**This is the report Andy Williams shared with his church after his first mission trip to Haiti. This small SBC church (about 215 average attendance) has sent teams to Haiti since 2009. There is much to discuss here, especially the question of mercy ministry versus evangelization in the context of short-term mission trips.
A few weeks ago, I was able to go on my first missions trip to Haiti, and in fact my first trip to any really impoverished country. And it was very eye-opening, and there are many things I could describe, but almost as soon as I had a chance to take in what life there is like, I had one overwhelming thought : This is likely very similar in many ways to the situation Jesus came into 2,000 years ago.
Over 80% of Haiti’s people live in abject poverty. The majority of the population does not have employment. Everywhere you go, there are people asking, begging, for things: Money, shoes, food…soccer balls. Every Haitian boy knows five English words: “You, give me one dollar.” There are vast numbers of sick and injured people who get no treatment at all for their ailments, and are in need of healing.
With the comforts and luxuries of modern American life, it’s hard for us to imagine a street preacher coming into town and gathering crowds of 4-5 thousand people, crowds who will sit on the ground listening to him preach all day without food, some of whom would follow him from town to town. Some of whom would abandon their families and livelihoods to follow him around for 3 years!
SO…It was a setting filled with beggars, poor people, corrupt governments, needs of every kind, masses of people with nothing better to do than just follow someone around for days who they think might be able to help them…people in need of healing, food, money, & something to which they can really devote themselves to.
Into this setting steps Jesus, the God-man. The one who heals like no other, who feeds like no other, and who teaches like no other…and he turns the world upside down. Acts 1:1-5 summarizes what Jesus did here on earth:
“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Notice what Jesus did:
1) He came, he had compassion, he fed, he healed…but that wasn’t his primary mission, and some people hated him for that.
2) He also taught. He challenged their self-centric way of thinking, pointed them to a radical new life in him. He didn’t just give suggestions, he gave commands.
3) He died. He rose. He offered himself. His spirit. He even told them they couldn’t do anything without him. You can’t cast out demons without me, you can’t heal without me…in fact go wait in a room until my spirit shows up, because if you try to do this by yourself, you’re sunk!
4) He doesn’t fix their society’s problems. In the next few verses, his disciples ask,“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom?” He says NO! He says he’s not even going to tell us when that will happen…BUT, we will be his witnesses!
What they thought they needed was a new government, food, prosperity, healing from physical diseases…but what Jesus gave them was HIMSELF, died, buried, and risen from the dead.
In the early church you see people following Jesus’ example of bold proclamation accompanied by compassionate care. Peter preaches boldly despite ridicule and threats and beatings…the apostles heal people…the church is known for it’s generosity and sharing such that scripture says “no one had any need”, because the wealthy take care of the poor…and on it goes. You have this juxtaposition of service, healing, giving, compassion, sharing, generosity, and grace on the one hand….and bold, clear, Christ-centered calls for repentance on the other hand, challenging cultural norms with the superior Gospel of Jesus.
IN CONCLUSION, I Think there are 2 things each of us needs to understand:
- We are the rich:
-If you make 40,000 in a year, it puts you in the top 1% of people globally.
-If you are at the federal poverty level of 21,000/yr for a family of four, you are in the top 10%.
-75% of the world lives on less than $1,500/yr
-In Haiti, a college educated teacher makes about 1,200/yr.
-But…the median income in Haiti is $400/yr, or a little more than $1/day.
-We ARE THE RICH!
- We are the poor: Each of us is a person who, left to himself, and his own wisdom, and own resources, has a spiritual poverty that is worse the physical poverty of Haiti. Romans 10:1-4 points us to the danger thinking that a zeal for service to God is not assurance of salvation if we think we are the righteous ones bringing salvation to the needy masses. If you believe yourself to be righteous in your own right, then your greatest need is not to give more to missions, but to accept the mission of Jesus for your own life…accept his charity toward you in offering you his righteousness in exchange for your sin.
If you are already a believer, remember this: Jesus came with a mission. He saw people’s obvious needs and did not ignore them, but he, and the early disciples in the book of acts, knew that what people needed most was Jesus himself, crucified, and risen for them, for us, for you.
So, if you want to imitate the early church…feed people; give generously of your riches; if you have medical skills and resources, heal them! —But don’t let the circumstances of life, whether that be healthcare, financial needs, messed up government, or anything else, make us lose sight of what the primary mission is: Pointing people back to Jesus…
…And don’t for a second believe that you are the savior they need. I am not the savior that the orphanage in Haiti needs. Pastor, you are not the savior your church needs. You are not the savior your friends, family, and co-workers need, to swoop in and solve their problems. There is a savior, one savior, and His name is Jesus. He is the only hope for Haiti, for his church, for America, for the world…and he will not fail in his mission.
The question is, will you be a part of it?