My second missions trip to Haiti was revolutionary; primarily because our team’s first week was tutored by a 26-year missionary veteran. His cultural relevance as a development and disaster relief coordinator was contagious and amazing.
Among the mountain natives in Prospere’ Haiti, Art Clawson is highly respected as “Te Blan” (little white man). At first, Art’s personality type roughed a few feathers among our newbies. But oh, how the Team’s appreciation grew for him as the busy week of relationships and rugged home-building continued with “Te Blan” right by our side as translator and servant-leader.
In his own candid way, Art reminded our Team at the first night’s briefing: “This week, don’t be a coconut!” We scratched our heads, gulped, rocked back in our metal chairs and tried to figure out what in the world did Art mean? He continued: “As white skins you will be totally surrounded (and at times overwhelmed) by dark, tough skins. In that setting, you can’t help but be a coconut. But you don’t have to act like one.”
Art continued: “As the white insider, you must be multi-functional, sweet, nourishing, hopeful and by all means useful. The natives are respectful; they will not intrude. As insiders, you must invite them into your culture … while at the same time not to confuse theirs. Even though you believe your civilized ways makes better sense, don’t be rough-handed. Don’t be hard-headed. Don’t act like your way is better. Don’t insist upon the American Way. After a week, you (white insiders) will leave, but these rugged, seasoned, dark skins will remain long after you fly back to the states. Win them, by mimicking them, however, wherever and whenever possible.”
Not only was that a mouthful, but also a proven biblical principle from the heart of a passionate missionary. Through the week, there were plenty of living proofs of Art’s briefing. It was commonplace as we walked among the villages to see coconut “half-shells” shaped as bowls, cups, ladles, scoops, fire starters, decorations, toys, musical instruments, door bells, chimes, etc. And sure enough, on Thursday afternoon, after completing eight shed-like houses for earthquake victims, the “used up and spent” insiders (white teams) were loaded on the bus. But the rugged, tough, seasoned, dark coverings remained.
No … Paul the Apostle never met Art, nor was he present to hear Te Blan’s briefing and blessing. And neither was he a coconut. As a robust missionary himself, Paul understood how to build bridges to hearts by the living hope of Christ: “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.” (I Corinthians 9:22)
With Easter life resurrecting your soul, who are you willing to become, so that you can win some?
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.