I Didn’t Even Know His Name

Posted: April 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

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.

  1. Becky says:

    Thank you for this reminder. I’m sharing this on FB. I know I’m not the only one that needs to read this. We are called, by our Savior, to bring the good news to the ends of the earth. It’s easy to forget that in the day to day mundane. While I was moderately embarassed to stand on the corner with signs asking voters to pass our school levy, I did it. I don’t know the last time I was willing to proclaim the name of Jesus as the reason for the smile on my face and THAT is way more important than any school levy.

  2. johnmchoul says:

    This may be hard to believe, or maybe not. Even though I wrote this little blog I still can find myself stopping short and thinking that it is about one’s life needs, and being smug about what we do to help people, and not looking beyond to one’s eternal need.

    • Val says:

      Have you read Crazy Love by Francis Chan? That point is well-addressed…which is spooky because I just finished re-reading those chapters on audiobook from the library. A former pastor once remarked that he believes that so oftem people are willing to settle for what is good and thereby miss out on what is best.

      If I put that in a children’s sermon, it would be like this…

      Look! I have money! I have lots of money. See? I have a great big jar of pennies. And guess what? I would like to give you some of my pennies — as many pennies as your hands can hold.

      (everybody gets pennies)

      Now…look! I have more money. Now, this is a $5 bill, but wait, your hands are full of pennies.

      A discussion would ensue at that point, but the bottom line would be that my conditions for the $5 would be giving up the pennies taking the $5 with your oen hands.

      If a person is thinking temporally and not eternally, it’s about the pennies — your pennies, the pennies you want to keep for yourself (though you might throw a few at God or at other people occasionally).

      Except that the pennies were a gift too.

      Don’t settle for life’s pennies, eternity is way better.

      • johnmchoul says:

        I have read it and thank you for the little teaching. It is amazing or perhaps not how I find myself holding onto that which doesn’t count for eternity. Yikes!

      • Val says:

        We all do it, but what I have found at several points in my life is that whatever it is I’m not willing to give up, God will take. C.S. Lewis wrote about this in the most chilling chapter of The Great Divorce — she idolized her son in life, and threw away her relationships with everyone else to continue to idolize this son after he died. When she gets to that weird transitional place that offers a chance at heaven, she is met by her brother. She is still wholly focused on the son. The brother outlines the problem — she needs to give up that idol and love God before she will be allowed to stay…and yes, that beloved son is also here. In The Imitation of Christ Thomas à Kempis systematically attacks all of the various things of this world people get hung up on (if you’ve not read it, it’s one of the greatest devotional works ever written). The bottom line is thzt nothing you can get stuck on in this world — however bright and shiny it may be — can compare in any way with the glory of eternity.

        But it’s like the marshmallows — you’ve heard about the marshmallows?

        Some sociologists or psychologists some years ago did experiments with little kids — about four or five — thzt here was a marshmallow. They could either eat the marshmallow, or they could wait and when the individual conducting the experiment came back, if they didn’t eat the marshmallow they could have two marshmallows. There is video of all this, it’s quite hilarious to watch.

        Eternity is two marshmallows.

  3. Val says:

    Reblogged this on St. Val the Eccentric and commented:
    This is huge, convicting, well-written, and you need to read it. Something to think about.

    • johnmchoul says:

      I feel convicted to life every time I read it; and am looking to God for better sight to see when I stop short of what God wants.

      • Val says:

        You stop short when you don’t make it personal and love the people God loves the way God loves them. We are all God’s creatures, made in his image, created to reflect the love of our Creator God in unique and special ways that no one else in the history of creation could. There is no pneumatic tube to heaven *saved* SHHLLLUURRRRPPP!, if you are among the saints and walking around in this world, you are here to work and you have a unique-to-you job to do. We are called to love people the way God loves them — the way God loves us — relationally. Mother Teresa believed that the worst form of spiritual poverty was loneliness. Our Great God who made everything stepped down into time and space and the broken mess that is our world to walk among us as one of us, and then was tortured and executed to atone for our sins, he was buried…but that was not the last word because he was resurrected to defeat death and ascended…and he’s coming back with glory and power! There is no “maybe” about this, he’s coming, and at that point everything will be set right. Now, in the meantime we have the amazing grace of the Holy Spirit to be with us, to help us, to guide us, to sanctify us to be more and more like Christ. Why? Not because we are good or deserve it or are special, but because this Great God called us out as his people and we responded to that call.

