TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
June 22, 2013
J U S T A P A R T O F L I F E !
I feel compelled to let you know right upfront that this communiqué is not for the weak-kneed or the faint-of-heart. This event occurred in my unique life in Haiti and may seem too gross for anyone who has never lived on a farm, or worked in a slaughterhouse, or lived in a third-world country, or did not live in the early 1900s when things like this were more commonplace in America! Be forewarned!
The arrival of a goat in our front yard, tethered to the corner of our house by a fraying cord, brought my first laugh of the day. I had gone out to the car for a trip to the bank, when Léon pointed out that the goat was there. I knew he was coming, I just did not know he was already there. I smiled at the goat as I greeted him with a silly “Hello there!” and that’s when it struck my funny bone. I decided right then and there that I would not make friends with the goat because soon we would be having him for lunch! I did, however, want to get a photo to etch that funny moment in my memory!
I ran my errands in the city and returned home to barnyard smells! Oh ya! I forgot about that! Manure smells also come with the territory of having a live farm animal in your yard. Thankfully, I knew those smells would be short-lived as soon as the goat was gone!
The evening came and went and the goat remained. Our search for someone to butcher the goat had not been successful.
In the early morning hours of the next day, I woke up to some disturbing sounds. The usual roosters outside my window had not even crowed yet. Instead, the pitiful cries of the goat startled me into reality. I could tell that the butcher had arrived. Having witnessed this merciless sound various times during my stay in Haiti, I knew that the goat was strongly protesting his imminent demise and unfortunately, it was all happening right under my bedroom window! When the sickening cries of the goat silenced, I knew the act had been done. It was then that the metallic smell of blood came wafting through my windows. I swallowed hard and tried not to lose it. More familiar sounds took place. The hollow thumping on the carcass to prepare the goat for skinning, the metal sound of the machete scraping across the cement as it was laid down, the clatter of metal pans being put into place to receive the meat … all these things and more accosted my sleepy awareness of all that was being done. I decided there was no way I could go back to sleep after all of this, so I rose to have my morning devotions.
I do not think it was a coincidence that the assigned verse for the day was Psalm 116:17, which read “I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord!” How did God know that the sounds of the morning had brought a vivid thought to my mind about the horribleness of a blood sacrifice, especially when Jesus had paid this kind of sacrifice for me! Jesus’ dying was not a pretty sight! It must have revolted those who stood at His feet and witnessed it all. And to think … he did this willingly… for ME! He did this IN MY PLACE. Who but an Almighty God would face a death such as this to save a sinner like me?
I re-read the verse a couple of times. I tried to understand what the words “sacrifice a thank offering” really meant. I do not think of the words “thank” and “sacrifice” as words that go together. I have never felt I was making a sacrifice when I said a thank you. It seems, however, that God has been pressing me to think on that thought … as several of my previous mornings’ devotions have been about how one must thank God even for the seemingly bad circumstances in one’s life. Maybe that’s what “sacrifice a thank offering” is all about. Even when I do not want to thank God for the unpleasant events of my life, He is asking that I praise and thank Him for how He is going to use those circumstances in my life. He wants me to use those times to bring glory to Him and to be a witness to those around me that my God is greater than any problem that I may be facing! Well God, if that is true … you are really going to have to help me on this one! My sinful nature just has not found this to be an easy thing to do!
The lingering smell in my bedroom of spilled blood, prompted me to get dressed and go outside for a breath of fresh air. I left the first floor of my house and headed upstairs to the porch on the second floor. Another surprise! It seems that the goat had been tethered in the gated and locked stairwell so that our dogs or some other predator did not attack him during the night. What remained was a myriad of goat droppings on each and every step leading to the second floor. The aroma alone was enough to gag me, but the multitude of “goat pebbles” was astounding! How does one medium-sized goat possibly produce that much waste in one single night??? Yuck! Short order was made of sweeping the pebbles off the steps and mopping each step with sanitizing water – a task not out of the ordinary for the Haitian people, but certainly not in my normal daily activities. I am SO THANKFUL that I was not the one that completed the chore!
Heading back into the house, I was greeted by our housekeeper who informed me that the butcher needed to be paid. What price would you put on the labor and skill of someone who just did what I had only witnessed through the walls of my bedroom? Unbelievably, his fee was the mere equivalent of $3.49 U.S. Amazing!
The preparation of the meat by our cook was just not on my list of things to watch! The cook labored throughout the day cutting the meat from the bone and preparing the meat for later consumption. It was a daylong process. I only caught glimpses of her squatting over big metal pots removing bones and excess fat as she cut the meat into appropriate size pieces.
I have said it many times before … “Nothing in Haiti is easy!” The people here are HARD workers. What should take only minutes, takes hours and sometimes days to complete. Most Haitian people have no modern conveniences to make their difficult jobs easier, but nonetheless, they do what they have to do with what they have to do it with, with NO complaints. In Haiti, this is just a part of life!
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time, God willing …………