Friday, May 25, 2012

Thinking about the Lutheran Church in Haiti as We Push Toward Pentecost

As I've thought back to the Florida-Bahamas Synod Assembly and been contemplating Pentecost, I've been pulled back to the reports from Haiti.

The Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCA) has seen rapid growth since the first ordination of 3 ELCA pastors in 2009--and that's despite an earthquake, which left some of the Haitian Lutherans without their physical church.  Even before the earthquake, Haiti faces challenges more severe than any in this hemisphere.  Despite those challenges, the ELCA in Haiti has flourished.

Each year, we get a report from pastor Joseph Livenson Lauvanus, and part of the success in Haiti can be credited to him.  He seems tireless.  As he reports on the successes in his country, his face shines in a way that few others shine during Synod Assembly.

Do the successes seem so miraculous because the circumstances are so difficult?  Perhaps.  Still, when we consider numbers alone, it is clear that the Spirit moves through Haiti in a different way.  Unfortunately, I didn't write the numbers down, and despite research, I can't find them.  But suffice it to say, that in 2009, there were few ELCA Lutherans.  Now, just a few years later, there are thousands of ELCA Lutherans.

As I listen to the reports from Haiti, I'm reminded of the stories of the earliest Christians.  Those people, too, faced overwhelming odds, but went out and built a church--and then a network of churches.  They had an energy and an enthusiasm that proved incredibly attractive.  They had a can-do attitude.  If they spent much time whining about the long odds and the difficulty of the tasks, those conversations haven't been recorded.  Their communal spirit still beckons across the centuries.

We see similar dynamics in Haiti, where people know that they're stronger together than they can be apart.  We see people building what they need, often literally, with their own two hands.  We see that so little can make such a big difference--for example, a truck that's equipped to travel over harsh roads.  My suburban church would have very little use for such a thing.  That donation of that truck has made a huge difference to the Lutheran Church of Haiti.

But more importantly, when I listen to Pastor Lauvanus talk, I'm struck by his enthusiasm and love for his country.  I'm struck by how he sees opportunities and how he trusts that obstacles will be overcome.  He's not waiting for mainland churches to sweep in; he knows that his country will have to do the bulk of the work.  He seems plugged in to the force of the Holy Spirit in a more consistent way than most people I've seen speak.

As Pentecost approaches, let's remember the mystical promise of the Spirit. We do not have to know what we are doing; we just need to be open to the movement of the Spirit. Pentecost promises daring visions; we don’t have to know how we’re going to accomplish them. God will take care of that.

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