Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Building Relationship on the Mountainside

“Pastor, what are you hoping to do together this week?” asked Stacey.
“Beautiful things... building relationships,” Pastor Telius replied.

In the fall 2014, families at Alpine Chapel in Lake Zurich, Ill. began a partnership with the village of Colladere, Haiti through Bright Hope’s JELLY initiative.

Their goal is to strengthen the local church in Colladere so the community can become self-sustainable and lift themselves from poverty. To do this, Alpine has gathered regularly to learn about extreme poverty, to volunteer their time and talents, and to grow in their compassion for the poor. Bright Hope calls this mutual transformation – where two communities are connected through relationship and equality in learning from each other as both of their communities are transformed by Christ’s love.

In June, a group of 10 from Alpine boarded a plane set for Haiti, led by Pastor Dave Mudd, team leader Chris Bos, and Bright Hope staff. Unlike the average “short-term mission trip,” Bright Hope guided the transformational team with only one thing on their agenda: to deepen their relationship with Colladere.

When they arrived, Pastor Dave and Pastor Telius of Colladere shared a long, brotherly embrace – a true ‘pastor-to-pastor’ moment. This was the first sign that cultural divides are being broken. “There was a warmth – an affection there – a trust that has been developed since my first visit in October,” Dave shared.

The team ate lunch together outside the pastor’s house each day. One afternoon, they learned that normally Pastor Telius works his fields on the side of the mountain from 6:00 a.m. to noon. He then comes down from the mountainside to pastor his church, tend to the community chicken coop, and take care of his wife and 13 children. Being with Alpine that week for extended ministry time meant he would likely fall behind in his daily work. Recognizing this, the Alpine team requested that they work beside Pastor Telius and tend to his fields with him so he didn’t lose precious time in his fields on account of them.

So the next morning, the Alpine team headed up the mountain. Pastor Telius cheerfully zipped up ahead of them in weathered shoes, the team panting and struggling to keep up. Once arriving, Pastor Telius demonstrated how he cultivates the land, squatting down low and driving his machete into the ground to cut out crabgrass at its roots and prepare the soil for planting. Cutting away the grass is a constant battle. It is muddy, hot, and difficult work, yet the pastor finds joy in providing for his family with his crops of squash, beans, and maize.

Pastor Telius was shocked when the Alpine team picked up machetes and joined in. To him, tending to the fields is lowly work. He doesn’t even want his children to help – he would rather they attend school and get an education.

As the team clumsily labored, they honed in on Pastor Telius’ techniques, submitting to his decades of experience. However, within an hour or two, blisters and callouses were forming, and Pastor Telius urged the team to head back down the mountain to rest. They kindly refused and continued, eager to work alongside their friend.

“It was really a humbling experience, being able to serve Telius in that way,” shared a team member.

After a while, Pastor Telius drove his machete into the ground and stood up, motioning around him, and posed a question to Pastor Dave. “If all of this was yours, what would you do differently?” This welcoming of brotherly advice speaks volumes on the mutual trust and respect between them.

“Normally, missions teams bring an agenda to use their gifts and resources, providing something they perceive as a ‘need’ – they tend to get caught up in what they think God’s purpose is for using their talents. Yet, in doing this, it’s easy to miss what God is already doing there,” shared Stacey Hartman of Bright Hope. “One of many of things that God is doing right now in Colladere is sustaining a pastor and his family, and Alpine came alongside His work.”

Without a crowded agenda of their own, Alpine was able to serve with Pastor Telius and share an uncommon unity, creating space for real relationship to flourish. This experience on the mountain laid important groundwork for a deeper relationship between Alpine and Colladere.

Near the end of that memorable morning, Pastor Dave asked Pastor Telius what he thinks about during the many hours he spends up on the mountain.

“Most mornings I’m thinking about providing for my family and the business of my life. Right now I’m experiencing the joy of having my brothers and sisters here with me,” and with misty eyes, added, “This will mark my life forever.”

To get involved and to find out more about the JELLY initiative in Colladere, visit BrightHope.org/JELLYAlpine.