I sat on the tent floor looking at the thirty or so students and they sat looking at me. Jude worked to seal a tent seam with duct tape, but didn’t need my help. Hmm, now what? I thought.
“Will you sing a song?” I asked in French that probably came out more like, “Sing me.” Regardless they must have understood because, as if rehearsed for such an occasion, the kids started to sing. Led by their teachers their sweet voices lifted up Jesus Loves Me, He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, Glwa Pou Bondye (a Haitian worship song our group had learned that week, and sung dozens of times) and a few others I’d heard lilting from the school tents while we’d worked in the camp. They sang and sang and sang. So loudly at times my ears hurt.
I sang along, clapped, laughed and soaked in the incredibly beautiful scene. The children looked so happy. Even though others stood outside the tent and looked in, the moment felt incredibly personal. Like God had chosen me alone to receive such a gift. It was a time of lightness and joy and love. When the children’s last notes floated up to and past the roof of the tent, I applauded and said through tear-soaked eyes, “Thank you.”
And then I did something so unlike me. Something so unusual for my reserved nature that measures oh, so much of what I express. I knelt before the children and opened my arms out wide in a symbolic embrace. “Je t’aime,” I said (I love you). To my surprise they all crushed forward to hug me. All of them. I remember their giggles and how I used all the strength I had so they wouldn’t flatten me.
God’s love is something I read about, I write about and I talk about. But it isn’t something I often feel applies to me directly. Others maybe, but not me. Yet in that tent, in the middle of a scrum of hugging, Haitian children, I sensed God telling me, “I love you—YOU!” And I believed Him.
I realize that experience confirmed a truth that overarches all of life: We were made to love and be loved by God. And we were made to love and be loved by others. When we live out this truth, it doesn’t matter our circumstances, geography, economics, race, gender or age because it is well with our souls.
In a refugee camp, in one of the poorest countries in the world, after one of the largest disasters ever, one of the most beautiful pieces of scripture took on flesh and became real:
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 37-39)
And this picture proves it. (Yes, that’s me):
God loves YOU this much, too. Do you believe Him?