The man, probably in his fifties, sold ice creams that he would have in an ice cooler that he carried on his head. He would walk the streets hitting the side of the cooler with a stick while calling out, “Crème Mayi.” Everyone, hearing the noise of the stick hitting the side of the cooler and the voice of the man calling out, knew that one of the hundreds of ice cream sellers throughout Haiti is passing on by.
I, a few times a week, would buy an ice cream which costs about twenty cents each, from such a seller and eventually had this man once a week come by the Heartline programs. I would have him go to the Women’s Center, Haitian Creations and the Maternity Center and give an ice cream to each of the ladies. Typically he would sell to us about 100 ice creams each week. I got to know this man as you would expect over the two years or so that he sold ice creams to us.
One day it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen him for a couple of weeks and so I asked one of our workers if he had seen him. The man responded, “Oh yeah, he got hit by a truck a couple of weeks ago and was killed.”
I felt stunned and sickened as his words penetrated my mind and heart. I, for two years, had established a relationship with this man and had purchased thousands of ice creams from him. And now he was dead, just like that.
And then it occurred to me, that although I had known him for two years, I had not known his name, as I would simply call him ‘Mr. Crème Mayi.’ I didn’t know if he was married, if he had children or where he lived. I didn’t know if he went to church or if he was a Christian. I felt ashamed!
Haiti is a country that has largely been evangelized. While the gospel must still be proclaimed, there are churches seemingly on every street corner and churches can be found in the remotest places in the country as well. So while the work of evangelism and the church goes on, much of the work of Christian missions here as well as secular organizations are in the areas of education, health care, vocational training, orphanages, feeding programs, adoptions, home building, micro loans, and helping people establish small businesses.
Therefore it is possible for there to be not much of a difference in the way that a secular organization works in Haiti and how a mission works in Haiti. I know that this is a strong statement, but I believe that the greatest danger facing missions here in Haiti is that we can become Christ less missions. This is amazingly easy when working in a country such as Haiti where people’s life needs are so often lacking, and where you work to help alleviate their suffering and to raise their standard of living.
When looking at a brochure of a mission in Haiti you will most likely find a list of their areas of involvement and often even a list of how many students they send to school or how many meals they provide or how many people they employ or how many houses they have built and so on. Please, understand that I am not saying that this is bad, I am just saying that for the believer it is easy for us to stop there. I know that from experience.
People will often ask me what our biggest challenge in Haiti is and my immediate response is that, “It is working to stay focused on Christ, and not on just meeting life needs.” Can we do both, of course, and many do. But it’s easy to lose focus and to concentrate on the temporal needs and let it stop there. It is easier than you can imagine and often simpler and can it ever look good on paper.
For the believer: Heath care, building homes, providing jobs, education, orphan care, adoptions, well drilling, feeding programs, and whatever else MUST BE IN THE MESSAGE AND NOT THE MESSAGE.
I, for over two years, bought thousands of ice creams from the ice cream man. I treated him with respect and helped him, but I never knew his name, or if he was married and if he had children and I never, not once, took time to share the message of The GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY
For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Perhaps, there are people in your life that you see on occasion, perhaps often, some even daily. It could be your auto mechanic, or your hairdresser; it could be the person who takes your coffee order at the coffee shop, maybe a fellow employee or a neighbor. It could be a number of people. You treat them well, perhaps help them when needed, but you have never, not once shared with them the GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY.
Christians should be involved in health care, and in education, and in feeding programs and in working to abolish trafficking, and should be known for and by their good deeds. But in all this, let not these things be the message; but rather, be in the message
The believer has a message to be shared in word and shown in deed. Share it, show it, be it.