I still recall traveling with the youth from our parish on a mission to the Dominican Republic. We were all immediately aware of the oppressive heat. There was also the oppressive poverty. Our mission was outside of Barahona, in a Haitian refugee camp. Some of the sights, sounds and smells were difficult and depressing.
In the evening we would meet, pray and discuss our experiences, providing support one to another. It was a time of mutual affection. We were all in this—together.
What soon became apparent to us as well was the encouragement and affection from the Haitians. They lifted our spirits. They surrounded us in joy. We brought dentists who used pliers to pull teeth from gums rotted by sugar cane. We had a staff of nurses who provided a makeshift women’s clinic with limited medicines inside a tent with only a flashlight for assistance. We did our part but they kept us going when we heard from their lips, again and again, the simple word gracias.
We built a small concrete block structure that would serve as both as a community center during the weekdays and during the nights and weekends it would serve as a church. It was the only solid structure in the refugee camp that could survive a hurricane. Again, we heard gracias. We were held together by our mutual affection and our faith. Faith that took “every effort” and worked because of prayer. Prayer reminded us, “when two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus, He will be there in our midst.”
I learned about the power of prayer from the man in the picture. He was known only as “Pastor Jack” and I will never forget him. He spoke English with a thick accent and during worship he expressed his gratitude and thanksgiving. He told us the only religion in the area was voodoo until he placed a stake in the ground which he is holding in the picture.
He went on to tell us that for the past 10 years he would wake in the morning and, standing next to the stake in the ground, he prayed for a church to be built around the stake. “Today” he told us, “my prayers have been answered. I knew you would come.” And then he said, “Gracias.”
I don’t know about you but there are days I have a hard time staying focused in prayer for ten seconds. Imagine ten years. Ten years—makes giants of faith. What I learned from Pastor Jack is God is faithful. Prayers are answered. And the prayer of thanksgiving can be found in one word: gracias. With this prayer comes mutual affection, with God and with our neighbor.
The picture of Pastor Jack stands on my desk today. Yes, I think of him every morning and I pray. Prayer may well be the only effort needed. Prayer strengthens our faith and adds mutual affection, leaving us to speak the word, gracias.
8 thoughts on “Pastor Jack and Mutual Affection”
Thank you Robin for your blogs and posts. I miss you all terribly. Times have been very hard lately but your words have kept me moving forward. I am working daily to turn over all my control to God through prayer and meditation– with the faith he will guide me in the correct direction. Thank you for being you– love to Mary. All the best– Mollie
Great hearing from you Mollie and good for you in going the tried and true way of faith. A little faith and trust goes a long way these days. Best to Andrew!
What a beautiful story! My son and his wife and 6-year-old daughter went on a mission trip to the DR several years ago. It was a life-changing experience for all of them. And yes, it made them even more grateful to God.
Thanks Tracy! Along with the gratitude, what also was so impressive was the hospitality extended to us in a Haitian refugee camp. Beautiful people and I still draw from that experience.
I loved this story and Robin you touch my heart when you refer to your prayers, not always the same. Sometimes short. I find myself asking for forgiveness for falling asleep without conclusion or not enough thankfulness or praise. Reading about those with so little who hunger for God’s word, is humbling and a reminder that all lives matter when it comes to the one who created us out of love. May I be a servant for you Lord. Bless you and yours. Mary Harris
Thanks Mary! you have a servant’s heart and your prayers only continue to nourish it as you continue to bear fruit.
Prayer is powerful and it is always answered. I don’t actively pray that much but when I want something from Jesus I will ask and then quiet myself and wait for the result. I am not expected to do anything about it until told. In fact doing something about it gets in the way most times and postpones the outcome more often than not. Another thing I have received is that giving more — whatever is needed — will open me up even more to Jesus and what he wants to send to me. Of course thank yous, many and often are necessary.
That is a loaded response Linda and there are several layers that may be worth exploring, i.e. discerning what is being “told” and “something” getting in the way. These are everyday opportunities to explore further the discipline of prayer and perhaps where God is leading. Thanks for replying.