“You keep using that word,” goes the brilliant quote from Inigo Montoyo in the film, “The Princess Bride.”
” I don’t think it means what you think it means.”
And no, I have not been saying “inconceivable” at every turn. The word that keeps coming to my mind and entering into my conversations is “accompaniment.”
I’m new at this missionary business. Feeling called and doing the work of the called are worlds apart. Just like everything I’ve learned about my life and this new, astounding, baffling, magnetically attractive culture in which I’m living.
I’m here to be with you, my brothers and sisters. And when I am fortunate enough to host groups of short-term missioners visiting rural Haiti, I hear myself preaching “accompaniment.”
We are here to be with, not to do for. We come to walk alongside our friends here. We come to share our lives and our stories and find common ground.
A recent trip took us (seven people from the Presbytery of the James, two drivers, a translator and me) far into the mountains where we met with some of those friends. We had many excellent, deep conversations, both among ourselves, (we foreigners) and with the leaders and members of the farmer organizations we spent time with.
We talked about healthy giving. We talked about ways to help without hurting. We talked about these books we’ve all read, like Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts.
We talked about finding ways to accompany the people here in Haiti.
I used that words so much I finally looked up the definition. You know, just in case I was WAY off the mark. The first definition concerns a musical accompaniment, as in adding the piano to the vocal parts. The second had to do with complementary additions — as in cooking.
Then, I found this. And I’m sticking with it. Because, dear Inigo, I think we’re onto something. Check out definition No. 3.
- MusicA vocal or instrumental part that supports another, often solo, part.
- Something, such as a situation, that accompanies something else; a concomitant.
- Something added for embellishment, completeness, or symmetry; complement.
Yes! It is about completeness.
I live and work in Haiti not to be the sole helper. I am here to be completed.
And, if you should come to be with, you will be on that path as well.
Because God is in this mix, as always. He is here for the journey, for the discussions, for the hard questions. And He is here when we visitors exchange funny looks with our hosts because we often don’t understand one another.
And only God will complete any of us.
The most excellent, conceivable part is that he puts us in touch with one another toward that end.
Today is Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. And this day I begin to practice mindfulness. Part of that is examining the words I use, especially in nurturing beautiful relationships with my family and friends across a great sea and beyond a great cultural divide.
Look here for more of this journey.