Funding the Future

iStock_000004407014Medium2“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” —Matthew 28:19a

Jesus’ command to make disciples drives everything we at Rehoboth Ministries do in Haiti. We believe that Haiti will never be healthier than the Haitian church. The church in Haiti, in turn, will never rise higher than the level of its leadership. As such, our Bible training institute is at the heart of what we do. Haiti is a country where the Gospel has often gone “a mile wide and an inch deep.” Too often, missionaries have majored on evangelism and mercy ministry to the neglect of the local church. As such, Haitian believers can be woefully under-taught. (This semester, for example, a student of mine who has attended an evangelical church for years was genuinely surprised to learn that Christians have always believed that Jesus was God as well as man.)

As I wrote in February, however, this has been an exceptionally difficult year in the life of our Bible institute. In contrast to previous years, most of our students have been unable to pay their school dues. As a result, Rehoboth Ministries has had to subsidize most of the teachers’ salaries, stretching a ministry budget that even on a good day doesn’t have much give. This isn’t necessarily our students’ fault. The declining value of the Haitian gourde (from 42 to 47, relative to the U.S. dollar, since I moved back in August 2013), coupled with the rising cost of living can make our school’s annual tuition of 9,000 gourdes per year (about $189 USD at the current exchange rate) a steep hill to climb. Every year, the money is worth less. Every year, things cost more.

We don’t like seeing our students go into debt in order to receive Biblical training. As such, we would like to create a series of need- and merit-based scholarships. For $20 per month ($240 per year), you could cover the annual cost of tuition and books for one student. Scholarships could serve as a powerful incentive to academic excellence as well as touching an economic point of need. The availability of scholarships could also give our school (which has twelve students at present) the opportunity to attract more students. Sponsoring a scholarship is easy to do. It can be done in one of two ways:

  1. Mail a check to: Rehoboth Ministries, P.O. Box 8222, Fayetteville, NC 28311. Make sure to write “BIBLE SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIP” on the check. (Due to the fact that PayPal takes a 3% cut of all online donations, we would prefer you use this option if possible.) One hundred percent of what you give will go to covering students’ books and tuition.
  2. To donate online through PayPal, click here and then click the yellow “Donate” button. Enter the amount you would like to give and tick the box to make your donation a recurring payment.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting videos of Bible school students sharing about how God called them to ministry, their experiences at our school, and their hopes for the future. I will also be in the United States for most of the summer (May 19 — August 16). If you are interested in speaking to me personally about this, please leave a comment on this blog or send me an e-mail (adams.john@gmail.com). I would love to hear from you!

Unexpected Delays

JFKLineupThe last couple of weeks have brought breaks in the semester both unexpected and unsought. A couple of weeks ago, a national strike over the price of gas (still well above $4 per gallon in Haiti, which knows nothing of the sharp drop in prices in the U.S.) forced our school to cancel a couple of days of classes. This week, the failure of a majority of students to pay their bills in a timely manner has canceled more classes. When our Bible school first launched in the 1990s, students were punctual with payments because they knew the school would not tolerate tardiness. Since 2010, however (when my dad had a brain aneurysm), the school has slid into a dysfunctional pattern of late payments with no consequences. In a few cases, students (most of whom have jobs) have managed to get through all four years without paying a gourde. Since those student fees help pay for books and teacher salaries, students’ failure to pay has resulted in serious shortfalls for the school, shortfalls my parents have had to cover out-of-pocket.

In an attempt to right the ship, the administration warned students at the beginning of this semester that it would no longer be tolerating late payments. The économe (financial officer) sat down and worked out an individual payment plan with each student, along with deadlines after which the first payment would be due. Most of those deadlines have now come and gone and most of our students still have not paid what they owe. On Monday, I had the unenviable task of asking several students to leave my class. I have only two students left for the lower promotion (graduating class) and only one for the higher promotion. As a result, I canceled my higher-promotion class today. Depending on how things go, I might end up getting an earlier vacation than I had expected. Since teaching in the Bible school is my reason for being here, this unexpected change obviously casts my future plans into question as well. While I had planned on coming back next year, my plans are now in limbo as I wait to see whether most students will pay what they owe or drop out.

