Blanc Prayers

Oh boy… it’s been so long since I’ve written anything – I have tons of things I want to share! I want to write about the experiences we had with our first “official” Water Project for Haiti team – the group that came down from our home town of Harrisburg, PA – because we had an AWESOME week. I want to write about how hard it is having your heart in two places, especially when loved ones are in need and we can’t be there for them. I still want to write about how God is all about Do-Overs, because He shows us time and time again that He is a God of second chances (see Too Much and Not Enough).

But, I know me, and I know that I’ll take too much time thinking and processing and drafting and editing. Ultimately, nothing will get posted. I’m pretty predictable that way.

So instead, I’m going to shy away from those topics, at least for now, and go in a totally different direction.

Recently, a friend of ours became ill. We visited him at his home, at the request of his brother who works as one of our security guards. After a quick exam by a visiting American doctor, we all came to the same conclusion: the man had had a stroke. (Apparently, this is pretty common in Haiti because of the diet.)

Philip went to the hospital when he first fell ill. They did a brief exam and sent him home

Philip and his little girl, before he became ill

with some vitamins, blood pressure medicine, and aspirin. A few days later, with no noticeable improvement, his family moved him to a local church’s prayer room. The infirmed live here until they are well enough to leave.

In our first-world lives, it’s hard to envision, imagine, or appreciate what it’s like living in a prayer room. The room is big – maybe 25’ x 40’ – and built of concrete block. Though there are a few small windows to help with air flow, it’s pretty hot inside. People sleep on mats that are, at best, 3-4” thick and likely brought from home. They provide little comfort from the hard concrete floor. Family members are responsible for feeding, bathing, laundry – everything associated with personal care. If they’re lucky, they may find a bench to sit on. I did see a chair outside during one of our recent visits. It’s a far, far cry from any kind of care facility most of us are accustomed to.

My first visit to the prayer room was with the American doctor who wanted to check on Philip before returning to the States. We were accompanied by Mamane, Philip’s brother (and our security guard). While there, we had Philip do a few exercises, then knelt by his side, laid hands on him and prayed. We bid a “pase bon nwit” (have a good night) to others in the prayer room as we left. After all, it was getting dark and we needed to get back to the compound.

Fast forward two weeks… a team of young adults arrived from Missouri. I mentioned to them that we have a friend who could use some prayer – would they be interested in praying with him? The response was an immediate yes. Once again, Mamane accompanied us on our visit. After all, this is family, and we can see that he loves his little brother very much.

During this visit, we had an opportunity to learn more about the others who had come for prayer. There is Miguel, who has some kind of stomach ailment – perhaps an ulcer? Cevlin, who according to her family, is not right in the head. Leo, who has unexplained swelling in his legs and feet that came on very suddenly. Aronson, who is still struggling with the loss of two family members in the 2010 earthquake and is now dealing with trembling in one leg. And of course, Philip. We prayed over each of them.

I would love to tell you that there was miraculous healing when we prayed over our Haitian brothers and sister, but that didn’t happen, and that’s not what this post is about. What struck me most about that evening was the walk home, and the conversation between Mamane and me. It is one that I will never forget. At least, I hope I never forget it.

Mamane was grateful, so very grateful, that we went with him to the prayer room. He emphasized how much people appreciate it when others come to pray, especially Blancs (whites) because everyone knows that God pays more attention to the prayers of white people, and He answers them more quickly.

Did you catch that?

Everyone knows that God pays more attention to the prayers of white people, and He answers them more quickly.

Cue <gasp>.

There is a lot about Haiti that will tug at your heart on a regular basis. Kids in tattered clothes. The constant ask for food or money. People without access to medical care. Animals that are mistreated and starving. Injustice abounds. But hearing Mamane say these words? That’s pretty high up there on the list.

Mamane and me on my first trip to Haiti

Mamane and me on my first trip to Haiti

I explained to my dear friend that his thinking is flawed. I told him that when he prays and when I pray, God hears our prayers the same way. When God sees Mamane, He doesn’t see black. When God looks at me, He doesn’t see white. He sees His children. And He loves all of us equally.

