A woman who lives on a mountainside in Haiti said something two weeks ago that stopped me in my tracks. I can’t stop thinking about it, and it makes me smile every time.
Eve Rose was working on some food with a machete when her nephew brought us into her yard so we could pray for her family. I was on a short trip to the island on behalf of our church to explore partnerships for ministry, and we had just visited a possible location for a medical clinic not far from her house – once built, it would mean that the people of Piatre would no longer have to descend hundreds of feet to the coast on a treacherous road to get medical care. She invited us to sit for a while, and our host introduced us and spoke with her in Creole, translating for the three Americans. I am still fluent in French, and was able to pick up the gist of some of their conversation.
We learned that Eve Rose has spent her entire life, probably over 50 years, in this mountainside community north of Port-au-Prince. Our host, raised in southern Haiti, joked with her that he too was from Piatre, which she quickly denied – “No, if you were from Piatre, I would know you.” At that point, one of the Americans also joked that he was from Piatre. We all laughed – our Haitian host might have gotten away with the claim, but there was no way this white guy from Atlanta could pass for a member of her community.
That’s when it happened. As the laughter died down, Eve Rose said something that I hope I never forget. I recall it in French, though it could be that her Creole was close enough to French that I was able to understand it. She smiled, threw her arms wide as if she were embracing all of us together, and said “Nous sommes tous de Piatre!”
“We are all from Piatre.” With that generous proclamation, barriers shrunk. The contrasting colors of our skin were set aside for the moment. While the vast economic differences between us didn’t disappear, their significance diminished. We had been welcomed into the community. We were from Piatre.
That gesture seemed to come naturally to her. It was hospitality in its purest form, meant to make us feel at home, part of the clan. In its own way, it was a revolutionary statement. It gently but firmly declared that, in her yard, that which unites us is far more important than that which divides us.
I learned from Eve Rose. I hope we all learn from Eve Rose. In a sharply divided American world, in a sadly and increasingly divided Christian world, her spirit is sorely needed. We quickly forget the Scriptural command to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
Perched on a rickety wooden chair in the yard of a poor family in one of the poorest nations on the planet, in a group composed of blacks and whites, of rich and poor, I experienced the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I hope I never forget it.
Because we are all from Piatre.
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