In addition to the drama going on in the country and in the school, I have also been wrestling with depression. I have always been prone to melancholy, even when I lived in the U.S., but the added stress and loneliness of living cross-culturally in such a broken country have certainly made life more difficult. Fortunately, I have a break coming up. I already needed to leave the country over our Easter break to renew my expired tourist visa. Since a friend of mine offered me a free place to stay in New York City, I will be heading there for a week at the beginning of April. Hopefully, the next few weeks will be restorative and open onto a vista of clarity for the future. As always, I really appreciate all your prayers and support. No matter what happens, I know that God is good and that his plans for my future are better than mine.

Blan, Go Home

The picture my aunt snapped that day. The man in yellow is the one who harassed me.

The picture my aunt snapped that day. The man in yellow is the one who harassed me.

Last week, I was walking in downtown Cap-Haitien with my aunt, who was visiting from North Carolina. After visiting the tourist market, where I had helped her negotiate a deal on some souvenirs to take home, I suggested that we walk over to the public square just a few blocks away and see the Cathedral. When we got to the square, a man asked me if my aunt was my mother. Having learned from experience that people often say lewd things in Haiti about white women, I shook my head no and kept walking. My lack of communicativeness seemed to agitate him, however and he began walking alongside me, growing more and more animated and asking lots of questions in rapid-fire succession. When I tried to ignore him, he got mean.

“You know we slaughtered lots of white people in this square, right?” he said, pointing towards the park and referring back to the days of the Haitian Revolution. I kept walking. He then launched into a diatribe about the evils of slavery and the oppression Haitians have faced in every other country but their own.

“When Haitians go to your country, the police beat us. They put us in chains. They send us back in cages like animals! When you come to our country, we let you enjoy our beaches and our mountains and our architecture”—gesturing toward the cathedral originally built by the French in the 1700s—”and we never bother you at all! We’re civilized and you’re barbarians!” he declared proudly. He was inches from my face now and had been harassing me halfway around the park.

“What do you have to say about that, blan?” he asked, obviously satisfied with himself.

“I think the civilized thing to do would be to leave me alone,” I replied. At that, he grew even more upset. I tried to reason with him, but any time I spoke, it only seemed to fire him up. He got cruder, mixing profanities in with racial slurs, growing ever more agitated. At one point, he pressed his chest up against my right shoulder and put his face inches from mine as he followed me. I think he wanted to bait me into hitting him. (That way, he could say I picked a fight with him and try to extort money from me to put him in the “hospital.”) I ignored him, but made a point of keeping myself between him and my aunt, who was by now looking very worried. (She had made him even angrier by snapping a picture of him with her iPhone in case things turned violent and she needed to identify him to the police and he was now yelling at her as well.)

As we passed a group of men sitting on the sidewalk playing dominoes, I tried to get them involved. “This guy’s harassing me,” I said. “I haven’t done anything to him, and he’s cursing at me!” They could hear everything he was saying since he never stopped insulting me, but they ignored the situation and kept playing. They may have been afraid he would come back and target them later that night if they had gotten involved. Part of me wonders, however, if they just enjoyed seeing the white man suffer. About following us for about four blocks past the square, the man inexplicably relented and turned back (but not before warning me not to come back).

Afterwards, I was fine until my aunt started asking me questions about it. At that point, the swirling mess of emotions inside me boiled over and I burst into tears. I couldn’t sort through my emotions at the time, but looking back, I know that I was embarrassed since this is precisely the sort of thing I never wanted my aunt to see about Haiti. I was angry at the injustice of what had just happened to me. I was ashamed that I wasn’t able to make it stop. I was hurt in a way that I hadn’t felt in years (similar racially-tinged verbal attacks were a recurrent feature of my childhood). Most of all, however, I was just profoundly tired.

“So this is what I get for coming back here!” I kept thinking. “I have to regularly ask people for money just to live here. I don’t get paid. I quit my job, left the comforts of home, intentionally chose downward mobility, and this is the thanks I get!” My mind raced through grievances, through every way I’ve felt undervalued and unappreciated in a culture where people often feel entitled to foreign benevolence. Just last week, I gave a friend a brand-new English Bible for Christmas (he’s been learning English) and tucked $50 into it. He never even thanked me. I thought about all the loneliness I’ve experienced here, the nights I’ve spent awake on my bed wondering if I made the right decision by coming here. I wondered if anyone would even notice if I was gone. I was tired of being taken for granted.

