By Rebecca Hansen
Beautiful blankets were spread across the gravel courtyard. The Haitian market ladies unveiled their merchandise, beautiful works of art. Paintings splashed with brilliant colors and precious sculptures of mothers with their children and mothers to be.
“Come. Come. Look.” The ladies guided me from one blanket to another. In the background I heard the sound of the school children singing. “Merci. Not now.” I said as I made my way to the crowd of people waiting to be seen by our doctors. I took a deep breath and held it for a moment, eyes wide open. “Wow! How do I do this?” I exhaled. No translator; just armed with paper bracelets, a blood pressure machine, and a stack of intake forms.
With my extremely limited knowledge of the Creole language, I seemed to manage to keep the crowd happy. A smile and an air of gentleness are truly contagious especially when trying to create order and bring patience to a large group of people, but as the heat of the day increased, the patience of the crowd wore thin. I was growing weary as well. Individuals began to skip in line, creating anger at those who had patiently waited. With no one to translate to the people on what was taking place, their frustrations began to turn to me.
I knelt down on the rocky dirt floor in front of a woman. As I placed the cuff around her arm, I felt the heat of her skin. With this fevered woman’s hand in mine, I closed my eyes and I talked to God. “Watch over these people Father. Show me how to love them like Jesus even when I cannot speak their language and I’m worn.” His voice replied, “They are more worn then you.” And with those words came a vision. It was Jesus sitting with the people. He continued, “He would just sit with them. Touch their arm. Be peaceful. Look them in the eyes. Show compassion. His focus would be only on the one who is in from of Him. Love them. Make them feel like the most important person and just be with them.” I took a deep breath and opened my eyes to see the woman in front of me. The rest of the room dissolved and it was only the two of us. She became all that mattered. Moments later, as I knelt in front of the next patient, a man whom previously had been arguing with me, brought me a chair for he saw that my knees were tired. God’s beauty and love was revealed in this moment.
I was stationed at the prayer table for the remainder of our time in Haiti. It allowed me the opportunity to talk with the people about their faith. I would often ask them how they experienced God in their lives. When sitting with them I would recall that simple but precious idea I had learned on my very first day, “Make them feel like the most important person.” Now, with a translator by my side, I was able to listen to the hearts of each person before me. I sat knee to knee, speaking quietly with my heart to them and when we’d bow our heads in prayer I would hold their hands in mine hoping they could feel the honesty of my prayer. When “Amen” was spoken, there was always a beautiful peace that washed over us as we’d slowly open our eyes and for just a moment sat in awe. Even as I write this, I cannot place my finger on why time seemed to move in slow motion just before they left. It was as if neither of us wanted to leave. You could almost feel God’s arms wrapped around us, keeping us in that very moment as long as He could.
In the quietness of the evening I’d sit atop the roof where we stayed. I’d collect my thoughts and emotions from the day. Recalling the faces of the men, women, and children whose faces permanently burnt an image in my heart. With so many people to pray for and so many prayer requests the same (family, health, jobs, and food), I felt guilt for prayers sounding so similar. That evening I shared my thoughts with a friend who joined me on the roof, “Even if they are similar, your heart and soul is praying for the person right in front of you. Not the person before or after them. It doesn’t matter if it sounds the same. You are sending that prayer up for only them.”
Days later we drove deep into the county for a clinic. It was the loveliest place yet. Outside of the church where the clinic was held stood an enormous shade tree. All of the Haitians gathered under it. Women sat on blankets fanning themselves from the heat. Children played games with one another and men gathered and socialized. It was almost like a painting of a lazy Sunday afternoon family gathering. I set my bench outside to observe. A woman with a young child placed on her hip approached me and sat next to me on the bench. While we talked I asked her a question I had asked many others, “When you experience God, do you hear Him, see Him, feel Him?” She looked me in the eyes and spoke. I was taken in by her lovely glow. The translator turned to me and said, “She says she does not feel God or hear God, but when she looks at you she can see Jesus.” I was breathless. The vision I had on the first day, a vision which I believed was only in my mind had in fact lived itself out through me. It was in that moment I realized Jesus can truly live in and through us.
The final day of clinic had arrived. The Haitian morning sun had made its way over the horizon bringing out the striking greens in the palm trees. I sat on the rooftop watching this all unfold while in prayer. In that prayer I heard His whisper once more, “Love them as I love them.” As I turned my face to the sun, its light spilled into me. Peace and beauty filled me.
Overflowing with His love, I rose and stepped into the day that God had created. Dressed in my medical scrubs I gently eased into our last clinic. I went from room to room to see where the need was. The prayer bench sat empty. I stood there looking at it and then scanned the room. There was no interpreter available today. Memories of the first day came to mind. It was one thing to take peoples’ blood pressure and not know the language, but to pray was entirely different. I hesitated before sitting down. There was a bit of discomfort siting on the bench, but then I caught the eye of a man leaving the pharmacy, “Priye?” (Pray) I asked him. Knee to knee I sat with him and with many others. They would speak to me and I would look into their eyes as if knowing what they were saying. With little knowledge of their words, I watched them and listened to their hearts. Then I would hold their hands and I’d pray in English. Much to my surprise, I would get the same reaction as I did when accompanied by an interpreter, a peaceful lingering before getting up. “They don’t know what I’m saying Father. Is it really having the same impact?” Just then an elderly woman, adorned with a lovely white hat came and sat by my side. “Ton-Ton” (Wait. Wait), she said and then took my hands as we closed our eyes. Just then an amazing thing happened, the most beautiful song poured from her. It washed over my soul and brought so much peace and joy. No one had sat with me and offered me prayer while in Haiti, but his woman who didn’t speak my language felt God’s voice whisper to her and she listened. I could see Jesus in her just as the mother had seen in me days before. She then began a prayer for me. I understood a speckling of words. I wondered what it was she felt a need to pray for but her words did not matter. It was her act of love. It was God’s love pouring out through her. The doubt that I had of providing prayer with no interpreter was washed away. His love showed through her.
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SOURCE: Just Between Us, by Rebecca Hansen