How to Spy the Face of Christ

February 15, 2013 | 23 comments

A month’s worth of days have slipped by, and the dust of Haiti is still on my camera bag. I don’t think I ever want to wash it, don’t want to wash away the dirt of Haiti from my life.

Somehow we felt cleaner there, in those cracked and grimy villages, like we were walking with God Himself down dirt paths. And I suspect we were. Mother Teresa once said that in order to spy the face of Christ, one need only look in the face of the distressed poor.

simonette school

orphanage, haiti

haiti, woman, poverty, haitian village

“When can we go back?”

That’s the question that the girls are asking every day — many times a day. We don’t know how to answer it, don’t know when to tell them when we might fly far away from home again, far away from our full cupboards and full gas tanks and full iPads to go back to the empty.

And funny, how it works in this upside-down Kingdom of ours, but that’s where we really felt the fullest ever — in our whole lives — in a little village by the ocean. We felt full in a village of tin huts and rice-and-beans and Haitian song and tumble-down shacks and bare feet on dusty paths, and face upon face of Christ. It’s true: you can spy the face of Jesus in the people there — who are paradoxically dirt-poor and spirit-rich.

We miss you, Haiti. Oh, how we do.

haiti orphanage, one vision

haiti children, haiti teenagers, joy

We miss the dirt and the dirt-poor, who teach us what it means to be utterly wealthy in Christ.

We miss the way the children run their hands along the girls’ silky hair, and how skin color isn’t something to be ignored. We remember how the brown-skinned children of the orphanage want to touch the peach-skinned children from an Iowa farm. And how the peach want to touch the brown.

We miss how it all hurt us so. We miss the breaking of our own hearts. We miss tears down our cheeks. We miss the way that we could see, with our own eyes, the ache of this world. We miss being close enough to help with our own hands. We miss touching Jesus’ face.

We miss wild praise, hands lifted, dancing in the aisles, worship that peeled back the curtain for a glimpse of Heaven.

I don’t know how to find right words to wrap around our ache, and maybe it’s because I’m scared of this–

The haze of years (even days) can make a person forget.

I think we’re all frightened that we might forget, so we go around remembering what we’re missing, praying for our own fresh breaking of hearts, and telling anyone who inclines an ear our way … telling them that the real missionaries are the Haitians. And how it feels like they save our lives by showing us what it means to live and love and serve and worship and pour out lives as offerings unto the Lord. Man does not live by bread alone, and I know people who really are living by faith… “Se paske.”


I might try to make myself feel absolved by saying something like: “Oh, but they know Jesus.” Which they do.

I could then, perhaps, stay in my cushy life and never do a thing, reminding myself every day that “at least they have Jesus. And that’s what’s most important.”

But Jesus is not OK with this.

He came to save people from their sins, no doubt about it. But he also commanded us to help the widow and the orphan and the hungry. He didn’t tell us how, exactly, he just said to do it.

He called us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

I met my neighbor.

So, sure, we sponsored some more children, and we will keep on praying, and we have dreamed up some new ideas that we’ll tell you about when the time is right. And we beg God not to let us forget, but to tell us what it really means to spend our lives in behalf of the poor. I think we’re only beginning to learn.  I want to be a student in the front row of God’s classroom.

iowa classroom, haiti

This morning, we packed up the laptop and took it to Lydia’s fifth-grade classroom, so she could show her friends the mud-pies and the happiest faces and the beauty.

And when she’s clicking through pictures, I stand in the back of the classroom, watching my girl up there, sharing the face of Christ to a hushed room of 11-year-olds.

And I want to go back,

and so every single day we go back,

because we can’t afford to forget.

haiti presentation

by | February 15, 2013 | 23 comments


  1. Mary E Hanks

    Amazing. What a blessed telling and connection with the heart of God. I feel blessed for having read this. 🙂 Thank you.

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Mary. I’m glad you were blessed. I can’t believe how quickly the weeks have gone by. I close my eyes, trying to remember the Haiti sun beating down on my back, and the taste of rice-and-beans, the way my girls wrapped their whole lives around the lives of other children. “It felt like we were doing something important.” Those were the words Lydia spoke to me this morning. And we know that there is important work to be done right here in the USA, right here in our own neighborhood, but man … we really miss Haiti today.

  2. Donna Bostick

    Jennifer …. I so get your heart here! I’ve been to Haiti three times and am needing a fix now to go back. Loved this post …. I’ve got a couple of Haiti posts coming out soon on friend’s blogs …can’t wait to share them with you. Praying for your heart and loving your heart!

