In January of 2010 I went on my first-ever mission trip. Our church group traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, not having any idea that four days into our trip one of the most devastating earthquakes in history would take its toll. Had the earthquake struck five minutes sooner or five minutes later instead of while we were in the car, everyone in our group would have been counted among the more than 200,000 lives that were lost that day. Never have I seen so much destruction and so much loss as amidst those crumbled buildings over the next few days.
There’s a story in I Kings that seemed quite random for me until that day. The prophet Elijah was out in the wilderness, and suddenly a great earthquake shook the ground. However, the scripture tells us that God was not in the earthquake itself but rather in the “sound of sheer silence” that followed. That story seems random no more, for while God was not in the violence of the earthquake in Haiti, I believe so strongly that I saw God’s presence in the human response during the following days. The power of the human spirit triumphed over an unexplainable, unspeakable tragedy. Even in the following days when we had no food, no water and no shelter, the people of Haiti opened their hearts and homes to us. I’ll never forget the Haitian stranger who shared the last of his food with our group when we had nothing else to eat. In the strangeness of that first night after the earthquake when we slept outside with nowhere else to go, our cries of fear were silenced by the Haitian men and women joyfully singing old hymns in a language we scarcely knew – but still fully understood. Despite living in poverty, the Haitian people showed me that when put to the test, the power of the human spirit brings light into the darkness – if only we will let it shine through.
I believe that each one of us is created in the image of God, which means that – even in the people we can’t get along with – our ultimate responsibility is to find the presence of God in our neighbor. Our daily question is whether we choose to harness the power of the human spirit to see what God sees in other people. On the darkest of days, my memories of the Haitian people are consistent reminders that hope always wins out whenever the true power of the human spirit is unleashed.
Rev. Trey Flowers is the Minister of Youth and The Bridge at Woodmont Christian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a 2007 graduate of TCU, where he majored in Religion and Political Science. Rev. Flowers also received a Master of Divinity and Master of Public Policy from Vanderbilt University. He is married to Merillat Flowers (TCU class of 2010) and named their dog “Beasley” after the TCU religion building