        The most basic creed in the history of Christianity is that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” But what “Lordship” requires is that we cede control over our own lives to the governance and providence of God. What we give up in this exchange is pennies, but what we receive in exchange — albeit eternal — is priceless.

        I’m Presbyterian, so part of the Reformed tradition — Camp Calvin. The Reformed perspective is that we are to live our lives in a gratitude response to what we have been given. We can never repay God for the grace and mercy that is ours through Christ, but what we can offer is our obedience and love.

        Do you fear hell or desire heaven?

        If we live a life of bare minimum quals., we will live a minimal life. But even if we — technically — meet all the apparent minimum quals., if we don’t desire God, none of it matters. If, on the other hand, we desire God on a level to really comprehend “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (“gain” because we will have more Christ), then even if we do a less proficient job at service, because our heart was truly where it was supposed to be it counts more than someone who was Type-A about doing all the right stuff.

        So, when you meet people, do you consider them relationally, or is it more of a business arrangement? Do you love them, or simply not hate them? Do you love them as God loves them? The people who are your day-to-day people, do you pray for them? Do you know them well enough to know how to pray for them? Are you generous enough with your time to be willing to scrap your appointment calendar to keep a divine appointment?

        All I can say is that a powerful and dangerous prayer to pray every day is to ask God for someone to bless in love each day…and then be willing to respond when he does.

        Being convicted is a start, but it will get you nowherevwithout a response. If Jesus is Lord, when your Lord requires something of you — time, action, resources — do not stop to ask why or what it will cost. If Jesus is Lord, just respond.

        I promise your life will be richer for it in ways you didn’t even know was possible. Helping people to know Christ starts by example, but one does not need to be some kind of *SUPER EVANGELIST!!!* to do it. God is on the throne, his providence is amazing — he’s the one doing most of the work to send us folks to help. Can you make a friend? That’s really what’s at stake when it comes to loving others the way he loves us.

        Given that we have been adopted into his family as sons and daughters of God and co-heirs with Christ? The gratitude response of loving one another as he loved us, and living to serve him? Not too much to ask compared to the love, grace, and mercy given to us.

        Do you own your citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven as a child of God? You should…and it’s the kind of thing that (though sometimes hard) brings joy to shout from the rooftops. There is nothing else in the universe like this love. Sharing this love is messy and requires us to “get involved,” in the lives of others…but their eternity is at stake. If we keep this gift for ourselves and do not share it? The implicit message is: “Go to hell.”

        It’s hard, it’s messy, you may lose good things in the process, but in the scope of eternity and in perspective of God’s love for us? It’s worth it.

        Let go the pennies…

  4. Josh and Jessie says:

    Thanks John! This was convicting!

  5. Allan & Suzan Hicks' Blog says:

    Reblogged this on HicksHappenings and commented:
    The below blog is written by the founder of Heartline Ministries, an organization we are looking and praying about joining in Haiti. He makes a foundational point: our actions should never be the message but rather a part of the Message. Please take a moment to read it over and let us know your thoughts. Blessings.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Thank you, John. A reality check at the most appropriate time. I’m so sorry for this gentleman.

  7. Jessica F says:

    Was this the same man who started coming to the field hospital? If you weren’t around, he’d often wait around until I surfaced because he knew I couldn’t resist ice cream on a hot Haiti afternoon … I’d forgotten about his regular visits.

    John, thank you for the reminder to take the time to share Christ with those whom we cross paths with daily. It is so easy to forget such things as we get caught up in our own worlds.

  8. Kathy says:

    We do forget. And it’s sad. I hope this stays with us and makes a difference so it’s not in vain.

  9. Laura Corbett says:

    Amen. Amen. Being at Jesus’ feet…..

  10. Stephanie says:

    I appreciated this post today. We serve as missionaries in Chile and there are people in our life like the “ice cream man.” Who’s at the door? Oh, it’s the beggar “grandpa” (who always asks for food for what seems to be an imaginary granddaughter) … or, it’s the “palm tree guy” (who trims them for a few bucks) … people we talk to superficially and even help superficially, but do we take the time to share Christ? Thank you for the timely and convicting reminder.

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