|Waterfront living in Haiti|
It was one of those nights in Haiti where the heat was relentless. It's a long, suffocating heat that would leave me drenched in sweat and exhausted. I waited in vain for a breeze; even the slightest, gentlest stirring of the air to offer even a token amount of relief.
Instead all I got was fear.
Even today, more than three years later, I don't know how to explain it. It's a fear I could feel, the distinct and inescapable understanding that evil was in my presence and, in the simplest of terms, that something very bad was taking place. Except for the fact that I was alone in the small bedroom, save for a fellow missionary sleeping soundly nearby, oblivious apparently to the unceasing heat and the evil hovering among us.
I would later learn from our generous hosts that the rural, hillside cinder block home we were staying in had been built in a neighborhood of occupied by at least nine witch doctors who plied voodoo and, I would surmise, did not much care for the American missionaries carrying the hope of the gospel to a people in desperate need and the hearts to elevate lives.
As I lay sweating and succumbing to whatever force enveloped me, the fear welled up to the point that I remember my breathing became labored. I remember distinctly feeling like my lungs and heart were being squeezed. I was convinced I was not going to leave Haiti alive and the only way I would depart would be in a coffin. Whether it was delirium, or some sort of vision, or some other supernatural occurrence such as spiritual warfare, I can't be sure. I do know that I've never been more scared in my life.
I think about that night frequently. It is seared into my memory. Certain events in life we carry with us and they arise frequently out of the millions of memories of our past. Many bring us a smile, some may bring sadness, others a laugh.
This memory of that night in Haiti brings an understanding to me. It's a knowledge beyond something I know in my mind, like a fact I can recite. It's an intimate understanding of the power of God, of His love for me. Because in the depths of my fear, in a dark place of seemingly inescapable evil, I came to an understanding of who God is and how He cares for me.
I prayed for relief from the enveloping fear. As I prayed I felt compelled to reach underneath my bed and fetch my Bible. By the light of my cell phone I opened to Psalm 62 and read these words:
"Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be greatly moved."
As I read the whole Psalm a peace washed over me. It wasn't instantaneous, but more like having something very heavy slowly lifted off my chest. It was, I believed, good overcoming evil. It was love prevailing. It was true power exercising its might and conquering evil on behalf of a wounded man. My circumstances didn't change. The heat didn't relent, the dark night remained, the voodoo practitioners were still nearby.
What changed was my focus was taken off my circumstances and my fear and on to the God who sent His beloved Son to die for me. Fear takes prisoners. God frees lives. God is my shelter and defense fighting on my behalf; I'm never going it alone.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is John 14:27. In the verse Jesus gives a promise and says simply, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
I know that peace intimately. I encountered it on a suffocating night on a hill in a Haiti village, where a darkness of profound fear was overcome by the illuminating light of God's overpowering love, spoken to me through words that are as alive to me today as they were to the Psalmist thousands of years ago.