A girl in the school in Jeantilhome works on a math problem on the chalk board. (Photo by Miguel Rubén Guante)
The power of One
By Gary Fallesen
“'Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,' says the Lord.” — Haggai 1:8 (NIV)
We would wait each day for God to deliver. Not knowing from one day to the next where supplies would come from, let alone if they would arrive. But daily our prayers were answered and the materials needed to build the church in Jeantilhome were brought from both up and down the mountain.
The beams that now hold the roof over a building that is a church and has become a school and will become a medical facility were trees from higher up the slopes of Pic la Selle, the 8,793-foot mountain looming above this remote village in the southeast corner of Haiti.
Yes, God takes pleasure and is honored. This alone is reason enough for us to be serving in Haiti.
But I will confess that there were times — in my human weakness — before my second trip to Haiti in April 2006 when I wondered, “Why?” and “What for?”
Why go to that seemingly God-forsaken place? What could I accomplish there? What difference could I make?
The answer is found in Scripture. Alone, I could do nothing. At least nothing truly meaningful. But through Him all things are possible.
“I am the vine; you are the branches,” it says in John 15:5. “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
It was the simple words of a man of God, offered over a cup of coffee, that put my mind at ease and stirred my heart to again go. And, if need be, go again. And keep going until the Lord tells me my work there is done.
“Imagine what could happen if one of the children in that village goes to the school that you'll be making possible in the church you are building?” Pastor Roger Kimmel told me. “One child could come out of that village and make a difference in that country.”
One child could come out of Jeantilhome and make a difference not only for Haiti, a land of voo-doo and suffering and despair, but also for the Kingdom of God.
That is why He directed us to that mountain village while climbing Pic la Selle on our original mission in June 2005. That is why He instructed us to provide what was needed to build a church last spring. That is why He provided what was necessary to make a school possible this fall.
Now, there are 140 school children in a place that knew nothing about education. Soon, it is our prayer, there will be medical attention offered to a people who need to walk 30 kilometers over two mountains to get to the nearest health care. One day, it is our prayer, they will drink clean water and sanitation will be properly disposed.
In his book about Dr. Paul Farmer's work in Haiti, Mountains Beyond Mountains, author Tracy Kidder writes: “One peasant woman explained, 'A lot of us wondered what would have happened if we had known how to write. If we had known how to write, perhaps we wouldn't be in this situation now.' And a school could serve as a place for teaching lessons about health and for providing free meals to malnourished children without injuring their dignity. To build a school was to unite the practical and the moral. Farmer would say, 'Clean water and health care and school and food and tin roofs and cement floors, all of these things should constitute a set of basics that people must have as birthrights.'”
There is nothing fair in this world. Sin has seen to that. The enemy celebrates each child lost in the mountains of developing countries, uneducated, left to grow up in hopelessness.
“How could a just God permit great misery?” Kidder ponders in Mountains Beyond Mountains. “The Haitian peasants answered with a proverb: 'Bondye konn bay, men li pa konn separe,' in literal translation, 'God gives but doesn't share.' This meant, as (Dr. Paul) Farmer would later explain it, 'God gives us humans everything we need to flourish, but He's not the One who's supposed to divvy up the loot. That charge was laid upon us.'”
This is admittedly liberation theology. Whether right or wrong, there is accuracy in the call for us to “divvy up the loot,” as Farmer has said.
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” it is written in 1 John 3:17-18. “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
In Haiti, our mission is clear. Helping the people of Jeantilhome has been laid upon us. That's why we will go back — again, and probably again and again. Gifts given to us by those who have received from Him make this possible.
But there are other places He is leading us, too. In February, a team of at least 10 climbers will go to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro, but more importantly to learn about the guides and porters, their families, and the villages they live in around that majestic African peak.
In the months after that, we will go to Indonesia and Papua, to Native American reservations in the United States, to Peru. Evangelic Expeditions are forming for 2007 and beyond.
Why? What for?
Primarily to give God pleasure and to honor Him in our service to those we meet who are in great physical and spiritual need. One person can make a difference in another person's life. But only if we heed the Spirit's leading and answer the call. It is not us, after all, who make the difference. This is not about the power of one. This is about the power of the One and Only.
Gary Fallesen is the president and Chief Climbing Officer of Climbing For Christ, Inc. This story originally appeared in The Climbing Way (Volume 6, Winter 2006-2007).