Diaspora

With Jesus in Haiti on Christmas Day | Religion | themountaineer.com – The Mountaineer

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A SIMPLE LIFE — Haitian native Osner now has a home that was built by a church mission team. It has a simple raised platform for his bed. Osner had slept on a dirt floor all his life.
{div}A mission family is leaving on Christmas Day to take food to neighbors.{/div} {div} {/div}
CHRISTMAS IN HAITI — Rachael and Kris Coleman, and their children, Anna, Levi, Lydia live in Haiti where they celebrate Christmas in a much different way than families in Western North Carolina.
LIFE IN HAITI — Marjorie, is with Rachael Coleman, daughter of Maggie Valley residents, Rev. Mike and Sue Shirley.

A SIMPLE LIFE — Haitian native Osner now has a home that was built by a church mission team. It has a simple raised platform for his bed. Osner had slept on a dirt floor all his life.
{div}A mission family is leaving on Christmas Day to take food to neighbors.{/div} {div} {/div}
CHRISTMAS IN HAITI — Rachael and Kris Coleman, and their children, Anna, Levi, Lydia live in Haiti where they celebrate Christmas in a much different way than families in Western North Carolina.
LIFE IN HAITI — Marjorie, is with Rachael Coleman, daughter of Maggie Valley residents, Rev. Mike and Sue Shirley.
When Mike and Sue Shirley of Haywood County visited their missionary daughter Rachael and husband in Haiti one Christmas, they experienced a holy day unlike any before.
Rachael and Kris began a ministry there in 2016 with their three school-age children. After the Christmas morning gifts were opened, the family loaded rice and beans into backpacks and along with containers of cooking oil went out to visit their Haitian neighbors who live with little.
It is clear in the Gospels, that God chose to come into the world in a family without wealth or position. When the Messiah was born in a place where animals were sheltered, the first to receive the message of God’s incarnation were shepherds in fields outside Bethlehem who were among the poorest of the poor.
For Mike and Sue, instead of seeing the face of Christ in the busyness of our American holiday shopping, could Jesus not instead be seen in the faces of people in Haiti today? People who live with few possessions and for whom a gift of food is treasured.
Listen to their descriptions of the visit. “Christmas has never been the same for me since the holy and gritty converged on Christmas Day in Haiti,” said Sue. “Lafferonney (outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti) is a drab and dusty little village with shelters made from cement blocks, scraps of wood, corrugated metal, or patchwork tents.
“With a mixture of Voodoo, Catholicism and Pentecostalism, there is an amalgam of sights and sounds but no Christmas decorations or music.
And, although there were no special choir performances, a group of women dressed in sparkling white robes sang ‘Lord, I Lift Your Name on High’ in Creole as they made their way down the dirt road of the village at dawn. I was the only one in the family to experience this. Maybe they were angels — anything is possible in Haiti. And, it was one of many times that I knew Jesus was alive in the people of Haiti.”
Mike was a Christian minister throughout his adult life in Florida and Virginia.
“Like many of us,” he said, “I have been blessed to stand in the field near Bethlehem and imagine the message from the angels, “Good News of great joy for all people.”
That message came to shepherds (people with no social standing) in a humble setting. Spending Christmas with our children and grandchildren in Haiti taught me what I think Bethlehem teaches. Joy is experienced apart from focusing on materialism. Joy is in relationships and in giving.
“As we visited homes near my children’s home outside Port au Prince, we offered simple gifts of food to people who were hungry and who lived in poverty; people with no social standing, I thought of those shepherds,” he said. “We joined in a circle to pray, and it was clear these Haitian neighbors were also touched by the ‘good news of great joy.’ In my years as a pastor, many times I have celebrated that good news on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But together with our family in Haiti, without Christmas lights or familiar carols, I felt unusually close to Jesus and to those we were blessed to serve.”
Rachael and Kris Coleman, and their children, Anna, Levi, Lydia, took a vow of poverty to create a mission in this nearby Caribbean nation. They help build simple homes, host mission teams, assist with basic medical care and find ways to provide jobs. They live their Christian faith every day through prayer within the family and with everyone they meet.
“When we set out to deliver gifts of cooking oil, beans and rice to the local Haitians,” said Sue, “there was so much love, so much gratitude for these simple gifts. Circling up to pray with each family on our path, I was surprised by the joy and inner light they expressed. They praised Jesus in Creole and prayed for us, which was humbling. Those winsome, affectionate people radiated hope in the midst of poverty, struggles, and a harsh environment. I remember thinking ‘now, this is Christmas.’ I’m not wanting to bash the way our culture celebrates Christmas, but I try to remember that more stuff and more activity doesn’t bring more joy or closeness to God. It was the best Christmas ever. I felt closer to God. This is what Christmas is; the expressions of gratitude and Jesus’ ministry to the poor.”

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