Risen with Healing in His Wings

Cross-posted at RehobothHaiti.com.

While visiting Haiti several years ago, on a sleepless night, I heard a sound that made my skin crawl — the sound of cruel laughter and jeering mingled with angry, accusatory shouts coming from beyond the wall around my parents’ house. The mob dispersed and the sound dissipated in less than ten minutes, but on the way into work the next morning, our groundskeeper found a young man’s body sprawled in the street. Someone had accused the young man of being a thief, a mob had gathered, and the young man had been dragged into the street and his throat had been slit. Rumors flew afterwards that the young man hadn’t even done anything wrong. He had simply crossed a set of vicious men who had set him up that night and made sure that he died.

This week, my thoughts have returned to that young man since his death, if the rumors were true, paralleled the death of Jesus in more ways than one. Like that young man, Jesus was a poor man from a fractious part of the world who had the misfortune of crossing men of power and influence in first-century Palestine, men who decided to turn him into a cautionary tale. Seized in the middle of the night, Jesus was beaten before he had even stood trial and testified against at his shambolic trial by false witnesses to give his inevitable execution a veneer of justice. He was then executed in a brutal manner and his body left in a public place until nightfall. It was the first-century Palestinian equivalent of a lynching. Three days later, however, God would raise him from the dead.

Given the opportunity to finish the story, how would you have done it? Out of all the possible ways the story could have gone from there, vengeance would seem to be the most likely ending. Had he had the opportunity to revisit his enemies, the young man whose throat was slit would probably have been tempted to exact vengeance similar to the manner in which he was killed. Perhaps he would have shocked his unassuming killers one by one and dragged them before the public, forcing them to confess their guilt in excruciating detail before executing them for their crimes.

When they first heard and began to believe that he had risen from the dead, that is probably exactly what Jesus’ enemies thought he would do to them. When Peter first announced the resurrection to them (Acts 2:14-40), Luke writes they were “cut to the heart,” asking one another, “Brothers, what shall we do?” What could they do? Jesus was alive, and they had killed him. Peter’s reply must have taken them completely by surprise. “Repent and be baptized,” he proclaimed, “in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit!” God was not angry at those who had wronged his Son. On the contrary, he had used that very sin to save them, offering them the opportunity to become his sons and daughters.

The concept of grace is one of Christianity’s unique contributions to the flow of world history. Its impact has been felt in every culture in which the Gospel has taken root. Philip Yancey recounts a poignant example of grace in post-apartheid South Africa at one of the hearings for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where people who had committed horrific abuses of power were offered immunity from prosecution on the condition that they confess their crimes to their victims before a tribunal:

At one hearing, a policeman named van de Broek recounted an incident when he and other officers shot an eighteen-year-old boy and burned the body, turning it on the fire like a piece of barbecue meat in order to destroy the evidence. Eight years later van de Broek returned to the same house and seized the boy’s father. The wife was forced to watch as policemen bound her husband on a woodpile, poured gasoline over his body, and ignited it. The courtroom grew hushed as the elderly woman who had lost first her son and then her husband was given a chance to respond.

“What do you want from Mr. van de Broek?” the judge asked. She said she wanted van de Broek to go to the place where they burned her husband’s body and gather up the dust so she could give him a decent burial. His head down, the policeman nodded agreement.

Then she added a further request, “Mr. van de Broek took all my family away from me, and I still have a lot of love to give. Twice a month, I would like for him to come to the ghetto and spend a day with me so I can be a mother to him. And I would like Mr. van de Broek to know that he is forgiven by God, and that I forgive him too. I would like to embrace him so he can know my forgiveness is real.”

Spontaneously, some in the courtroom began singing “Amazing Grace” as the elderly woman made her way to the witness stand, but van de Broek did not hear the hymn. He had fainted, overwhelmed.

