The Kingdom of Heaven Is Theirs
I returned to the US from Haiti in early April 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I cried over having to say goodbye to the people I loved. I cried not knowing when I would see them again. But I was most concerned for my friend Maggie.
During the first months of 2020 I had been working closely with Maggie to get her health on track and support her medical bills. I was able to employ Maggie and she started paying off her debts to local vendors in the market. Things were looking up for Maggie, and then I had to leave.
Being back in The States, my heart and mind worried for Maggie. How would she be able to take care of herself? How could she maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle? What if she got too sick and couldn’t take care of her daughter, Tika?
Not being able to communicate with Maggie only made this worry stronger. Many people in Haiti, even the poor, have cell phones. But Maggie does not. I had all these worries and no way to know if they were warranted. I was left with only one thing to do: pray and trust God was taking care of her.
That was not easy. I still worried often about Maggie, if she was getting sicker, if she had food, and if she was healthy enough to take care of herself and Tika. As time went on, my worry turned to fear. It was my worst fear that I would find out she died; that one of the diseases she battled finally won. I was afraid of her leaving behind her young daughter.
When I found out I would be able to visit Haiti this January, another fear crept into my heart. Suddenly, I was afraid of seeing Maggie. I was afraid she would hate me and resent me for leaving. I was afraid she would be sick and frail and blame me. I was afraid she would see me and be furious.
In truth, returning to visit Haiti was Christ working as Redeemer. As soon as I arrived, I felt alive with joy! I was excited to see the kids, visit my friends, meet the new elderly home residents, and meet Maria, my newborn goddaughter. The one person I wasn’t excited to see was Maggie.
As I turned the corner and saw her, I was greeted with a huge, warm, loving smile that melted all my fear away. I was being reunited with a dear friend!
I wanted to see Maggie, but fear had stolen my joy. I planned to visit her home a couple of days after arriving, but word spreads fast in our town. Maggie showed up at our gate, and as I walked down to greet her, I was nervous. I was praying to God that He would give me the grace to encounter Maggie (whatever state she was in) and with the ability to speak good enough Creole to explain myself.
As I turned the corner and saw her, I was greeted with a huge, warm, loving smile that melted all my fear away. I was being reunited with a dear friend! I was so happy to see Maggie and Tika and to hear the love in their voices. We couldn’t talk long, but we scheduled a time for me and two other missionaries, Teresa and Mary Clare, to visit them during the weekend.
When we arrived at their home, we were greeted by a rambunctious Tika. The 4-year-old is timid and unpleasant when we see her in town in her school uniform, but at home she is wildly fun, and she cannot be tamed!
Maggie pulled out a couple of chairs from her house for us, and I asked how she was. “Mwen la,” she responded, which means “I’m here.” It’s an odd saying, but very common in Haiti. It reflects well how many Haitians seek to survive rather than thrive. Maggie tacked on another phrase, “Gras a dye,” meaning, “by the grace of God.”
I began to ask her how she was doing with her health, how Tika’s school was, and if she’d been able to work. Maggie recounted the difficulties she had. She is in debt again, a painful rash has developed on her legs, and she is too weak to work anymore. She barely makes it to town to take Tika to school in the mornings. I could hear the pain in her voice.
It was hard to listen and not take on shame for leaving her when she needed support. Then the reality that I was only there for a three-week visit began to sink in. I could do nothing in that moment but sit with her in the pain of it all and extend the love of Christ Jesus.
Maggie needed to lament about all she had endured the past 8 months. Then, we broke open The Word. I asked her to read the story of God parting the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites. I was prepared to share what this passage means to me, but Maggie took over.
Maggie went on and on, with force. She spoke about how in the past God had delivered her and Tika from a bad situation, and then prophesied that again God would intervene in their lives. She proclaimed boldly the goodness of God. She preached how people want to be the god of their own life. But that will never work because we cannot forgive our own sins; we are always in need of a Savior!
“They don’t know what I know. God is The King. He is the one I follow, and He is the only voice I listen to.”
She talked about how people in town can’t understand how she’s alive or how she’s able to live for God alone. Her response to them was: “They don’t know what I know. God is The King. He is the one I follow, and He is the only voice I listen to.”
She evangelized us about our need to trust in God and what that requires us to do. We gladly sat and listened as Maggie shared her heart. When she was finished Tika grabbed all of our hands, pulled us each out of our seats, and tugged us over to her mother. Maggie commented that Tika has grown up witnessing missionaries visit and pray with her mom.
Maggie’s words called me on to greater holiness and trust in the Lord, but most of all they gave me hope. It became so clear to me that although Maggie and Tika’s physical conditions had not improved, and in some ways had gotten worse, their faith had grown and was stronger than ever.
It would have broken my heart more if Maggie lost her faith in the time I was gone, than if she had become poorer.
It was still difficult to see my friend suffering, but I was consoled by her witness of incredible faith. Over and over again in scripture Jesus says, “Your faith has saved you.”
I believe that even if Maggie is poor and suffering her whole life on this earth, her faith will save her and make her well in the next life. It would have broken my heart more if Maggie lost her faith in the time I was gone, than if she had become poorer.
I deeply love and care for the poor, but I am strengthened by this Scripture: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” Jesus loves the poor. Now when I think of Maggie and Tika I don’t have fear or worry, but rather hope and faith, because the Kingdom of Heaven truly is theirs.
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