I was also tired of living in such a race-conscious society. Haiti is the only country I’ve ever been to where there are ten different words to define the particular shade of black a person happens to be. Typically, the lighter-skinned a person is, the more social prestige they hold. This is a holdover from the French colonial era, when mixed-race children were considered a higher class than slaves and were given an education. (Racial tension between these two groups persists to this day.) I have never been able to understand, however, why in modern Haiti so many people continue to perpetuate this system. I was once asked after preaching at my church to pray for a baby girl who was sick. Before I could even ask what was wrong with the child, the mother apologized for the girl’s blackness, telling me, “I have one that’s prettier (lighter-skinned) at home.” Haiti is a country in which anyone who is not Haitian is called blan (a word that literally means “white” but really means “foreigner”—even a black Haitian who grew up in the U.S. is a blan in Haiti). It is also a country in which anyone who is not black can never be Haitian. Whereas a Haitian born in the United States is automatically an American citizen, I—despite having been born here and speaking Creole fluently—can never be Haitian because I am the wrong color. I am a perpetual outsider, not only to mean men on the street but even to people I have known my entire life.

After being harassed, I cried for about an hour. I tried to talk sense into myself, but it was no use. I hadn’t been rejected for anything that I had done, but for what I was. I’m not sure that that kind of pain ever fully goes away. Since then, I have been continually reminding myself that the vast majority of people I meet here are kind. I remind myself that Jesus said we would have a cross to bear, that we are not entitled to comfort and peace in this life, but the next. I meditate on the fact that Jesus went to the cross for those who hated him and endured its shame for the joy set before him. I try to keep in mind that many of the problems in this country have roots that go back to injustices perpetrated against black people by white people. I am to the point where I won’t be making my decision on whether to come back next year on the basis of one terrible experience. It still hurts, though, and I think it still will for a while regardless of whether I am here or somewhere else.

‘Tis the Season!

haitian-christmas

A Haitian take on the Nativity scene

Today, I gave the first of two final exams I will be giving this week. The four students in my Old Testament Survey class all aced it. This either means that I am a brilliant professor or that I am too soft and of course I am leaning toward the former explanation. This has been the most painless semester I’ve had so far. The students have shown up on time (for the most part), asked good questions, and seemed to be genuinely interested in what they were learning. There have been some surprises along the way, too. For instance, one student effusively expressed his appreciation in class for the quizzes I’ve been handing out every two weeks. This may have been the first time in recorded history that a student has ever thanked a professor for a test, but I am glad he enjoys them. The truth is that they help me as much as they help the students. It is helpful to have to regularly boil down what I am teaching to the essential questions.

After administering an exam to my English class on Thursday afternoon, I will officially be on Christmas break. Beyond studying for the three classes I’ll be teaching in the spring, I don’t really have any plans. My parents and I traveled a lot last year so this year, we are having a “stay-cation,” saving money while enjoying Haiti’s beautiful winter weather (75 and sunny). While I’m more than happy to avoid the cold this year, I am a little jealous of my brother, who will be flying from Oregon to West Virginia over Christmas to see my sister, her husband, and my eight-month-old nephew, Sam.

Next semester, I will be teaching three classes instead of the normal two. I will have Gospel & Epistles of John (a class I taught last year, fortunately, so I already have notes written for it), English II, and Old Testament Survey Part II. I think I am hitting my stride as a teacher and I am looking forward to being a little busier than usual next semester. There are so many small inconveniences here compared to working in the U.S. (For example, a couple of months ago, I spent quite a while setting up a PowerPoint presentation only to realize when I brought the projector to class that there was no electricity. Later, when they gave electricity, I was excited until I realized that even though the lights were on overhead, the wall outlets didn’t work.) There are also things you don’t ordinarily have to deal with in the States (such as students not showing up for a couple of weeks while they scrape together the money to pay the next installment on their tuition). The payoff of working here, however, is being able to give students something they don’t usually get (at least not for the price we ask)–high standards and a good theological education. I am working for free (literally), but as my student’s appreciation for something as mundane as a quiz shows, most people here don’t take a good thing for granted.

Of course, one implication of working for free is that I need to receive support from somewhere else. So far this year, I’ve spent about $3,000 more than I’ve taken in. Fortunately, I had a solid reserve from the first year of fundraising to draw upon, but I’ll still need to see things turn around before long to be able to stay here. Would you consider putting me on your Christmas list this year, or partnering with me for monthly support? I can promise you that I won’t take a good thing for granted, either.

