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How Great Thou Art by Linda Greason

An Advent Devotion
The Canticles of Christmas
Week Two: The Magnificat

Thursday, December 14

Psalm 126

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. (Psalm 126:3)

After months of researching the governmental education standards, weeks of shopping online, packing suitcases to deliver scads of school supplies, and meticulous attention to translating materials into French, our team felt we were prepared to go to Haiti for an educational workshop. We packed and weighed our suitcases to make sure we had not exceeded airline limits, gathered passports and plenty of mosquito repellent, and set off.

Upon arrival, CBF Field Personnel, Jenny Jenkins greeted us and quickly set out for the two-hour road trip to Grand Goave, our home for the next six days. Most at this point would share the sights of a beautiful city, its impressive architecture, or friendliness of the locals, but that was not to be the case. This was a place of sheer poverty, piles of trash, and a seemingly endless road of gray desolation no matter where one looked. The only color found was on the numerous tap-taps, or cleverly painted "taxis."  Even the rural areas did not have the beauty one would expect from a Caribbean island. We passed a police license/insurance checkpoint and were stunned to see weaponry more akin to a war zone. Local businesses too were guarded with intimidating weaponry. Everywhere there were people walking and engaging in the busyness of a Saturday afternoon.

We observed twelve-foot high concrete walls topped with razor wire to discourage would-be intruders as we entered the CBF compound. Yet despite our first, perhaps dire, impressions our host assured us that the workshop was going to be great and local educators were looking forward to attending. We unloaded our bags and gifts, and Jenny shared the itinerary for our week’s activities that would occur on the property under the mango trees. Finally, we took the opportunity to rest after our long journey and prepare for the workshop the next morning.

After a long, hot, mosquito buzzing in our ears, sleepless night, we awoke to the blessing of a cold shower. Jenny wanted us to walk to church to understand the community and see how folks lived; I wondered if we had not seen that on our drive the afternoon before. However, on the twenty-minute walk to church, I noticed that the “piles of trash” were actually gravel ready for a building project; cinder block houses had bars rather than glass windows to allow for air flow, and the numerous skinny chickens were enjoying freedom before they became someone’s next meal. In addition, we understood all that needed rebuilding after the 2010 earthquake.

Continuing on our tour, we began to hear music that included electric guitars, drums, piano, and the sheer beauty of people singing in the workshop with tremendous gusto. Although the words sung were in Creole, the tune was extremely familiar. The closer we walked, the larger the lump in my throat became, and I held back tears. Tears that come when one has finally arrived home after a long journey. For among the poverty of this place, we found men, women, and children colorfully dressed in their Sunday best smiling broadly, singling loudly, and praising God through every single verse of “How Great Thou Art.”

I was humbled by the pure joy and majesty of these beautiful people whose true workshop touched me and informed my heart that this trip was indeed a mission trip for my own soul. It was to be a reminder that God is bigger than earthquakes, poverty, weaponry, walls, and barricades. Yet small enough to fit in the hearts of all who choose to recognize His Presence. Mary’s Song – the Magnificat – illustrates that she too recognized the Presence of God in her life; was humbled by the mission of delivering God’s Son to the world. This Advent season look beyond the holiday trappings and busyness and allow yourself to be humbled by the greatness of God in the lowliest and unlikeliest places as I did in a simple, gray, concrete church on the island of Haiti in the hearts of beautiful Christians.

by Linda Greason

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