So, to take you along on this adventure:
Among the images you’ll see in the video is a site where a teacher-training center is being built, after it was destroyed in Port au Prince in the January 12, 2010 earthquake. It was moved to safer ground three hours north of Port au Prince, in Liancourt. We helped out there with a group of dynamos from Kempen, Germany lead by Pastor Roland Kuhne, called “Students building for Teachers” or “Schüler bauen für Lehrer,” if you know German, um, which I don’t. The Peter Hesse Foundation has trained, in 28 years, over 1000 teachers and helped open 50 Montessori pre-schools in very poor areas. You’ll see children in Montessori pre-schools, taught by graduates for the teacher-training center, and the pre-schools started as micro-businesses that are Haitian owned and operated, and are self-sustaining in that regard. You’ll see children who are clean and polished looking daily, in hand sewn uniforms that are clean and pressed, in a place with no electricity, and no running water, which is pretty incredible, considering how many kids in the U.S., with running water and clothes washers, look that tidy? Hmmmm? In Haiti, in Liancourt, people go hungry, daily. Still, there is a dignity that is intact, a strength of character that is humbling for those of us coming from a country that is just north of Haiti’s borders.
Here’s a clip from this teacher-training center rebuild site, with Carol Guy-James Barratt, the on-the-ground partner with the Peter Hesse Foundation, and Pastor Kuhne from the college in Kempen.
You’ll see the German and Haitian work crews interacting together. This long chain of people was not a daily thing, but sometimes it was useful if the cement was hardening in the 95 degree weather.
We as followers of Christ, we refer to Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, as a reversal of the Tower of Babel…meaning, with the tower of Babel, people lost their ability to understand each other; at Pentecost, we read in Acts 2, people who spoke different languages could understand each other.
In Haiti, we had groups speaking Kreyol, German, French, and English, but there was an understanding among the groups. We had worship before work in the morning, a meditation in German or English, a prayer in Kreyol, a song in one of the languages. Acts 2 says, “in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power….” It was kind of crazy, but it worked.
Clip of building site: from YouTube clip, if you go to
14:40-17:18 you’ll hear the English, and get to see the clip of Carol, as mentioned, the rest is in German
Video also found at “news”
We, as followers of Christ, seek transformation.
Transformation means change is afoot, a holy sea change, with a Holy Change Agent.
So, thinking about transformation during this season of Advent, when we celebrate the world being transformed…We have three stories of people who have been transformed and now are about the work of transformation in their communities and in the world.
First of all, a faith disclaimer….
I specifically told God, “I’ll help Peter on his book about Haiti, but I’m not going to Haiti.”
I thought I was being pretty clear with God.
“Listen, I’m open. But not Haiti.”
This summer, while I was preaching one Sunday, I thought about Peter’s work in Haiti, out of the blue. In August, I spoke with Peter in length about the work that was needed to be done in Liancourt, and the fact he could not make this trip.
Certainly, it was odd when I found myself asking a Presbyterian minister, J. Brooks Smith, if I could join his contingent of Presbyterians, planning an October trip to Haiti, to Liancourt and Leogane.
It was odd to me when it all began falling neatly into place.
“We need a translator, if you can bring one,” Brooks said.
I asked Julie Baxter Calmes, with whom I’d reconnected over the summer and who, by the way, was fluent in French and is from my hometown, “Any chance you’d like to go to Haiti?”
She didn’t pause, “Yes! When do we go?”
So I had some more praying to do, “God, if I’m NOT TO GO, put a roadblock in my way, please,” which a friend told me to pray, when he heard of my nervousness about the trip.
But the roads were opening and it appeared, we were going.
Do you remember the three types of rocks on planet earth, from third grade science?
Igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.
And if we’re thinking about the Rock of our Salvation…
Here’s the thing about rocks….for transformation to take place, well, it takes time, heat, and pressure.
On our good days, we as Christians want to be metamorphic, to be shaped more fully into the person God would have us be, to be doing what God would have us do.
“The properties of a metamorphic rock depend on its parent rock—the original rock type—and the forces that formed it.” *
Peter Hesse, was born to German parents in 1937. His father was half Jewish. On Kristalnacht, November 9, 1938, Peter’s Nazi maternal grandfather saved his Jewish grandmother by standing in front of her house in uniform saying, “Not here,” to protect her from destruction. Peter’s Jewish father, who had been a German national dancing champion, had to spend World War II hiding in the woods, and the reality of the evil at hand became visible. Bombs dropped in the city of Dusseldorf, where Peter lived, bridges were all taken out.