November Rain

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Photo Credit: Hunter Kittrell

Tonight, the rain is falling again. Last week, heavy rains swelled the rivers in Cap-Haitien, flooding hundreds of houses and killing twelve people. Twice last week, we had to mop up water that flooded through a hole in the wall into the study and onto the porch of our house. A few old photographs, stored in cardboard boxes on the floor, were ruined and lost for good. I felt bad for our visitors from Tacoma, Washington (a missions team of 10 people), who came here expecting Caribbean sunshine and instead spent many hours inside since it poured almost every day they were here. Of course, lost photographs and a spoiled trip to the tropics hardly compare to the suffering of the Haitian people, many of whose houses were completely flooded. It has been painful to glimpse down side streets and see people wading in water up to their thighs. This time, I am praying that the rain stops sooner rather than later.

At the Bible school, we are past the midpoint of the semester. I was handed an ESL class this semester and though I was initially unenthusiastic about the prospect, it has actually turned out to be a hit. I have twelve students and good class participation. My other class, Old Testament Survey, has four students. However, the number in attendance varies from week to week. Work in Haiti is so scarce that students will often jump on work opportunities even if they conflict with their class schedules. Not wanting to lose credit for their classes, they will sometimes neglect to tell us teachers they are working unless we press for an explanation. One of my students got a job with the census bureau and will be out of town for the next month. Another student was mysteriously absent for several weeks. When he returned, he said he had been responsible for selling a piece of land for his family out in the country. This can be frustrating at times, but it is simply how life works here.

Our visitors from Tacoma provided a welcome respite from the daily frustrations that accompany life in Haiti. We watched several episodes of The Office on DVD together while waiting out the rain. They also laid tile in both of the houses on the mission compound and painted several rooms in the smaller house. The greatest benefit of their visit, however, was fellowship. Life here can be extremely lonely so it was nice to have other Americans to talk to for a while. One member of the team, George, stayed behind and will be here for another week or so. It is good to have him here.

Looking ahead, I will be in Haiti over Christmas break barring an unforeseen change of plans. Then comes the spring semester. At that point, I will decide whether or not to return for a third year. Would you pray for me? It’s a big decision and I need God’s help.

Booksmart

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The Archivist book scanner

A few weeks ago, I hinted that a few changes were in the works at our Bible school. I was waiting for a couple of different things to fall into place before I posted, but at this point, I think that I can go ahead and outline one of the changes we want to make.

One of the most cumbersome, costly parts of our Bible school ministry has to do with the books our students use for class. Since most of our students would not be able to afford original copies of the books that professors assign, one of our staff members has to manually make a copy, page by page, of each textbook for each student in each class. This is a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that uses up lots of paper and ink, resources that aren’t cheap. These copies are then hole-punched, bound, and sold to students at roughly a quarter to half the cost of the original book. Even with this this deep discount, these books are still relatively expensive. Over the course of a four-year curriculum, students spend an average of about 12,000 gourdes (about $270 USD) on books, which might not sound like a lot, but put that in context–the average annual income in Haiti is only about $700 per year. Imagine having to spend 1/10 of your annual budget for everything (and most of our students are married with children) on books and the dilemma these students are facing comes into clearer focus. Clearly, we need a more efficient, less expensive way of getting these books into students’ hands.

Until recently, however, there wasn’t an affordable solution to this problem. The only other option–digitizing the books and loading them onto computers–wasn’t really feasible. Book-scanning machines were too expensive for us–the province of Google and other elite companies able to shoulder the $25,000 cost–and even if they weren’t, laptops were too expensive for most of our students. In the past few years, however, a sea change in the high-tech world has changed our outlook. Since 2009, the rise of reliable D.I.Y. book scanners and software, such as The Archivist, has put digitizing our library within our financial reach (the latest model retails for $1,050). With your help, we could raise that money in a matter of hours. Once digitized, our books could be pre-loaded onto tablet computers such as an Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, or the Surtab (a tablet device made right here in Haiti by Haitians since last year). Students could buy these devices from us at enrollment at a cost of $50-100, cutting their book fees by 60%. As an added benefit, these devices are also capable of storing multimedia such as audio and video (a highly useful feature for language classes such as Greek or Hebrew) and can provide students with a personal point of access to the Internet (which would be a first for many of them) since they are Wi-Fi capable.

While this project isn’t finalized yet (the Archivist machine I mentioned earlier is releasing a more up-to-date version in a few months, and we are waiting for that before we commit), it has the potential to revolutionize the way we do things at our school. In the meantime, we are looking for people willing to partner with us to turn this dream into a reality.