    • dukeslee

      Donna … I am looking forward to reading your Haiti posts. Please be sure to share them with me, or link up with #TellHisStory. I don’t want to miss them.

  3. hisfirefly

    I am crying here, for there are stains from the red clay of Uganda on shoes I cannot throw away for I know the fear of forgetting. I want the tears to continue to flow and my heart to continue to bleed.
    We have been changed, Rick and I, you and your family… there is NO turning back

    • dukeslee

      Here’s to dusty camera cases and red clay on the shoes and very God beating inside our own human hearts…. I’m with you friend, crying and begging God to make me remember.

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Megan. So happy you’re HERE, reading this. 🙂

  4. marty

    Life found in death…having more with less…rich when living in the poorest of circumstances…until you see it for yourself you just don’t understand…you can’t understand. Praying you never forget but also praying that He will show you how to use what He has given so freely to you to glorify Him and honor the ones your heart loves.

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Marty. We appreciate both of those prayers. You’re good to His Kingdom, to remember to pray like that, to pray that people would give freely. I so appreciate you.

  5. livingrealblog

    What an incredible post Jennifer. This reminds me of my first meeting with One7 (my son and daughter-in-love) are on staff, here in Charlotte. I wrote briefly about it on my blog, a post called Vivid, will be writing more in the future. There simply are not words for watching all the various colored faces from so many countries, sitting in poverty, but sitting in harmonious Praise of Him, with my two peach colored granddaughters sitting right in the middle of that sea of color. All I could do was weep! I don’t think you ever have to worry about forgetting; you’ve spied the face of Christ and touched the heart of Christ, and one never forgets that. Blessings. . .

    • dukeslee

      Can you share the link for your post here? I’d like to read that.

      Holding onto your words about not forgetting. Thank you.

  6. Nancy

    My how Lydia, looks at “home” in the pictures taken in Haiti. 🙂 And the sparkle in her eyes as she shares this place, these people, that has taken over a very large part of her heart. Love it. Love her heart!

    • dukeslee


      She told me this morning that she wished she could have found her airline ticket home to Iowa, and ripped it up, so she could have stayed forever in Haiti. 🙂

  7. LOT2545

    This post is beautiful. I totally get what you mean. I have never felt closer to God than when I am in the slums of Uganda. I try to tell people all the time that I am the lucky one for having the boys in my life and they don’t ever get it. Uganda has changed me as I imagine Haiti has changed you and your girls. It is amazing that they were able to experience that at such a young age. Life really does change when you are able to be with the “poorest” and realize that maybe it is you that has been poor all along. Thanks for sharing your heart. I hope you are able to return soon!

    • dukeslee

      I would really like to hear more about your travels. My oldest daughter, 11, has begun to blog about our trip. Like her mother, she tends to process things best through writing them down. … Another local girl who has visited Haiti came over to our house yesterday after school to talk with our girls. They exchanged stories about Haiti (they’d visited the same village), looked and pictures and practiced their Haitian Creole. It was a good day for the girls. 🙂

  8. lschontos

    Ever since Ann began to write about the upside/down kingdom I see it ever more clearly. He takes everything we think we know and turns it on its head. Your lives are testimonies of that truth Jennifer. He has blessed you as you have gone to bless, and now He uses that to bless and encourage our hearts. And the circle widens as we are challenged to go to our neighbors – even if we don’t have to get on a plane to do it. Even if it only takes us down the street or right next door.
    Thank you so much for this.

    And thank you, too, for the feature sweet friend. I am so humbled.

    • dukeslee

      Ann has a very special way of making Biblical concepts come to life, doesn’t she? Grateful for her ministry of words.

      It is an honor to feature your story, Linda. It really touched my heart. There were so many good ones, and I look forward to featuring a new one every week.

  9. Jennifer Bush Dorhauer

    I love how He puts a longing to serve in our hearts, and once we submit, He then fills our hearts with such love for those we minister to that we wonder how we could have once NOT loved them so.

    • dukeslee

      Yes, Jennifer. You nailed it. I don’t ever realize the love I have for someone until I’m on the other side of loving the person. You said it more poetically, though. 🙂

  10. Harriett

    What a beautiful thing that is to see your daughter with the spirit of Him in here — I can see it in the photographs. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Dayna DeLaVergne

    Jennifer, your girls are as beautiful as their mom–inside, where it counts! Thank you for your beautiful reminder of what it truly means to be poor and how we can overcome our poverty.


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