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Hope or Hooey?

The following is a post from my friend and pastor Jeff Hogan’s blog Convergence from August 17, 2007:


I really don’t have to explain suffering, do I? As soon as I said that word you probably filled in the blanks with your own story of pain, custom fit just for your life. Pain doesn’t care how old we are, or how much money we make, or what kind of car we drive- it sinks its teeth into all of us.

It’s in the sound of the doctor’s voice, saying those words we never wanted to hear.

It’s watching as your Mom and Dad’s marriage falls apart.

It’s in the helplessness of seeing a child slipping away.

It’s hearing the words “I don’t love you anymore.”

These things stack up inside us, and they can make us skeptical to the 2000 year old words of Paul in Romans 8:18 when he says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

That’s a pretty big statement. If it wasn’t in the Bible, it might sound like a bunch of hooey.

Actually, depending on what you’re going through right now, it might sound like a bunch of hooey anyway.

At any rate, it makes me think about something that happened a while back.
I eat breakfast every Wednesday with a couple of guys. We usually talk about a book that we’re all reading, but a couple of weeks ago, we just talked about Rose. This wasn’t too hard- Mark had 3 entire albums full of their latest pictures of her.

The photos were from a trip that Mark and his wife Kim had recently taken to Haiti, to spend some more time with their little girl. They knew they wouldn’t be able to take Rose home- but that wasn’t really the point.

Mark and Kim love Rose. She isn’t some abstract concept, like “the orphans of Haiti,” or a name on a support card. She is their daughter. She just doesn’t live with them yet.

Adopting a child from Haiti is a long, expensive process and you have to jump through a lot of hoops. Every day that Mark and Kim spend without Rose is painful. But they continue to hope, and that hope is based in a quiet, confident expectation that it WILL happen. Nothing that Mark and Kim endure today will compare with the day when the adoption is complete and they get to take Rose home.

Do you think that God is any different? Is it any wonder that Paul can say that nothing we endure today is worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us? The hope that he is saying we can have is that same confident expectation that Mark and Kim have about Rose’s adoption. It will happen.

“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” -Romans 8:23-25

I think that dealing with suffering is infinitely harder when you question if you really matter, and if there’s anything to believe in; to hope for.

The Creator, God of the universe answers both of those questions. He tells us, “You can believe in Me. I didn’t have a beginning, I won’t have an end, and I don’t change. I will be solid for you to hang on to, and I will never leave you, or forsake you.”

But He’s also saying, “I believe in you!” “You matter to Me, and I want you as my daughter; as my son.”

If we accept that adoption, then we HAVE to accept the truth that God wants us!

Nothing we endure today will compare with the day when our adoption is complete.

And that’s not hooey.

In Him We Live,


p.s.- Thanks Mark, for letting me tell your amazing story.


UPDATE: Two and a half years later, Rose is still in Haiti with her sister and two brothers waiting to be adopted by Mark and Kim.

And here’s the last update from Jeff:

Kim is in Haiti at the orphanage with the kids- they are all safe for the time being. Though he was still waiting for word directly from her today, the last update I’ve seen on Mark’s facebook is, “I heard through Vicki & Dave Warner (Kim’s boss) that Kim is doing well and is very, very, very happy to be with all the kids at Lashbrook Family Ministries – Haiti in Port de Paix.” The plan was for Kim to stay and help at the orphanage while Mark continued his fight stateside to secure humanitarian visa’s for all four children. Kim told him, “I don’t want to come home without our kids.”

This adoption process has been long journey and just because Kim is with the children now, it doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. Would you please continue to pray for this family and others who just want to bring their kids home to a loving family? I know they would greatly appreciate it.

Haiti, Pat Robertson, and the Thin Places (by Billy Coffey)

AP Photo/Jorge Cruz

I could not help but think of my grandfather as the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake was relayed on the evening news. Could not help but wonder what he would say about what had happened. I wondered, too, what he would do. He said he would never return there and kept that promise, but in many ways his heart beat for the Haitian people. A part of me thought something on this scale might have drawn him back to the place that almost killed him. The place he warned me never to visit.

My grandfather travelled the world for most of his adult life as a missionary, visiting the remote villages and enduring the third world conditions of far-flung places not just for his love for people or even God. No, it was his love for adventure that took him behind the Iron Curtain, into Africa, and—twice—to Turkey in search of Noah’s ark.

But it was Haiti that captured his wanderlust the most, that tiny half of a tiny island that was so crowded and, back then, so forgotten. That was where he spent most of his time. He would write me letters and I would devour them, studying not just the smooth cursive handwriting but the stamp and the postmark and the envelope itself, worn and frayed as though it had passed through entire worlds to reach me.

The stories he told bordered on fantasy—villages in the grip of madmen, ritualized rape, and lives stripped bare to the point where the essentials had become excess.

He witnessed acts that defied both reason and physics performed in the name of unnamable spirits. Spoke of zombies and ghosts and curses.

Haiti was a place of wildness, he wrote. And it was also full of the most beautiful and caring people he’d ever met.

Yet twice he had been threatened by voodoo priests who saw his presence in their villages as a threat to their authority. Twice he escaped. He was a smart one, my grandfather. And no doubt protected by powers greater than darkness.

It was on a mission trip there in the mid-eighties that he disappeared. Authorities found his Jeep abandoned in the middle of a field. There were no footprints or tire tracks. No witnesses. The State Department was contacted, who then reached out to the American embassy. For three days our family waited and prayed for news.

On that third day my grandfather walked into a village sixty miles from where he’d last been seen, confused and shaken but otherwise in good health. He was questioned by both the Haitian police and the State Department, but those interviews proved fruitless. My grandfather never told them where he had been or what had happened. Never told his family, either. And he never returned to Haiti.

A few weeks before he died he pulled me aside during a family meal for questions that were short and ordinary—how’s school? Baseball? Are you still praying every day? He nodded and smiled, satisfied. And then his face grew serious, almost fearful, and he spoke to me the last words I’d ever hear him say:

“The world is a wonderful place, Billy. You should see as much of it as you can. But never go to Haiti. Promise me.”

I did. I still do.

I suppose if anyone would know the truth (or lack thereof) of what Pat Robertson said last week, it would be my grandfather. I’m sorry he’s gone. Sorrier today. But I’ve spent the better part of today remembering those letters and the way he talked about the Haitians, and I know what he would have said.

He would have said there are people who like the idea of a vengeful God as long as that vengeance is directed at someone else. He would have also said that Christianity is best defined not by what its adherents should believe, but what they do with that belief. It’s the love they display and the help they provide, regardless of where that love and help is needed.

He would have indeed said that Haiti has its evils. There are thin places in this world where other worlds meet and linger, and those are the places that must be tread upon lightly. Haiti is a thin place. But he would also say there are thin places within each of us as well, where good and evil clash and struggle.

Yes, he would say, Haiti is dark. But so are we.


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.


And to read ways you can help with the relief and rescue effort in Haiti, please visit my friend Maurenn Doallas at Writing without Paper