Marvelous in Our Eyes

HT_hope_for_haiti_eric_kruszewski_1_thg_120111_wblogIt is stiflingly hot as I write this from my bedroom, which means I must be in Haiti and it must be about to rain. I flew back to the island on Monday choosing to go through the Dominican Republic this time (half as expensive) and stay the night in Santiago with some missionary friends of mine I knew from my high school years. I took the bus over to Cap-Haitien the next day.

While riding over, I was reminded of the last time I drove from the D.R. to Haiti, after a Christmas vacation about ten years ago. I was simply amazed at how much had changed in the meantime: The bridge across the river separating the two countries, once a crowded one-lane affair, has been replaced by a much nicer, wider span. The immigration office on the Haitian side, which used to be one policeman with a desk and a pistol is now staffed by three efficient, professional border agents. The highway from the border to the city, which used to be unpaved with huge ruts, is now paved the entire way without interruption. Halfway to Cap-Haitien, a new university rises from the arid landscape and gleams in the sunlight. Where once there were only huts made of packed mud, there is now a huge housing project painted bright pastel colors, ready to house new workers for the brand-new industrial park just up the road. At a busy intersection known as Carrefour la Mort (Death Crossing), a freshly painted Baptist hospital, replete with a center for helping paralyzed children maximize their lives, now occupies a lot that ten years ago was mostly grazing land for cattle. Outside of Cap-Haitien, the international airport, whose plywood terminal was burned down in the coup ten years ago, prepared to receive daily flights from American Airlines in October. Ten years ago, my heart broke as I compared burned-out, broken-down Haiti to its wealthier next-door neighbor. On Tuesday, although far from naive about the challenges that still lie before Haiti, my heart began to pulsate with hope.

My hope for Haiti is not based on external signs of progress. It is based on the promises of God. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray…I will heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14) There have been so many Christians praying for Haiti for so long that this cannot be a prayer that will go unanswered. Several years ago, in our church, a brother from Trinidad prophesied that the Lord would turn Haiti into the “breadbasket of the Caribbean.” I have believed since the earthquake that the Lord was going to restore Haiti, which had gone about as low as any country could go, back to good health. Over the last decade, my family has seen a coup, a kidnapping, and a quake. I think we are about to witness a comeback. This will be the Lord’s doing, and it will be “marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:23) I love Haiti. It’s my home — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’m happy to be here, and I can’t wait to sow into the leaders of the future this year; if you listen carefully, in the distance it sounds like rain.

Cap in Hand

Lenny FosterIn a post a few months ago, I wrote about the awkwardness of being asked for money on a regular basis (“To Give or Not to Give“). Now that I am back in the States, however, the tables have turned. Summertime is fundraising time, so now I am the one asking other people for money once again. It feels weird, and not just because I’m the one going around hat in hand. It’s also that the scale of what things cost vs. people’s spending power is so much bigger here. In Haiti, ten dollars is a lot of money to most people. In the U.S., ten dollars barely covers lunch. Whereas $60,000 could easily feed our schoolchildren a hot lunch every day of the week for a year in Haiti, the suburban megachurch I attended here last Sunday had raised more than that for a new video projection system and wasn’t even close to reaching its goal. As a missionary in such a context, it can be discouraging to see one’s calls and e-mails go unanswered and one’s support dropped.

Asking for money never gets any easier, but the Lord takes care of his own. On Monday, I sat across from a gentleman at Starbucks who has been amazingly generous to me, though I was a near total stranger to him. A few others have quietly slipped me a “handshake donation.” Various medical expenses I’ve had to address have cost a pittance thanks to an amazing health insurance plan that only costs me $20 a month. My parents’ summer landlord paid me forty bucks to tar his roof. Also, I’ll pay half as much in airfare to Haiti this time around thanks to a friend in the Dominican Republic who will let me stay the night and shuttle me from the airport and to the bus station the next morning. I am grateful for all of it.

Would you like to be the next link in the chain? As it stands, I need $5,723.09 to “reset the meter,” so to speak, back to $15,000 for another year of teaching. If you would like to cover all or part of that need, please click the yellow “Donate” button on the right side of this page or at backtohaiti.com.

Summertime & Bearing Fruit

grapesThe days are long and hot and the flowers are all in full bloom here in North Carolina. I am back here for a break until mid-August, after which I will return to Haiti to resume my responsibilities as a Bible school teacher. After a trip home that involved a five-hour delay in Cap-Haitien and an unexpected night’s stay in Florida, I was especially grateful to be able to return to the “land of plenty” that is the United States. I was also grateful to the Lord for permitting me to see and pray with my grandmother (whose health had been declining steadily for several months) before she went to be with the Lord on the Fourth of July. I received news of her passing over the phone on Friday while watching the Independence Day parade.