Years passed, he became an adult, a successful businessperson and entrepreneur, who, like his father, loved to dance. He visited Haiti because he’d heard about their Cadence music. The poverty he saw moved him, and he felt a sense of Divine guidance to do something. With that call came a sense of “Dennoch,” which means, “nevertheless…” or “even though,” although Peter says there’s not a really good nuanced equivalent to the word, he felt called “to do something” even though he wasn’t sure of the path forward. That began a transformation, for Peter. His personal transformation, has led to the transformation of other people’s lives, as his foundation has given people the gift not only of education, but the ability to support their own families with their small businesses.
Naomi Joseph is one example. As you can tell, one story of compassion leads into another story, leads into another story, which is the way of faith, we stand on the shoulders of giants who came before us, giants in the Quarry before we were….
As an aside, every time I think of a quarry, unfortunately, I think of one on I-90 as you drive from Illinois into Indiana, and it’s a big gapping thing, with a narrow strip of highway with no shoulder, sort of running over the thing. One of my kids asked me once, “Is that the Grand Canyon?” I emphatically said, “NO! No, that is not the Grand Canyon.” It was here, here, over the gapping hole of the quarry that three of the boys in my youth group, when I was a youth director, three seniors decided to throw lit firecrackers out my back car window on the way to a mission trip in Michigan. You boys who are now men with families, you know who you are.
I am trying to rethink quarry.
Naomi Joseph, she was helped, thanks to Peter’s work, and now she’s helping others. The teacher-training center is being built on her family’s land. After the earthquake, she opened the school up for those who had lost their homes. She is a widow, she is raising her own children and her husband’s kids as a single mother now, and the bedrock of her faith is visible, the strength of her spirit, remarkable.
Rocks are made of solid chemicals called minerals.
The world’s full of all sorts of minerals, just like the Quarry of Christ, the vast bedrock of believers, all over the planet, the Quarry of Christ has a vast assortment, but the same rock from which we are all hewn. We are linked by a vein of faith that runs deep.
Sure, some rocks are not what they seem. Many have been fooled by Pyrite, or “fool’s gold.” (God help the families in the TV show “Gold Rush Alaska,”)
But, You will know they are Christians by their love.
You will know they are Christians by their composition. Watch.
When we got to Leogane, epicenter of the earthquake, we met another American who learned that two members of our group work with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
She’d call out, when she saw us,
“Hello, Disaster People!” a name I kind of liked.
Leogane felt 55 aftershocks following the earthquake, they lost 85% of all their buildings; you see places where the roads buckled, where the buildings that remained standing broke in two. Like the Psalmist cries, “therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change” (Psalm 46) Reading Isaiah in Leogane is …sobering. “For the Lord will comfort Zion, the Lord will comfort all her waste places and will make her wilderness like Eden.” After the earthquake, the people of Leogane needed a little Eden, and they found it, in a schoolyard.
Evens Joicin was a nursing student at Leogane’s FSIL nursing school when the January 2010 earthquake hit.
Leogane, you may recall from news accounts, was cut off from the rest of Haiti, no one could get news of them, how the people there were fairing. No news was getting in or out.
How were the people at the epicenter of the shaking earth?
Evens helped organize the student nurses as over 5000 people arrived on the nursing school grounds…the sound of human beings wailing in grief was in the air, people were trying to save their family members, without the help of back hoes or earth moving equipment.
The scene at the nursing school, which you can see on the web and on YouTube, the scene looked like something from a Civil War battle scene. Evens said that people wanted reassurance, a hand to hold if they were really ill, someone to be with them in their pain, or a cup of water, and whatever medical care they could get. Evens own home was destroyed, but he felt called to help organize the student nurses, and to organize mobile clinics.These student nurses are credited with saving countless lives. The heat and pressure, within the will of God? It transformed Evens, it’s transforming him still. He teaches now at the nursing school.
Your life is precious. It’s been forged deep within the heart of God, and you are here as God’s beloved. Build your spiritual home upon this solid rock, not the shifting rock of this world, but the steadfast rock of eternal God. How is your life changing? In that heat and pressure, can you feel the transformative love of God, even there?
Look to the rock, and to the quarry, look to those who went before us, for the Lord will comfort, and even the most desert places in our lives will become gardens in the hands of God.
*from Rocks & Fossils by Margaret Hynes