13 November 2010

Lovely in Limbs, and Lovely in Eyes Not His

David's sister, Marybeth, came and spent a week with us over David's birthday. I asked her if she'd be willing to do a "guest" blog for us, and she hesitantly agreed. And then she sent me this wonderful bit of prose that I know you'll enjoy...so enjoy. 


I am sometimes insanely jealous of my brother.  I mean, he gets to be a bush pilot.  In Haiti.  Speaking a new language and flying people and supplies in a single-engine plane to airstrips with annotations at the hangar like “Watch for goats in the tall grass along the runway.”  I tell people what he does and they’re always impressed and get all animated and ask a million questions.  My nephews believe they have the coolest uncle ever.

What he does is so adventurous.  So exciting.  So meaningful.

I’ve been on several short-term trips of various kinds to various developing countries, and they’re often flavored with a bit of that adventure.  There you are, traveling around with a group of people, where everything is new and remarkable, with this heady atmosphere that you are going to save the world and see God do spectacular things.  Even the “inconveniences” are exotic and make good stories when you get home.  And in all of it, there’s this slightly manic drive to learn and serve and accomplish as much as possible in a very short amount of time.

Judging by the flocks of matching t-shirts I saw in the airport terminals en route, I assume that that’s how most of my fellow travelers experienced Haiti.

For me, though, this time, things were a bit different.  I didn’t visit Haiti to build schools or distribute medical supplies or show the Jesus film or feed orphans.  I went to visit my brother, because I miss him.  I went to hang out.

And that’s what I did.  I got to briefly join the lives of David and Christine and their fellow MAFers—missionary pilots extrordinaire—and experience Haiti at the pace of people who are there all the time.  People ask me what I did during my visit, and I have to sort of laugh; I’m not quite sure how to answer that.  I mean, a few things stand out: flying with David on one of his trips to Pignon, visiting Christine’s English class, driving up into the mountains to look for Fort Jacques (which we never found, but hey, the scenery was beautiful).   

But mostly, I just did what they did.  And mostly, that was pretty normal stuff.

We grocery shopped.  We did dishes.  Christine and I helped (a little) David install a ceiling fan.  We did laundry.  We read books and compared our favorite MythBusters episodes and watched Back to the Future.  We ate homemade cake and ice cream to celebrate David’s birthday.  We talked.  We sat companionably not talking.

We hung out.

Yes, for me, there were plenty of sights and smells and sounds which were unfamiliar and beautiful and interesting.  But it didn’t have the same somewhat-glamorous quality other trips have had, because I was just visiting my brother in his new normal life. 

Correct, this Haiti-normal is not always like U.S.-normal (although the household pests and crazy drivers were disconcertingly similar to Baltimore).   But when you deal with something everyday—be it fitful electricity or ridiculously good weather—you adjust, hey?  The novelty, good or bad, eventually wears off, and it becomes your new ordinary.

And it’s in all that strange ordinariness that I saw God in Haiti.

You see, David and Christine would say—have told me—that they don’t consider their call to Haiti to be any more “special” than any of our callings anywhere else.   They’re just obeying.  Their obedience happens to have taken them to do crazy, exotic things in a foreign country.  And we all prayed and watched that big, obvious step of obedience when they chose to pack up and move.

…but now they’ve done that part.  They’ve moved.  They’re there.

It’s in all the obeying that they keep doing that I saw God working.  It’s in all those now-mundane details of their lives, which we back in the States don’t really see—when things are wearisome or inconvenient or just routine—that God is doing amazing things and drawing people to Himself. 

There’s this poem* I love which includes the lines:

Christ—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father, through the features of men’s faces.

I found it running through my head over and over again during my visit.  There’s Christ, lovely in the limbs and eyes of David loading that airplane with cargo and debriefing his passengers.  There’s Christ, lovely in the limbs and eyes of Christine as she teaches her English class with love and enthusiasm.  Lovely in the limbs and eyes of that Haitian pastor teaching his congregation on Sunday morning.  In that guy, driving people across town to the hospital in the middle of the night. In that American, learning and speaking Kreyol even though language-learning is really hard for her.  In that family, hosting a staff meeting at their home.  In that friendly exchange with the woman selling plantains on the corner.   In that guy doing paperwork at the hangar.  In sharing meals and in raising kids and in encouraging words and last-minute babysitting and simple generosity.
I realize I haven’t really addressed what most people have asked me about since I’ve been back: What things are like in Haiti since the earthquake.  Whether things are sad.  I mean, sure, Haiti counts on the interesting-places-to-live list, but it’s not known for being particularly nice.  What about the poverty, the devastation, the disease?  The violence?  The spiritual darkness?

Indeed, Haiti is a country whose needs are many and—especially since January—well-publicized.  And yes, some of the things I saw there were frustratingly, helplessly sad.  Tent cities and collapsed buildings and a ravaged ecosystem.  Mothers cradling hungry children.  Faith misplaced in powerless gods.

Haiti is broken and suffering in many ways.  It needs Jesus desperately.

…But this whole fallen, groaning world of ours is broken and suffering.  And it all needs Jesus desperately.

I say this not to minimize the very real struggle for survival faced daily by millions of Haitians, but rather to encourage us to remember that just as Haiti is no more broken than anywhere else, it is also no less redeemed by the work of Christ.  It is no less beyond repair.  He is no less present. 

So take heart friends, and continue to pray for Haiti.  God is in His people there, and He is being glorified greatly through their ordinary lives, every day.

…May it be so in our own lives as well, wherever we are.


* As kingfishers catch fire, Gerard Manley Hopkins


  1. Marybeth, it was oddly inspiring reading this entry from your trip to Haiti. I was so glad that you saw God's redeeming work in Haiti and that Haiti is no more broken spiritually than other parts of the world, including our back yards. We will continue to pray for Haiti, and that God will continue to glorify himself through ordinary people like Dave and Christine who are being obedient to Christ. I am also motivated to pray for those of us who are not in Haiti to glorify God through our ordinary lives as we are obedient to what God call us to do and be. Thanks for this very thoughtful commentary on you visit to see your brother. -- John Cherry

  2. Marybeth, we were very moved by your commentary on Haiti and its people. Bless David and Christine for their obedience to Christ, there presence there will surely make a difference in Haitians lives.
    Grandpa & Grandma