Is there hope for a world in which a mother loses her son and then has to watch as her husband is murdered? And even if there is, how can the victims of such tragedies move forward without being overwhelmed by sorrow or overcome by hatred? God answered both questions by raising Jesus from the dead. “Easter opened up a crack in a universe winding down toward entropy and decay,” Yancey writes, “sealing the promise that someday God will enlarge the miracle of Easter to cosmic scale.” The Scripture tells us, however, that God chose to raise Jesus with his scars intact — Jesus is a wounded healer. The hope of Easter rests in being healed as Christ Himself was healed, and in choosing to become a source of healing to others just as Christ, in his refusal to return evil for evil, has become the “sun of righteousness, risen with healing in his wings” (Mal. 4:2).

March 2013 Newsletter

Photo courtesy of Pastor John Finochio (Crossroads Community Church, Harriston, ON), who visited our church last month for its twenty-third anniversary celebration!

The first hints of spring are beginning to appear in Asheville, North Carolina. After a week of temperatures in the 20’s (and several days spent working outside at the conference center where I work), today’s high in the mid-50’s was more than welcome, especially to this Caribbean boy who has never quite learned to appreciate cold weather.

As the temperatures climb, the warmer weather serves as a reminder that it will not be too long before I will be back in Haiti. Since I will be seeing my parents next week, I went ahead and e-mailed them, asking them to bring the course materials for the classes I’ll be teaching to Virginia with them so I can begin preparing to be a teacher. Truly, it won’t be long now! The month of March will bring several changes to my life, as well as some acceleration to my fundraising efforts.

Two Trips Out of Town

  • March 10-13: I will be attending the A2 Conversation (formerly known as the MFI Southeast Regional Conference) at the House of Prayer in Chesterfield, Va. (near Richmond). My parents have been members of Ministers Fellowship International (MFI) since 2002. The churches in this fellowship are closely in line with ours doctrinally and frequently send ministry teams to Haiti to assist us with conferences. It is always a joy to worship with these brothers and sisters and benefit from great teaching and powerful times of prophetic ministry. As an added bonus, I will get to celebrate my 28th birthday (March 11) along with my parents and my little sister.
  • March 22-24: While attending Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., I was blessed with a rich network of Christian friends. These friends have invited me back to Kentucky for a fundraising dinner where I will have the ability to explain what I will be doing in Haiti and ask for their support. As I will also be able to catch up with several close friends while I am there, this promises to be a very encouraging trip back to the Bluegrass.

Community Group Leadership

As I raise support for my return to Haiti, I have the continued privilege of serving as a community group leader for my local church (Missio Dei Church in Asheville, NC). Our group of 11 meets on Wednesday evenings to worship and work through the Gospel of Mark. Leading this group has been one of the most rewarding things I have had the opportunity to do thus far in my life.

This month, we are also beginning a partnership as a group with World Relief, a Christian ministry providing assistance and outreach to refugees arriving in the Asheville area from other countries. Volunteers do things like setting up apartments in advance of a family’s arrival, as well as meeting families at the airport and helping them set up their new life — registering their kids for school, obtaining Social Security cards, etc. We are hoping for great fruit to result from serving and connecting with these marginalized people in our city.

Prayer Requests

The month of March will conclude this year with Easter and our celebration as the Christian Church of the hope that the Resurrection of Christ brings. As we continue our Lenten journey toward the cross and the empty grave on the other side of it, I am reminded of the power of the God who raised Jesus from the dead. Knowing this, I just wanted to commit a few prayer requests into your care:

  1. Please pray that I would be able to reach my goal of $15,000 by summer’s end. (To date, I have raised about $5,000.)
  2. Please pray that God would give me greater boldness in sharing the Gospel with co-workers and others here in Asheville who need to know the hope of Easter. Timidity is one of my besetting character weaknesses and I would like to overcome it fully.
  3. Please partner with me in trusting God for the ability to adequately prepare for the classes I will teach and for facility with Haitian Creole and French, languages I have not been required to use in quite a while. This will be quite a transition!

Thank you so much for your time, your prayers, your love, and for reading this! I want you to know I greatly appreciate your support, whether in terms of prayer or financial assistance, or both. My prayer is that the God of Easter fill you to overflowing this month through his Spirit with his resurrection power!

Sincerely, your brother in Christ,
John Adams