Two churches, two sundays (excerpt from Unfinished)

This past Tuesday, Rich Stearns -- president of World Vision U.S. and best-selling author of The Hole in our Gospel -- launched his second book: Unfinished: Believing Is Only The Beginning.

Below is an excerpt from the book, which explores God's plan for the world and how each and every one of us is called to a unique role in that mission.

Miss our introduction to the book last Tuesday? You can check it out here.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010: Port-au-Prince, Haiti

We left early that morning to make the circuitous drive through the rubble-strewn streets of Port-au-Prince to a tent camp a few miles outside of the earthquake-ravaged city. The Corail Camp was just one of the locations to which earthquake refugees had been moved after losing their homes to the devastating January 12 quake. More than 200,000 had died that day. Eleven months later, these refugees were the “lucky ones.”

We entered the Corail Camp just before 9 a.m. Crude tents sprawled as far as the eye could see. Perhaps 10,000 people now lived on this barren patch of dust and dirt, a city of victims, a city of pain and loss.

We watched as hundreds of people, dressed in their best white shirts and blouses, found their way through the maze of tents toward a larger tent structure -- a makeshift church of scrap lumber, corrugated tin, and UN tarps with a rugged cross atop it. Reneé and I entered this little chapel with perhaps 300 souls gathered to worship.

And worship they did. We were about to learn a transformative lesson about the power of the gospel. For more than two hours, they poured out their praise -- and their pain -- to the One who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities and through whose wounds we are healed.

It was hard to comprehend. How, I thought, could these broken people, who had lost so much, still sing their praises to God? Sitting in the front row on rough wooden benches were not one but six amputees. Men, women, even a little girl of 6; each had lost a limb that day 11 months earlier.

Still they sang praises. One strong and dignified woman led the choir; we would later learn that her name was Demosi. She stood out above the others in her bearing, passion, and fervent praise. But she stood on just one leg and clapped with just one arm. Demosi had lost both an arm and leg on that day. But there she was, leading the choir with energy and clapping her one hand to her shoulder in praise to her Lord. What a beacon, what a light for her people. She who had lost more than all the others, showing them how to live in their new normal.

Demosi Louphine (age 32, red head scarf) helps lead Sunday worship and singing at Eglise de Dieu Nouvelle Alliance de Corail church in the Corail camp for Haiti earthquake survivors. (Photo: Jon Warren/World Vision)

After two sermons by two pastors and a lengthy period of worship and praise, we walked with Demosi back to her small tent. Eight feet long by six feet wide and perhaps five feet tall, this structure was where this single mother of two now lived and raised her two young girls.

Sensing we were in the presence of one of God’s great servants, Reneé and I sought to understand.
 Her smile was infectious. Demosi had lost more than just two limbs that day. She had also lost her home and her job and had then spent the next 11 months living in this tiny tent.

How, then, could she smile? We could detect no bitterness or depression. Instead, she was grateful -- grateful to God because he had spared her life that day. He had given her a second chance. Demosi was filled with hope, not bitterness. She looked forward to receiving a prosthetic arm as she had received a prosthetic leg, to becoming a seller in the market, and perhaps to receiving one of the 20-by-20 slab homes World Vision was building nearby.

She was so much better off than those who had died, she told us, because she had been spared and given another chance to raise her girls and serve her Lord. Demosi knew there was work to be done, and she was thankful that God had given her an opportunity to do it. She could now be the light in this dark place, giving hope to the others who had also lost everything. Her suffering could now be used as a blessing to others.

As we sought to understand this great soul, Reneé asked her what she would want us to say about her to people back in America. Demosi smiled her great smile and said, “You tell them you’ve met Lazarus, and she is back from the dead!” Back from the dead to serve the God she loves with the life she had been given.

Sunday, December 12, 2010: Seattle, Washington

Seven days later, we were back in Seattle and on the way to our very different church.

It was Advent, and our sanctuary was stunning: adorned with garlands and poinsettias, candles in each of the stained glass windows, festive banners draped from the ceiling, and two 25-foot Christmas trees up front, each festooned with hundreds of lights. One of the largest pipe organs in America filled the church with beloved Christmas hymns -- “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World.” The adorable children’s choir came in dressed in their Sunday best and sang “Go, Tell It on the Mountain.”

It was beautiful. On any other Sunday this would have been a blessing to me and Reneé. But somehow, seven days after the worship service in Haiti, it felt wrong.

As the service ended, with lots of smiles and Christmas best wishes, people streamed out of the church and into their cars. Undoubtedly many of our fellow worshipers left the church that day and went to the shopping malls to finish Christmas shopping; others went home to watch football games on their large-screen TVs.

Two different churches on two different Sundays. Something just felt wrong, and I imagined a tear running down the face of God as he looked upon these two very different expressions of his church. This couldn’t have been what God had in mind when he sent us into the world to build a new kind of kingdom by establishing his church.

Unfinished is now available. Order your copy today at Barnes & Noble or Family Christian!

Learn more about Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S.


    I am glad to fellowship with you in these heart breaking thoughts that haunt me regularly. I look at my beloved nation with unbelief as to the path they are taking, but coupled with this reality, it all makes sense.

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