“What could I say that would matter?”
That was all I could think about as I stood before a crowd of 100 Haitians—all homeless, all living in tents. Their brown eyes pierced me—waiting, wondering, and desperately looking to me for something.
I had been on a mission trip in Haiti with a group of pastors; I was one of only two women in the group. We were there to learn about the projects that our churches had supported. Truly, we were there to offer love, to hug necks of orphans, to hold hands, and to pray with widows.
It had already been a long day. We had toured orphanages, played with the kids, learned about school and well water –projects, along with coming face-to-face with the emotional wreckage of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. That night we toured “Tent City”—home to 20,000 Haitian earthquake victims from 2010, who are still living in tents after losing everything.
The Haitian pastor we came to visit hosted a makeshift church under a ragged circus tent. Huge fans helped create some movement in what otherwise would be an overwhelming mix of humanity, raw sewage, and waste. Children wandered without clothing. Skinny dogs trotted among the rows. There was a dramatic contrast of experiences: women looking as if they had just come from a Sunday cookout (neatly dressed and freshly lip-sticked) and young and old men smartly attired, each clinging to a well-worn Bible. Then, beyond the big tent were rows of small tarps, tents, and more tents.
Each of our group took turns giving a quick speech, something beautifully encouraging. They were all pastors; this is what they did for a living. What happened next was appalling. The Haitian pastor turned to me and said, “Now it is your turn.” I explained that I was not there to speak. He assured me that there was no getting out of this.
What could I say that would matter? Who was I? A homeschool mom? I was not a trained speaker. Yet there I was, standing before them. They were desperately looking to me for hope and I was desperately hoping for something to say. Searching, I begged God for something good.
I told them about the only thing I could think of—my son. I told them how much he wanted to be there, how I could not wait to go home and tell their story; to share how much I had learned from their amazing faith. I told them I would never forget their faces, their hearts. Especially, I would remember a people that love God more richly than I could ever imagine. I would tell their story.
It must have worked out okay because as the pastor translated my words, I got a resounding “Amen!” when I was finished. I loved –that—there is nothing like a good “Amen!” to make you feel as though you did something right.
After that moment, I never wanted to be caught without something good to say for God. I was more than embarrassed and slightly ashamed that I was not ready to speak for Him. After all, I had travelled hundreds of miles, slept in an orphan’s bed that she had given up for me, eaten more food that week than most Haitians ate in a month. Surely, I could say something for God. Next time, I would be ready.
I share this story because I am so excited about the Classical Conversations Practicum series coming up this summer which will feature this very topic: rhetoric. (Quick side note: If you are not familiar with practicum, it is a free three-day conference offered by Classical Conversations in your area for the purpose of equipping and offering tools for parents. Some describe it as a pep rally, a Bible study, and a college class all in one.)
I cannot wait to dive into learning more about how we can help use our words for God. As a parent educator, I look forward to being equipped to share this with my family. I am not a fancy speaker; I am not a natural at waxing poetic words and inspiring others. However, I love learning and I want to be ready for Him. I want my family to become really good at using our words for God.
If you have never been to practicum, please come. If you are a veteran attendee of practicum, please come to love on and encourage the newbies. For me, I want to be the one that is ready when called. I want to model that ready-ness to my family and people I meet. There is so much beauty to share. Our words are such a gift—I want to use them for His honor and glory.
To find a practicum near you, visit www.parentpracticum.com.