This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.
In 2012, the Mars Hill Board of Directors went to Haiti to observe The Creole HOPE in action. At the time, there were still over 500,000 people living in tents as a result of the 2010 earthquake. The power grid was on only 4-6 hours a day. Unemployment was at 80%. What most North Americans would consider a desperate situation had become the “new norm” for Haitians.
According to Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick.” As frustration and hopelessness grow, civility decreases, human life is devalued, and lawlessness increases. In Port-au-Prince, we were constantly aware that we were in a dangerous place.
- The director of the mission compound where we were staying warned us we should not be out at night. But knowing we had come to show The Creole HOPE, she said that if we must be out late, then we should not take the short route back to the compound. “Even the police do not patrol that road at night for fear of armed gangs.” Our driver told us that killing had become a game.
- In one location where we showed The Creole HOPE, four missionaries had been shot only a few months earlier.
- Haitian children were referred to as animals. Many parents gave away their children to anyone who could provide them with minimal food and covering, effectively giving them over to slavery.
- One Port-au-Prince neighborhood, Cité Soleil, is generally regarded as one of the most dangerous places in the world.
And so it was, our last evening and we had just finished showing The Creole HOPE to several hundred young people and it was getting late. Five of us packed into the back of a Land Cruiser, with our two Haitian drivers in the front seat. Little did we know what we were in for.
That evening was the first night of pre-Carnival, which leads up to their version of Mardi Gras. The streets of Port-au-Prince were packed with people on foot, mingling, dancing, and shouting. Ours were the only white faces in a sea of black faces, and we were on display in our glass box, inching through the crowd. Now I know what it feels like to be a minority. Checking their watches frequently, the drivers knew that the later we got on the highway to the compound, the more potential there was for danger.
The drivers decided to take a detour through the neighborhood. They planned to find a street paralleling the congested main street, and then rejoin the main street further down the road after the pedestrian traffic had thinned out. It was not a good plan. We took a right turn into the neighborhood and drove . . . and drove. There was no left turn to a street paralleling the main street.
The further we drove, the darker it became; the street became a narrow ally. You could have stuck your hand a few inches out the window and touched the walls. Backing up would likely have resulted in body damage to the vehicle. By now we were moving slowly, into what seemed to be the heart of darkness. Finally, we came to a bend in the road. Not knowing what was around the bend, one of the men said, “Watch it be a dead end.” It was!
Concern for our situation was now evident on the faces of our Haitian drivers. There was not room to simply turn around. To do so, required one of those maneuvers in which you back up and pull forward multiple times, turning the steering wheel as hard as possible each time you change directions. Every time we stopped to change direction, the brake lights came on. I remember thinking that if colors were sounds, then this red light was very, very loud …broadcasting to every gang within a hundred yards, “Here we are, come and get us!”
Inches in reverse then inches forward; then again, and again. You could have cut the tension in the air with a knife. It was in the eyes of every man. One of the men told me later that, at that moment he was thinking, “So this is how it ends.” My mind went to Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Note that this verse doesn’t promise us deliverance from death. It promises that we will know His loving presence even in death. I reminded myself what it meant to be “in Christ.” I can’t say that my heart stopped pounding, but I knew that whatever happened, I would be okay in Him.
After numerous attempts to turn the car around, our direction was almost reversed. Then, on the last maneuver to back up, it seemed that we bumped the wall . . . not hard enough to cause serious damage, but hard enough rouse anyone on the other side. Our driver turned the steering wheel hard and started moving forward down the ally, much faster than we had come.
As we approached the bend, we saw a group of men emerging from a door where we had turned around. They were moving rapidly toward us. We picked up our pace even more. Making it back to the crowded main street, we knew our pursuers we not far behind. Pulling back into the flow of human chaos in that street was clearly our safest option.
Days later I reflected on that event, and these are some of the things that came to mind.
- God’s truth must be true regardless of your circumstances. – Our brush with danger was only for a short time. Some people in the world live in dangerous places 24/7. In my moment of danger, I found God’s word to be a source of strength (Rom.8:38-39). It didn’t wipe away the reality of it all, but it sure helped me to go through it.
- The time to “hide God’s word in your heart is now, not when you need it. – An Olympic athlete doesn’t start training the day before his/her event. Jeremiah 12:5 asks us, “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” When we apply God’s word in the “land of peace” with daily trials, we will be more prepared to apply it when the big trials come.
- A place of physical safety may be a place of danger to us spiritually – When I was in trouble, I drew strength from the Word of God. I met Haitian Christians, living in tents, which depended on God’s Word in a way that is not common in the soft cushy cultural Christianity that is characteristic of the world I live in. So, while living in a place of physical danger may be unsafe to your body, it can drive you to depend on God’s truth, and thus cause your soul to flourish. Conversely, while living in a comfortable peaceful environment may seem good for your physical being, it may be a dangerous place for your soul.
- The safest place to be is “in Christ” – For every verse in the Bible that talks about “Christ in you” there are ten that talk about you “in Christ”, “in Him”, “with Christ in God”, etc. There are two types of people in the world, those who are “in Adam” (Rom 5, 1Cor.15:22), and those who are “in Christ.” When a person comes to faith in Christ, he/she is no longer in Adam, but rather, in Christ. And in Christ, there is complete irrevocable security.
Think about it, in the upper room with His disciples Jesus said, “for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me…” (John 14:30). This means there is nothing in Jesus for Satan to grab hold of …no crack or jagged edge in Jesus’s nature or character for Satan to latch onto. And if you are “in Christ” (as may be read in over 90 verses), then what does that mean for you? It means that nothing can touch you without first passing through Jesus! That is a safe place to be!
In closing, consider the following verses from God’s word.
For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. – Col.3:3 (Notice that died is past tense.)
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. – 2 Cor. 2:14 (“Every place” means just that.)
Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” 37 But, in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Rom. 8:36-39