Joy Springs Up
by John Engle
Joy springs up in unexpected places. One Sunday morning several weeks ago about seventy people were gathered in a large circle at the end of a three-day leadership retreat that I was leading for the Wings of Hope ministry and St. Joseph’s Home for Boys. Some people would be tempted to pity many of those in our circle. About half were Haitian children and adults with severe physical and mental disabilities who were part of the Wings of Hope community. There were also about twenty Haitian boys who had spent years living on the harsh streets of Port-au-Prince before coming to live at St. Joseph’s.
Among the adults there who provide care for the folks with disabilities were nine young men who form the leadership team for the community. All of these young men had grown up at St. Joseph’s after escaping life on the street. Among them was Maya, who, with his deep voice and strong presence, opened our gathering with prayer, asking for the Holy Spirit to fill us. Then we began singing as Benwa, one of the other young leaders, skillfully accompanied us on a Haitian drum.
As the group began to get into the first song, I noticed little Steve off to my right. Joy was beginning to well up in his little five-year-old body. He was singing loudly and as clearly as he could with his speech difficulties. Words were really unnecessary, though, as his whole body was singing. His face glowed with a huge smile, as he looked around at the circle of people who had become his family.
Hanging around Wings of Hope, one quickly gets to know Steve and his friends. I don’t know the stories of these adorable children, but I suspect the path that led them to the caring, clean, structured environment at Wings of Hope was not an easy one. Now they are inseparable as they play together during the times when they aren’t in school or participating in the structured activities.
As the singing continued, I noticed that Steve was getting more and more excited, waving his arms in time with the music and virtually dancing in his chair. Soon all eyes were fixed on him. Ansi, who looks to be a couple years older than Steve, began to giggle. The music and collective joy was bubbling through Steve’s being. As we watched him, we sang louder and with more glee until the collective force launched Steve out of his chair and into the center of our circle. His feet barely touched the floor as he bounced with joy. He was like a human pogo stick! Up and down he went, leaping higher than I could have imagined possible. As the singing, drumming, and clapping continued, Steve began adding some dance moves to his bouncing. Steve beamed the biggest, most beautiful smile; and we all beamed back.
Little Steve embodied our joy that special Sunday morning, a joy that was the fruit of a community committed to caring for all its members, even the weakest ones. I saw this care demonstrated powerfully later in the day as I watched members of the leadership team feeding those in the Wings of Hope community who were unable to feed themselves. Although this was just part of their daily routine, they did it with joy and care, communicating love through their eye contact and their words with each person they fed. It was a beautiful expression of servant-leadership.
Steve leapt with joy, the joy that springs from a community built on sharing and acceptance. How wonderful to see that this joy is available even to people pushed aside by the world! How wonderful to see that God can use any of us to be a vessel of this joy and sharing!