I have learned an immense
amount this week about the people and culture of Haiti. On Friday TLI completed
Attributes of God, our first course with Institut Biblique des
Croix-des-Bouquets. I am encouraged that all involved seemed to consider it
a great success. We had seven students in the post-bachelor’s level course and
thirteen students in the diploma level course. We wrestled with some tough
questions, taught long hours, and all learned a lot from each other. I want to
especially recognize Gami Ortiz and Brian McKanna for teaching with us this
week. These guys complained about nothing and did a brilliant job teaching,
translating, and pushing students. As a team leader, I am sure I learned more from them than they did from me. I am equally
thankful to Pastor Garry, our national partner, and to the students for their
openness to share with me about their experiences—everything from Voudu to
poverty to the earthquake. The Haitian people, as it is often said, are strong,
for they have born with much.
The IBC students from Attributes of God with Brian and Gami.
Perhaps the most
rewarding session for me came near the very end of class. It had been a long
week. After lunch on Friday we had about an hour left to go and just a couple
more attributes to cover. Having looked at so many biblical texts and
communicated so much information, I was growing weary. Moreover, I feared the
students were saturated and exhausted. Next up—God’s sovereignty. Always a
controversial topic in America, I had observed that in the fatalistic culture
of Haiti, it was just accepted with little discussion of the implications or
applications of the doctrine. How can I take these students further in their
understanding of such a difficult doctrine at the end of a long week? As Gami
finished his teaching I drafted some notes, definitions, and texts and
basically just resolved to give it my best shot—if the students don’t hit the
ball back to me on this one we’ll just have to pray and close.
We started in Psalm
135 by speaking about God’s freedom to do whatever he wants. We talked about
his choosing Jacob (i.e., Israel), destroying pagan nations like Egypt, and
sending both rain and lightning. I asked if it was fair to choose Israel and
destroy Egypt? Of course, they said. They said that all Egyptians were
implicated in the national evil. OK. Well, what about all the texts (e.g., Deut
7) that say God did not choose Israel because they were bigger or better, or
because of anything about themselves at all? Then we turned to Romans 9—before
the twins were even born God said, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”
They asked if the Hebrew actually said “hated.” They decided that God knew in
advance the good things that Jacob would do and the bad things that Esau would
do and so picked them that way, but we soon realized that the text won’t allow
for that. Moreover, they realized this theory broke down in their own lives
because they could not in good conscience suggest that God chose them because
he knew them to be better than anyone else. Finally, we were left with nothing
but the inexplicable electing love of God. We talked about how this love
humbles us, motivates us to evangelism, and comforts us.
At this point, I
decided to do what I had been scared to do all week—bring up the earthquake.
How do you guys process God’s sovereignty in light of such a thing, I asked?
Several of the students could not hold back tears during the discussion.
Statistically speaking, almost everybody in the room would have lost a loved
one or a friend if not many. Their honesty was bracing. There were no easy
answers, but there was much faith. I really can’t understand it—but it moved
me. Including the earthquake in God’s sovereign plan seemed awful, but the
alternative was hopelessness. Best to leave the secret things to God and trust
the LORD who chose us because he loved us and for no other reason.
— Alex Kirk, International Trainer