Friday, September 26, 2014

Rain on Our Party

For the past year or so, our kids have been involved in Brigade.  This is an international program that originated in Chicago.  It is Christian-based, run similarly to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, with a mix of Awana in it as well.  They do service projects, small groups, Scripture memory, worship services, etc.  Our local Brigade also has a choir that competes regionally.  The choir celebrated its one-year anniversary this week.  In celebration, there was a party last night that was supposed to include multiple performances, dinner, and lots of fun.

We were invited to come to the party, although our kids are not in choir.  We all got dressed up and ready to go.  Like a typical day in Haiti - which is never quite predictable - there was no water through our purified system.  This meant that our house was the only staff housing with running water.  We quickly became the public shower house, so that everyone could get ready for the big party.  By the time our family finished showering, it looked like a storm was moving in.  We walked over to the party just as it started sprinkling.  It was quite obvious that the rain would intensify quickly.  The party, planned as an outdoor party, was quickly moving into the school building.  I wish I had brought my camera to document the evening - but I was concerned about carrying it in the rain.
Flag-bearers marching in the Brigade Parade

As we entered the school, the rain came crashing down - the noise on the metal roof was deafening.  Rain was spraying in through the windows and gates of the school, which is an open-air building.  Everyone, dressed in their finest, was getting at least a little wet.  As sound equipment was rushed into the building, the leaders began setting up again.  The rain was so loud that you literally had to talk directly into someone's ear to be heard.  This prevented anyone from being heard over the microphones even, so performances were out.

The next hurdle was how to get food for so many brought to the building without ruining it in the rain.  The leaders continued to work and accomplish whatever they could.  The youth in the choir were laughing, goofing off, and still enjoying their evening.  There was a party to be had - rain or not.

As the evening proceeded, the rooftop of the cinder-block building was filling up with water faster than the drain pipes could allow the water to run off.  The rain filled to the edges, which are raised.  Suddenly the rain started pouring over the edge into the inside of the school, but only on one side.  Everyone quickly jumped up and ran to the other side.  Once again, people scrambled to get sound equipment moved.  The floor was quickly filling with water.  Thankfully, the floor is designed with a slope so the water runs out of the building.  Still, it was a sight!  Younger children who were there to watch enjoyed it immensely!  They ran and put their heads under the "waterfall" and laughed.  A game of slip and slide began on the wet cement floors.  And as is true with any choir gathering - no matter what happens, there will be music.  Groups of people gathered and still sang fun, upbeat songs.  It was a party...nothing was stopping that!

We managed to get a drink and a plate of food to everyone, and that was the end of it.  When they finished, the rain finally let up.  Everything was too wet to use the sound system, and the rain still had to drain off the roof, so there would be no performances.

As the evening passed, I tried to imagine this scene in America.  We have our parties so well planned out, so perfectly orchestrated, that any "catastrophe" like this would be heart-breaking.  It would ruin the entire night, and leave the party-thrower humiliated and frustrated.  Yet, here in Haiti, it was still a party.  The fun continued, the joy did not depart.  There was a celebration to be had.  While leaders ran about in the pouring rain - and I mean tropical pouring rain...torrential! - there was still laughter and celebration.  It may rain our our party, but we were not letting it ruin the night!  What a comical sight we all must have been, if someone could have seen from the outside; truly, it was humorous!  Yet, the choir kids were still honored and shown appreciation for all of their work in the past year and the party was still a hit.  I think there was really only one thing that the rain changed - it made it more memorable for us.

When it rains on your party, I hope this encourages you to find the good in it and still laugh...for then it may be more memorable in a good way, instead of simply ruining the night.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Home"

We are finally back in Haiti after our trip to the States for my surgery. What a whirlwind of a trip it was. Though we were gone for 6 weeks, we had so much going on - particularly me - in the way of doctor's appointments, physical therapy, and such, that the time went quickly. We spent time quite a bit of time with family, staying with sisters and parents. There were a few occasions we would update some churches, but for the most part, we were with family. Interestingly enough, before we left, we longed so much to be with family. Then, when we were in the US, we longed to be in Haiti again. We came to realize that we were redefining what "home" means for us. Though we will always feel "at home" with our family and love and appreciate all that they do for us when we're in the US, that has ceased to actually "be home."
Sure, some people would say, you'd miss your personal space, your house, your normal routine. That definitely is true to an extent. But the reality is that the concept of home isn't revolving around a particular house or belongings - or a schedule, either. What's more is that the concept of home isn't revolving around comfort or even rest. Home for us now is completely based on where God has called us to be. Through the last few weeks, I've remembered and meditated on a message I heard at a D6 conference in Dallas some years back. David Platt spoke on the cost of discipleship and the family's role in that. At the end of Luke 9, some people are asking Jesus if they can follow him. Jesus answers that "Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." The cost of discipleship means giving up our comfort-zone and resting in His comfort. To another who wanted to go and bury his father first, Jesus tells, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." We can always make up excuses as to why we can't follow him just yet. There's always something else we think we should do. The reality is that the kingdom of God is infinitely more valuable and important than anything or anyone else - including family. This is driven home with the following disciple who asks to say goodbye to his family first. Jesus says, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." Parents would do well to raise children who are attentive to the voice of God and are willing to follow, no matter where He leads - even if it's away from "home."
With that said, this is home because God said it is. As utterly simple as that sounds, it rings true. We, as a family, have made a commitment to surrender ourselves to go wherever God wants to us to go and do whatever He wants from us. We have surrendered to His will. And in that light, home is simply the peace of knowing we're in the center of His will. One of my biggest prayers for my children (and for me) is that if they learn nothing else from my example, they learn this principle - that the Kingdom of God is infinitely more important than anything else. It's not always (dare I say, rarely) comfortable, it's not always restful, nor always fun. But it's always meaningful and fulfilling - and it always honors the One who has called us to it. And it's there in the center of His will that we're most effective for that Kingdom!
~Gami