Imagine with me a Sunday morning, you arrive to get your 5 boys for church and one of them almost always has an excuse as to why they cannot be ready for church today: “I don’t have a belt”, “My clothes aren’t clean”, “I always have to wear the same thing”, “My shoes aren’t good enough”, “I didn’t sleep last night”. . .you get the idea, maybe you even feel the pain?
It doesn’t take us long to wise up and begin asking BEFORE Sunday morning, “Do you have everything together and ready that you need for church tomorrow? Please tell me you are ready”.
So it was one Saturday evening in Haiti. Matt and I had obtained possession of the rental house, no electricity in place and the boys not living with us until we return from our daughter’s wedding. The boys were joining us for evening meals and activities, though, and this particular Saturday evening it was getting near dark (remember – we have no electricity without generator power). As we sat around the dimly lit dinner table I pose the dreaded question, “Everybody has their clothes all ready for church tomorrow, right?” You could have heard a pin drop.
One of the boys answers, “No, Tricia, I don’t have any clothes to get ready”. I wish my response had been slower, definitely more compassionate, but in my defense we have heard this excuse A BAZILLION TIMES. I reply, “Come on, I know we bought everyone new dress clothes for Casimir’s wedding, you can wear what you have, right?” His reply, “No, I can’t, I don’t have anything”. As I glance around the shadowy room only one set of eyes meet mine and in them I see compassion and pleading for understanding from his brother from another mother.
“Tricia, listen,” OK, you have my attention now but this better be good. “We were sitting outside on the steps at the Accolade Center and a guy walked up. He saw our sign, ‘Accolade For Saving Lives’ and he asked if maybe we could help him.” OK, go on. “Yeah, he was just getting out of jail – he was there for 8 years. He wanted to visit his family but he needed clothes. Those clothes were the only clothes we had that would fit him. They were the only clothes I had, and I gave them to him.”
Now you could hear a feather drop. Uhhh….OK, ummm, wow. Looking around the table I now saw all 5 sets of eyes in direct contact with mine to validate the story. I couldn’t even muster up a “why didn’t you tell me sooner so we could get organized?” response. Are you kidding? It was all I could do to not turn into a blubbering mess.
A teenage boy with almost nothing, literally one uniform for school, one set of dress clothes, one pair of dress shoes, broken sandals and a pair of jeans. Are you tempted to groan when you open the closet? Tired of the options that you have? HE GAVE AWAY THE ONLY THING HE HAD.
We paused briefly to process this reality. A man with a newfound freedom, a young man (once homeless and doing whatever he had to survive) demonstrating compassion by not only giving this man his clothes, but GLADLY giving this stranger the only clothes he had for church.
Immediately I realize he did what Jesus would have asked him to do. He says in Matthew 25:40, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”. My next thought is WHY ?This young man IS inherently compassionate to the core, but he has also been living under the influence of Patchouko, Director of Accolade for Saving Lives, for 3 1/2 years. He has watched this man sacrifice what he has to create a life for not only these 5 boys, but in total 20 families (plus their extended families) who had very little to no hope before joining hands in this thing we call life. Patchouko would say he is simply answering a call on his heart, a knock that only got louder as time went on. Yes, that is true, but it is not easy. Here we see the fruits of that labor paying back.
Where was Patchouko when this took place? He was with his family, he was nowhere near this exchange. DON’T MISS THIS FACT – love played out WHEN NO ONE WAS WATCHING. Nobody was there to give credit, to keep score. Our son did what he knew he should do, and in retelling the story he told me he knew that Patchouko would want him to do it, even if it meant he didn’t have clothes for church himself.
We rummaged through some clothing we had packed into our shipment items. Late at night, by the light of a dim, loosely hanging treble light, this young man and I altered a pair of jeans and a nice t-shirt so that he could go to church with us early the next morning. In Haiti jeans and a nice t-shirt are not church attire, he would be expected to wear dress pants and an ironed, button down shirt. He knows this; I know this; we do not speak it aloud. He is prepared to go to church with our family, as a family, and we will all know the glory of why he is wearing jeans and a nice t-shirt!
Are you wondering how Patchouko, our leader, responded to the re-telling of this event? Oh, I wish I could share the expression of love, pride and compassion all wrapped up in his eyes as he lightly shrugged his shoulders and lifted his hand, palms up and he gave me a crooked grin. “He did what he should do, right?”
Yes, Patchouko, he did what he should do because you have faithfully modeled to him a life of service and sacrifice that not only directs people to Jesus but walks with them down the path that leads to Jesus. Shared pain, hard work, personal sacrifice and abundant joy.
Let us not set out to be perfect, for perfect we will never be. Let us set out each day to get dirty together, to allow ourselves to feel the pain around us and to speak into the lives of those who hurt more than we do, who hunger more than we do, and who need the hope that we know in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Share the joy, friends – live out loud!