Saturday, December 29, 2012


"I heard you were on your way out," a friend said to me when we happened to pass on the road.

"Out of this world, or out of this country?" I joked.

"Both, from the sound of it," he replied. "I heard you were on your deathbed."

"Oh, no, not my deathbed," I said. "I had a fever and got malaria, that's all."

He gave me a meaningful look. "Just be careful. When you jump into a cesspool, it doesn't get clean just because you're in there."

Cesspool, I thought. No offense to Haiti, but in some ways that's quite an apt description.

I thought about the massive dysfunction in just about every category. Massive illness. Massive corruption and  fraud. Massive lawlessness and crime. Massive inefficiency. Massive destruction. Massive obstacles to progress and improvement.

Then I thought about jumping into a cesspool. Getting covered all over with the muck and the stench. Getting contaminated with everything. Being unable to escape it or wipe it off. In one sense, that's kind of how it felt to go to Haiti. I couldn't help getting sick. I was surrounded with constant danger. I had to work so hard to prevent good supplies from getting ruined. Uncleanness was all around me. I had to deal with bugs, heat, unsafe food and water, and frustrations of many kinds.

All this went through my mind in a flash, but without missing a beat, I replied with an exuberant smile.

"Good thing I've got somebody bigger than me going down there with me," I said, gesturing with my thumb towards the sky.

"Oh? Who's that?" he asked with surprise.

"God!" I exclaimed. "He's bigger than the cesspool. He's the one who's cleaning it up, not me!"

He nodded as he digested this perspective and went on down the road. I walked on with an extra lilt in my step and a little smile playing around the corner of my lips.

If I had to think of going down to Haiti by myself, it would be like jumping into a cesspool only to get covered with filth, smothered by the cloying oppressiveness, and deactivated by the sickness and harm that came against me. What a hopeless waste of my life. I might as well protect myself and stay here.

But I'm not going by myself. God looks down at the cesspool and says to Himself, "I want to clean that up." He looks around for a willing servant and says, "Will you trust me? I'm going to send you down there. You're going to get covered in filth. It's going to stink. But I have a great plan, and all you have to do is be obedient. I will protect you wherever you go. Nothing will be able to happen to you without my permission. You get to participate in this great, exciting work that I am doing. Will you go?"

Me at the creche in the last photo taken before I got sick

I answer with an eager and instant, "YES!"

Because cesspool or no, malaria or no, I love being a part of what God is doing in Haiti.

In Haiti, I have experienced the highest heights of faith and the most intense surges of joy that I have ever known. I have the most interesting and fulfilling work I have ever done. I have the best coworkers a person could ask for. I am surrounded by a climate of faith and fervent love for God, a contagious willingness to be poured out on behalf of the weak and vulnerable. I wouldn't trade this for anything--not even being out of the cesspool. God--GOD is with me--the Living God--and that more than makes up for any bits of sticky muck that may stick to my clothes (or my liver, or my lungs, or whatever) because I went there.

Cesspool: 0  God: 1

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