kill me. One day I was walking in the street with my friend, and a guy saw me, and he said he wanted to kill me. He shot at me, but the bullet hit my friend in the thigh. I escaped without getting hurt. He didn't see me when I ran away."
We talked about why I want to go there. He initially took my statement to mean I wanted to visit.
"No, I want to live there," I said. "I want to bring the Gospel in there."
"Oh, there's a lot of Christian people in there," he said. "And a lot of churches. It seems like there's more churches than houses."
"What?" I thought. "That's crazy."
"What kind of churches?" I asked.
"Oh, all different kinds," he said.
"Are they preaching the gospel?" I asked.
"Yes, they preach the gospel," he said.
"Are they preaching the true gospel?" I pressed. (We had had this conversation on an earlier occasion. Jesus powerfully saved this guy and he truly walks with the Lord. He is passionate about the gospel and shares it every time he gets a chance.)
"Well, probably not," he said.
"How many Christians do you think there are in there?" I said.
"I don't know...there's a lot of people in Citè Soleil," he said. "I have no idea."
"Well... would you say half the people are Christians?" I said.
"No, there's more non-Christians than Christians," he said.
That was as far as I got regarding proportions.
But it gave me a lot to think about.
"Christianity" is already in Citè Soleil. It's not a place where the gospel has never made an inroad.
How can the darkest place on earth also have "more churches than houses"?
Christianity is supposed to change people. Faith without works is dead. God's righteousness and holiness are supposed to make a difference in the Christian's life. The fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control) are supposed to flow forth from the life of the Christian.
What kind of Christianity is it that leaves a person exactly as they were?
The same kind of Christianity that is abundant in my hometown--the kind that says, "Pray this prayer and you're saved forever. Get your fire insurance policy, your get-out-of-jail-free card. It's ok if you don't behave any differently after you get saved. We all know that nobody's perfect. I'm not, and you won't be either."
It's the kind of Christianity that strips the gospel of its life-giving power and gives technically-correct Biblical teachings devoid of the power to carry them out.
It's the kind of Christianity that I was trapped in for years, miserable that I was disobeying God, but absolutely powerless to be any different, and loaded with such a long-term track record of failure that I had not the least hope of getting any better, even little by little, even in tiny advances.
It's the kind of Christianity that has forgotten the meaning of grace and reduced the power of the resurrection to an "after-you're-in-heaven" concept.
You know, it's one thing when that kind of Christianity exists in the relatively moral communities in the Bible Belt. It's possible, then, for it to hide under a facade of being "nice." It's easy to overlook the lack of fruit under the banner of "Well, they're trying their best."
But look at that kind of Christianity, taken to the extreme.
Plant that kind of Christianity in Citè Soleil, the most dangerous place on earth, and see what happens.
The most dangerous place on earth continues to be the most dangerous place on earth. People do drugs and operate in gangs. They get shot, raped, kidnapped, and hacked with machetes in front of little children. They subsist in unbelievable poverty, eating "dirt cookies."
What kind of Christianity is that?
What is the use of anyone believing in that?
That kind of Christianity does not deserve to bear the name of Christ and thus sully the real Christianity. I utterly reject and distance myself from that Christianity. The truth is, the gospel is powerful, and it changes people's lives. The Spirit of God is alive and indwells the believer. The power of God to carry out His will is available to every Christian.
Plant proper Christianity in Citè Soleil, and the most dangerous place on earth could very well become the brightest, likeliest spot on the planet for talent, leadership, and fruitfulness. Even a small minority of Christians "turned the world upside down" in the pagan Roman Empire, and the flame of their world-changing zeal has spread until this day.
So even though there may be more churches than houses in Citè Soleil, the gospel--the life-changing, powerful, glorious gospel--still needs to be spread throughout that dark place.