Canaan's Praise Warriors

copyright: Cheryl Weaver 2011 used by permission
I sat on the steps of the office, and as my friend, Cheryl described the moment, “I was basking in the glory!” Little boys surrounded me. My own sons have morphed into men. I had forgotten how much I loved hanging out with little guys with their questions and energy.

As the pastor walked by, he spoke to the boys in Creole. I noticed the sideways glances they cast toward one another as they stepped out to follow--- his hand beckoning, “Come.”

I assumed the pastor had chores for them. School was out; it was mid-afternoon.

Some of the team were working on a renovation project of a shed into a kitchen. Others had gone to market to gather a few more things we needed for the Christmas celebration we were preparing for the children and all who live at Canaan.

After a busy day, the team gathered for the evening meal. Pastor Henri came in and recounted his day. His voice strong, his hands moving as he let us in what he had been up to that afternoon.

He told our team that there had been what he described as a “small fire” near Canaan. He and the boys had gotten it under control. The weather dry and windy, wildfires are not uncommon where burning trash is a everyday occurrence.

copyright: Cheryl Weaver 2011 used by permission

The men on the team protested, “We didn’t know.” (The smell of smoke was very common while we were in Haiti.) “We could have stopped the work and come up the hill to help.”

I remembered the pastor summoning the boys, them falling in behind him earlier in the afternoon. I realized they had jumped from the steps to go fight the fire. With no alarm, his little band of first responders had taken off after their leader. I had been clueless.

Then the pastor told us something that gave us all a deeper understanding of this place-----their complete dependence upon God for everything.

“At Canaan, when there is a big fire, this is what we do. All of Canaan, children and adults, go up to fight the fire. The older children and the adults beat the fire down with branches while the little ones and the women who care for them stand near and sing praises to God as the fire is put out. In twenty years, no fire has ever overtaken Canaan.”

Today, it had been a small fire. God had provided with only minimal damage to an irrigation system further up the hill. All the while we had worked and played in oblivion just yards away.

The dining hall had become a classroom. The pastor wasn’t intentionally preaching a sermon. He was teaching us “on the way.” He was teaching us the way of living totally dependent upon God.

Bryan said it best, stunned by the revelation, “The last thing we plan to do when we face a crisis----especially a crisis that threatens devastation, is to figure in singing praises to God as part of the plan.”

We know what Bryan says is true.

Of all the lessons of Canaan, this may be the greatest lesson we learned during our short stay. Canaan lives in the Upside Down Kingdom---- the kind of kingdom living we are called to as well. 

Could we learn to turn life upside down---to approach life and its challenges God’s way?

What kind of faith is required to be sing praises when it seems that all could be destroyed?

This wasn't just a good idea. It was a God idea---that praise overcomes, wins victories in life's battles to the glory of God!
“Behold, God is my salvation, 
I will trust and not be afraid; 
For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, 
And He has become my salvation.”  (Is. 12:2)
At Canaan there is no despair that there will be no fire engine coming to the rescue. God is their Deliverer. He is their Salvation. There is a quiet and dignified way the expression of this truth is lived out among those who serve there. God is acknowledged with reverence and it is beautiful!

Dawn was breaking the morning we loaded our luggage into the bed of the truck to begin the first leg our journey home.

As we filled our stomachs with baked oatmeal covered with milk and sipped strong coffee, the pastor mentioned that there was a big fire up on the hill. He said it was a good distance away. It would be no problem for Canaan if the wind did not shift with warming of the day.

Some of us walked up the hill one last time. The fire blazed hot in the distance. It was still too dark to see what lay in its path.

The eleven found our places around the truck bed for the hour and half ride to the airport. I perched myself on a duffle bag. Some sat in child-size chairs; others stood. Our bodies braced with each jolt of the truck tires pounding over rocks down the road that would take us from Canaan.

As we left, I could not help but wonder, would the children and the praise singers be called up that day to fight the glowing enemy up on the hill?

Diesel fumes burned my sinuses; tears fell from my eyes. If Canaan had to fight, I so wanted to be in the battle alongside them!

Then it hit me. What was I thinking? That battle was the Lord’s! The LORD is their strength and their song. They didn’t need me. They had the praise warriors.

Canaan was spared from having to fight fire that day. We were thankful when we received the good news.

And we are humbled by the lessons of Canaan.

Lord, burn them on our hearts!

And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst. (Zeph. 2:5)


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