Mamane smiled and said “OK” a lot, but I know that this is a deeply, deeply seeded belief. He told me that maybe it’s because a lot of people in Haiti know God, but they don’t love Him. I explained to him that the same thing happens in the U.S.

Suffice it to say, there are a lot of things that are universal.

I know that our little chat likely won’t change things, but that doesn’t mean I won’t miss an opportunity to remind Mamane and Philip and all the others that God loves us all the same; that He hears us all the same. And though I sometimes worry that when healing comes, people will say it’s because God answered the prayers of the Blancs, we continue to visit the prayer room and lay hands and pray. After all, not praying doesn’t seem like a very good option.

Why am I sharing all of this with you??? Good question. It’s one I’ve been wrestling with myself. But, I think what’s going on in my head is two-fold. First, I realize how very lucky, fortunate, blessed LOVED I am because I cannot relate to Mamane’s words. I know and live in unconditional love every day. Wow, what a gift.

Of course, I can’t help but wonder how many of you feel the same way that Mamane does. Do you think that someone else’s prayers are more credible or carry more weight than your own? Goodness, I hope you say “no.” If not, well, perhaps we need to talk.

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12 Responses to Blanc Prayers

  1. Denise says:

    Wow! That is powerful stuff. Thanks Bim

  2. As I read your words, dear friend, and listen to your heart about all you are seeing, hearing and experiencing in this season of your life, I just want to cry. I cry for the people in Haiti as you share about the conditions they endure. I’ve been visiting residents at a local nursing home these past few months–I cry to realize how very blessed they are to have a real bed, nurses, therapists, and so much more to provide for their care. I intend to share with them today what you have written about the prayer room and hopefully they will join me in prayer for those who are confined there. I want to cry that anyone would even think that God would pay more attention to someone’s prayers b/c of their color. I want to cry for joy to know that you are there to dispute that belief and share truth about God and His amazing, unconditional and unending love. I feel like crying when I think how great it is that He called, and you and Tim answered the call to go there and minister to the people He put in your lives in Haiti. Most of all, I feel like crying when I think about the place where you and I met, and the work we were doing there, compared to the work you–and even I–am doing now. There is so much more to life, and so much more needed in life, than those things that held such a high priority. God help us to see the larger picture and get beyond ourselves.

    Thanks for sharing, Bim. I am honored and blessed to have you as my friend.

  3. Lynn Bertram says:

    How lucky the Haitians are to have you, Bim, to teach so many lessons large and small. Very thoughtfully written. Loved it! I will pray that they understand and believe that they are all God’s children.

    • It’s so good to hear from you, Lynn! Please, please, please tell your mom that I say hello. Goodness, I miss her. I don’t think she will ever fully appreciate the impact she had on my life. Take care!

      • Lynn Bertram says:

        Hi Bim! I have passed on your blog & said hello from Haiti! She misses you, too & must write.

  4. Pat and Beth Kelly says:

    Thanks Bim,
    One of the best sermons we’ve ever heard!
    Love you guys, P & B

  5. Pat and Beth Kelly says:

    p.s. And I (Beth) gasped even before you cued me too!!!!

  6. Steve and Dana Eckels says:

    Amazing how God calls you to minister far away but yet so close to the hearts here! Thanks for sharing to encourage us to do the same here.

  7. Becky Moore says:

    Beautifully said.

  8. Brian says:

    So a thought came to me as I read this. I hope it comes out correctly as I am horrible with expressing thoughts. Do you think Mamane (and those who share this feeling) feels this way because somehow, he is aware of the hardships of his country combined with the fact that large numbers of blancs come to their aid? I don’t know…just pondering.
    BTW…keep up the great work…I don’t know how you do it…

  9. suzanne says:

    thank you so much for sharing, this touched my heart in a huge way, and has given me yet another way to pray for you guys. Thank you for what your doing. Keep it up. Your in our prayers. God bless and Love to you.

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