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‘The church hasn’t changed a bit’

CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti — Every Monday we gather in the living room — eight young women trying to share the Gospel in broken languages. The light above hasn’t worked for months, but we don’t care. Using the dim light from the kitchen, we huddle close:

• Jenny, exhausted from school, searching for truth.
• Arianne, hunched over, shy, yet completely engaged.
• Myriam, with her pocket-size Bible and mind full of questions.
• Kencia, brave and loud, seizing every moment to make a statement.
• Guerdine, taking notes as if one day she will be given a final exam.
• Marjorie, a foster mom of six young women, in need of wisdom and strength.
• Josie, beautiful and scarred, looking for her one true love.

Jillian Kittrell | In the WordAnd me, stumbling over my Creole, pink leather Bible held firm, praying for the Spirit to breathe truth into a dozen hungry ears.
This is my favorite evening of the week.

It all started after one of them confessed her fear of being unforgivable, of being too broken — fear that she was unworthy of the grace offered in communion.

“No one is worthy,” I cupped her hands into mine. “No one is worthy of the wine and the bread, but that’s what makes it so beautiful. He gives us his body because his brokenness can fix ours.”

She still did not believe that such a grace was made for her. Although the girls participate in devotionals every evening with the boys, it was time to personally walk them through Scripture.
“For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”
— 1 Corinthians 11:29-30 (NIV)

We started in 1 Corinthians — a letter to a broken church full of broken people. These girls read chapter 11 and fear that something bad might happen to them if they take the Lord’s Supper in an improper manner. It’s a fear that runs deep in their Haitian blood. Wrong someone, and you will pay. There are witchdoctors in every community who preach this practice. Why should communion be any different?

We’ve discussed Paul’s words and what they mean.

One Monday, Myriam seemed distraught as we read.

“The Bible is supposed to change people, yes?” she asked, pocket-size Bible pointed straight at me.

So why, she continued, have more than 2,000 years passed, “and the church hasn’t changed a bit?”

Her Bible dropped to the floor — accident or coincidence, I’m not sure.

I wanted to tell her that wasn’t true, that we have grown, that we have changed, that we have taken Paul’s words to heart and become a stronger body. But she was right. We’re still a bunch of divided, sinful people.

“You’re right, Myriam. We are the same church,” I said. “And that is why God made sure this letter would be in Bible, because every generation would need it.”

Myriam wasn’t satisfied.

“But why haven’t we changed?” she asked, picking the Bible up off the floor.

“I don’t know. Because Satan hasn’t changed either. Because we still live in a sinful world.”

That sounded hopeless, and I knew it.

“Listen,” I continued, setting my Bible on the armrest. “The church is still the same, and that is what makes God’s grace so amazing — that he would choose to still make us his bride even though we never seem to grow up.”

Myriam gave a smirk, still not sold.

In the days that followed, the Spirit wouldn’t let this one go, asking me to connect the dots. In order for our girls to truly love the church, brokenness and all, they first need to grasp the truth that God loves them, brokenness and all.

Many see the church’s brokenness and give up. They shouldn’t. We aren’t expected to be perfect. The church is made up of flawed people — and has been since the book of Acts. It will continue to be flawed until Jesus returns.

A few nights later, as I sat on our porch, swatting a half-million mosquitos off my legs, I Skyped with a friend. We talked about the Bible study and the church.

“At some point we have to stop complaining,” my friend said, “unless we are willing to be a part of the solution.”

The next Monday, as Marjorie passed around a bag of hard candies for us to enjoy, I gave the girls that challenge.

If the church needs to change, be the change.

Maybe together they can work to grow and mature the church in Haiti. Maybe we all can do the same.

JILLIAN KITTRELL and her husband, Hunter, serve as administrators of Emmaus House, a ministry that helps orphaned youths transition to independent living. For more information, see www.emmaushousehaiti.org.

Filed under: In the Word

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