The Power of Lament in Community
Posted in Serving/Missions
Scripture: “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror…. I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eyes waste away because of grief; they grow weak because of all my foes. Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord accepts my prayer.” – Psalm 6: 2, 6–9
I’ve never been much of a fan of lament. Certainly I have felt a range of emotions, but even in my work in journalism, I usually found a way to stay busy, and distract myself from the worst news I covered.
When I went into the mission field, I intended to use those same practices to deal with the pain I found there.
I arrived at Luc Celestin’s house late afternoon on June 10, 2013. I’d moved to live in Haiti as a mission co-worker a couple of weeks before, and I’d found an apartment in Port-au-Prince before traveling to stay with the Celestin family. I was in Haiti to serve as a companionship facilitator with a Joining Hands network. I would accompany rural farmer organizations, and my supervisors in World Mission and Presbyterian Hunger Program had asked me to stay for a month with a rural family to learn language and culture.
As my first day with Papa Luc’s family settled into evening, his daughters cleared the dinner table and prepared for evening worship. They called it “prayers,” but this nightly tradition in a small, wooden house is much more than that.
About eight of us crowded around to stand at the table. Papa Luc prayed aloud. Esther led us in a hymn, they recited the Lord’s Prayer, and then each of us simultaneously offered individual prayers.
Then came time for a recited Psalm. Already excited and anxious and a bit in awe of my loving welcome into this family, imagine my surprise when everyone looked at me. “Papa Luc would like you to read Psalm 6,” his son Herns told me. He wanted me to read… in Krèyol, a language I was just learning. Out loud! I was terrified.
I halted my way through the Psalm, and reading it in English later, I felt the power of the words. Here I was stumbling along in a place where people suffered regularly from deep poverty and a lack of necessary resources. Yet, in their prayers and chosen scripture, they tell God their painful feelings, then leave them with God.
Suddenly lament made sense. It is a practice in which we share our deepest hurts with a God who promises to be with us.
Prayer: Loving God, among the blessings, you give us are words to share our deepest, often painful feelings. Often, we want to hide from the pain and suffering in this world, and yet we gain so much more by naming our fears with trembling voices and hearing of your steadfast love. In you, oh Lord, I find words to lament and, in whatever language, words to praise your name. Thank you for loving us so. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Submitted by Cindy Corell, Mission Co-worker in Haiti