I am not someone who would claim to hear the voice of God very often. The day after I got back to the States, however, I heard what I believed (and still believe) was the voice of the Lord saying one simple, clear sentence, “They are your reward.” By “they,” he meant Haitian believers whom he has called to himself and whose discipleship he has committed, at least in part, to me. Their mature discipleship would be the fruit and reward of my labor. I was grateful for that word this past weekend when I traveled to Kentucky to attend the wedding of a friend from my seminary days. While the wedding was beautiful and I had a great time reconnecting with old friends, I also repeatedly found myself tempted to envy the respectability and financial security that many other seminary graduates enjoy. I am nearing thirty years old and have no money and most likely never will. The Lord has not promised us fame or fortune, however, but fruit. “You did not choose me,” Jesus said, in one of my favorite promises in Scripture, “but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain.” (John 15:16) That verse is my lodestar, the orienting pole of my life. Some days, it is the only thing that keeps me going.

If you would like to partner with me in bearing fruit for the kingdom of God, it is easy to do and would be much appreciated. You can help in three primary ways: 1) praying, 2) giving (I have about $6,000 to raise by August — to give, click the yellow Donate button at backtohaiti.com), and 3) inviting me to share at your church or small group meeting while I am in the U.S. My schedule is wide open until August 14 and my phone number is (910) 723-8911.

World Cup 2014

Today at 4:00 (Eastern time), the world’s single largest sporting event, the World Cup, kicks off in Sao Paulo, Brazil. No other sport commands such universal enthusiasm as soccer (known by most of the world as football), and no other event draws as much of the world’s attention at one time as the World Cup. While the whole world competes at the Olympics, the whole world pays attention to the World Cup, a tournament held for a sport so democratic that anyone with four rocks and a ball can play. The event’s viewership spans the spectrum of humanity, uniting places as far apart–physically, socially, and culturally–as Buckingham Palace and the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, gluing people to their television sets on the slopes of Mt. Fujii, the steppes of Russia, the shantytowns of South Africa, and the sweltering streets of Mexico City.

In Haiti, most people separate at this time of year into fans of one of two teams: Brazil or Argentina. The flags of these two countries can be seen flying from houses (often on opposite sides of the same street), cars, and motorcycles. Murals in green and yellow (Brazil) or blue and white (Argentina) adorn houses, shops, bridges and any other open space. Why these two teams? The quick answer is easy: they win. However, it’s too easy–so do plenty of other teams. In fact, three of the last four World Cup championships have been won by Spain, Italy, and France. It is extraordinarily rare, however, to find Haitians pulling for any European team. The most likely reason is that when most Haitians look at teams from the developed world, they seem like they inhabit another planet. When Haitians look at players from the developing world–many of whom grew up in grinding poverty in barrios or favelas not unlike the slums of Port-au-Prince–they see themselves. Or rather, they see themselves as they would like to be–wealthy, successful, victorious, and free from poverty. Ti Manno might live in Cité Soleil on $2 a day, but he can live vicariously through Neymar or Maradona and dream of the world as it ought to be.

Indeed, for a brief shining month every four years, Haiti is almost what as a nation it should be. The power company saves up fuel for months in advance and powers nearly every corner of the city. People set political tensions aside for a moment to crowd around televisions carried into the street to benefit those who do not have one. Even the tortuous traffic that normally chokes the larger cities eases a bit as people take time out of their day to watch the games. Stupid things are occasionally done at World Cup time–losing a lifetime’s worth of money on a bet, for instance, or allowing a team rivalry to spill over into personal violence is not unheard of–but for the most part, peace and understanding prevails to a greater extent than usual. Even on the international level, a sort of poetic justice plays itself out, as the world’s military heavyweights–the United States, China, and Russia, field one mediocre team after another while the Third World shines. (In what other context could a sentence like “Ghana squelched the Americans’ last hope of victory today” regularly be written without a trace of irony?) For believers in Jesus’ promises of an upside-down kingdom of grace and a future judgment at which “the last shall be first,” the World Cup serves as a fitting parable of things to come. Indeed, over the coming month, a world soccer tournament will express the ecstasy and the ache of so many Christ-followers in the developing world who say “Jesus is more than enough, but I’m still looking forward to knowing how it will feel to finally be free.”