“There is no American, African, or Asian way of breathing. There is no rich or poor way of breathing.”
~Richard Rohr, The Naked Now
Amber woke me at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. “I can’t find your keys,” she said, which I reckoned less of the truth and more of an excuse to squeeze one last kiss out of me before leaving on a jet plane. “They’re here, right by the door,” I said, the a.m. annoyance in my voice unmasked. She grinned, shrugged, and hugged me long. “Pray for me,” she said.
I watched her pull from the driveway and turn into the street. She is a wonder of a woman, my wife; she is mother, writer, sometimes preacher, road-tripping traveler. She has a grand capacity for loving people–all people.
The taillights of the car veered left at the end of the street. I wondered how this trip would change her. I wondered if I’d recognize her when she returns from Haiti. She’s traveling to tell stories with Help One Now. They are good people who hope to stay small and serve big. It’s their grand ideal, and Amber is going to write it.
When mama’s away, the boys will play, so we loaded up the mini-van and made our way to a ranch south of Fort Smith. The ranch sits in the heart of the Ouachitas, the pearl that fell from the mouth of the Ozarks. I’ve been coming to this ranch since I was a teenager, it being owned by a family from the church of my teenage years. The ranch is a broad swath of green pasture with a black pond in the middle. It boasts a million wildflowers, an awakening honeybee colony, and a mess of Longhorn cattle.
We spent the day there, fishing, shooting pellet guns, tromping through runoff creeks. Titus took off most of his clothes and ran circles around the pond in his crocks and saggy diaper. The boy was meant to run free.
My parents and I took turns with the children. My pop taught Ike how to cast beyond the reeds, how to zip the spinner through the thick mucky underbrush where the bass had bedded down. He practiced and practiced until he struck pay dirt and reeled in a two-pound smallmouth.
Jude and I worked the other side of the pond, talked about school, and girls, and mama’s trip to Haiti. I told him about the earthquake in 2010, how the people were shaken up, some were killed. “This world is always shaking one way or another,” I told him, “but God says that we are members of an unshakeable kingdom.”
“Is that heaven?” he asked.
“Yes, but it’s unshakeable here. The kingdom is here, even now. It’s in this spring, in the beauty of the sun over the pond. It’s in church, in sharing scripture with each other. It’s in our conversation. The kingdom is in us.”
I think about the unshakeable kingdom, how I am teaching it to my children while Amber is experiencing it in Haiti. There is a co-laboring here. Do you see it? I am with the boys so that Amber can be in Haiti, and Amber is in Haiti so I can be with the boys. My parents are with me so that my four hoodlums don’t overrun me. They are co-laborers, too.
We are symbiotic.
This morning, Amber woke to the Haitian rooster calling. She woke where the smells of spice and sorrow mingled with the incense of joy and the sound of laughter.
I wonder what the people of Haiti will give her, what kind of water she’ll carry home. Amber is the most empathetic person I have ever met–hands down. If you came to our house bedraggled and thirsty, if you told her your gullet was parched to cracking, she’d make two glasses of water, one for you and one for her. She feels the pains of all others, takes them on as if they were her one. She has no doubt tapped into the joy, pain, and love of the Haitian people. This is her gift.
Today we met Gaetan’s wife, and after nearly being blinded by the joy of her face after she had cooked a meal for 31 children, my eyes went straight to her feet. I have never so desired to kneel straight down and wash feet. They are not famous and don’t belong on pedestals. They are humble, desperate, persevering disciples of Jesus Christ. To know them is to respect them and to want to show them honor.
She’s honoring the stories of our brothers and sisters, our co-laborers in the good and coming kingdom. She is learning from the unsung heroes of our sister church.
Richard Rohr says that we have all been given the same breath–the breath of the living God. There is no us and them, rich and poor, Haitian or American. Those with the Spirit of God are all lesser brothers together, the humble co-laborers and bearers of the unshakeable kingdom.
I co-labor with my wife as she co-labors with the beautiful church in Port-au-Prince. My parents co-labor with me as we teach my children the value of service, of running free, of reeling in smallmouth bass. You co-labor as you pray for your families, for the international church, for your friends.
We are all in this together.
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