What a season my friends. I know not much has made the cut on the American news networks, but Haiti reached a tipping point last week, and seemed to narrowly avoid careening over the edge. I will unpack the last 2 weeks framed as the story of my families journey. You consistently tell me that you want to know what is happening, and you want the real story. I am also realizing that I need you to know it so that you can be informed and armed with details for prayer.
Kris returned from 2.5 weeks in the US, getting tax receipts sent and speaking, on Feb 5. I was scheduled to leave Haiti on Feb 8 and like a well oiled machine we transitioned the home, children, and KONBIT from my care to his. We started hearing talk of planned protests and the 2 days before I left a fire, so to speak, was lit. We were not sure I would be able to get to the airport so we hatched a plan for me to leave early, still in the dark, to avoid what I could. On Feb 8 at 4AM, Elimage arrived so we could dash to Port-au-Prince. We flew, the nerves of my Haitian brother thinly veiled. We saw no traffic, the city looked like a ghost town, or abandoned war zone. We did hit a large barricade about 1/2 way there and made a quick u-turn so our vehicle was not still long enough for any shenanigans in that area, quite known for robberies and such. We inhaled a huge sigh of relief when we arrived at the airport. We waited until they opened and Elimage spent the next 4 hours trying to find a way back around blocked roads. I arrived in Arkansas for a respite counseling retreat to address mounting anxiety and as I started my retreat Haiti’s hurt, anger, frustration, & resentment rolled from a flicker to a bon fire and transportation was completely halted nationwide.
Story break to ask a question and add a sideline to the story. Have you ever had a moment that you realized how utterly powerless you are to control a situation? Like in a car accident and time slows down but there is nothing you could do to prevent it. Or with illness, watching someone we love hurting but unable to help it improve? As a mini-saga nestled within the drama, our Levi has been sick. Our nearly 6’2, ridiculously handsome 14 year old has been struggling with his stomach for months. Dr. Jim, local missionary Doctor with HHM, has followed him and we have reached a point that he is in need of an endoscopy. Endoscopies in Haiti are frequently performed with no anesthesia so before I left we had decided we would wait a bit longer and hope that on his current medication he would improve rapidly and it would not be needed. I will circle back I promise.
So, Here I am at a retreat in Arkansas and staying at lake house. I am doing my best to soak up this opportunity and squeeze every bit of solitude, Bible study, introspection, and growth as I could out of it. As I sit in a swing listening to the breeze all I can think about is my family, perpetually stuck indoors, scrambling for supplies, the roads too blocked to even make it the 2 miles to school. Across my Facebook newsfeed raging fires, angry protesters, and news from home that even our usually quiet areas were blocked and things seemed to be spiraling toward mayhem. Many dear friends chose to be helicoptered out of Haiti and seeing photos of them board and be brought to safety broke through my armor and broke my heart. I was so relieved they were safe, and so indescribably terrified for my family. While I knew it was irrational, I worried we would be separated for months and that maybe they would all be killed. Realistic? Not really, but I had NO control over the circumstance and in those moments it is so easy to let our mind drift to worse case scenarios.
I spent this day, the helicopter day, meditating on one passage of scripture. I read it in MANY versions, then in Creole, and finally I broke it down into its more important Hebrew parts. I was rocked and God was teaching me something paramount that I want to share with you. Psalms 23 is awash with verses that we know well and that can almost become cliche if we just hear them once again with out really considering what David was saying. Psalm 23:5 was where I spent my entire day, well, when I wasn’t rehearsing ridiculous scenarios about my family in my mind and crying into a couch cushion.
For context read the chapter, I have placed it here for you.
The Divine Shepherd
A Psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
So, the Psalm begins with David talking about how our Great Shepherd leads us to places of rest, green pastures, and still waters. Then the famous, “Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” followed by
“You prepare a table before me, in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.” It seems out of place. In the valley of death God places a feast before me? I thought to myself, “This makes 0 sense, I DO NOT WANT A FREAKIN MEAL, I want my family safe and my son’s endoscopy scheduled in an American medical center!” This verse seemed ridiculous but my deep respect for God’s Word left me hungry and I had to unpack it and let God speak to my heart. I knew He would, as I have never looked deep into God’s word and not been rocked.
The Lord sent me searching for blogs and other sources that explained this verse. I did word studies on the Hebrew word for “prepare”, “table”, “anoint”, “enemy” and studied the cultural context for the overflowing cup. I listened to short video sermons and I prayed, asking God for wisdom. I hate to sit still in the best of circumstances. This verse seems to be asking me to sit still in a war. I just want to scream how impossible this feels.
I will share below how I rewrote the verse based on what I learned but before I do, I want you to read first hand what really knocked my socks off about the root of the word used for “anoint” in “ you anoint my head with oil”.
In a beautiful exposition by Rabbi Pesach Wolicki titled Psalm 23:5: Since When do Sheep Sit at a Table? Rabbi Wolicki explains,
“The problem with this translation is that the Hebrew word for anoint – MASHACH from the Hebrew root MSHCH – does not appear in this verse. That is the word everywhere in the Bible where someone is anointed. And our verse just does not say that. The word in our verse is DISHANTA from the three-letter root D-SH-N. And guess what? D-SH-N does not mean anoint. EVER. The root D-SH-N actually means ‘to fatten’, ‘make healthy’ or ‘make fresh.’”
This sent me reeling. At the table God hands my spinning, fear filled, anxiety ridden mind health. I have to sit down at this table He has prepared for me so that He can set out intentionally a meal of His Spirit that will make my mind healthy.
Here is how I rewrote it with the Hebrew word study and other researched definitions included.
You Prepare (arrange, intentionally order, ordain, furnish) a table (feast, provision in lavish form) for me in the presence of (facing, confronting) my enemies (evil, trouble); You anoint (make healthy, freshen, nourish, fertilize) my head with oil (Holy Spirit blessing, ornament, delight); my cup overflows (with living water, unending welcome, salvation eternal, abundance of spiritual blessing).
Whoa. Jesus has prepared a feast for me. A feast of spiritual blessing like peace, faith, love, and belonging that restores my mind IN my battle IN the middle of my trouble and fear. There is power in the ability to sit down at His table in crisis.
So, As I write this, I am preparing to drive the rest of that way to Fort Lauderdale so that I can take a flight home to Haiti. If the protests hold off and the airline doesn’t cancel the flight due to low passenger numbers, I will be hugging and kissing my babies and husband by Friday at noon. I do not know what is in store for us in Haiti. I am unsure about the unrest and what that means for our family, our KONBIT ministry, and our beautiful Haitian friends. I don’t know what the right call is for my precious son. He has been very sick twice during the 2 weeks I have been in the US. I don’t have ANY answers! I want to run around stressing about details and making plans. There will be time for my crazy plan making later. First, A table has been set for me and I want to sit down with my father right in the middle of this mess. He will make my thinking healthy and fill me with the power, faith, peace, love, and surrender that I need to face whatever I find my self in the middle of.
I pray for you today that when your enemies (place your personal war here) seem to be closing in and you want to panic. When every instinct tells you to make a plan, write a letter, make a call, or work, what if you sat down with our powerful God instead. He who desires to fill you with all you need to have peace, obey, and act in love in the most impossible of circumstances.
I love you friends.
Pray for Haiti. We are committed to being HERE and seeing Jesus lifted up and we are grieved beyond words by how current events have elevated the suffering of people we adore. We are also grieved and stressed by the struggle of attaining medical care for our son. We will be sitting at the Lord’s table in our battle and we will be praying for you as you do the same.