"Sonje Bel Jezi" is so much more than just a beautiful Haitian Creole phrase... it's a profound truth and powerful tribute as well as a life-shaping story branded on my heart and body that will inevitably change those around me as it has radically changed my own life.
"Sonje" is the Creole word for REMEMBER. For those of you who know me well, I'm sure you have heard me share the significant affect that this one word has had on my heart over the last 7 years.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, this one word is referenced hundreds of times (almost as much as the word LORD) and in almost every context it is used to express REMEMER YAHWAY, Remember the LORD, and do not forget all the ways in which He has led you through the wilderness of life.
That truth of His presence through every circumstance and deep ravine in life strikes something so deep in the core of who I am; it's hard to even touch on it at risk of truly failing to express the hope and value I've received at being called His child, His sheep, and His beloved through the reality of His known presence and nearness when I call out His name.
Just think of it... the one for whom He will leave the 99 sheep to go after the lost wayward soul is me, it's you, and it’s all of us in our broken times of wandering wilderness. In Deuteronomy 8:2-3 (the 5th book of the Hebrew Torah- also known as the book of love) this beautiful truth is conveyed in such a way that my heart cannot resist it's captivating affection toward me, well, toward us;
"You shall always REMEMBER how the Lord your God has led you through the wilderness, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, to show you what's in your heart and whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you, and tested you and even allowed you to hunger so that He might feed you with manna (represents: bread, truth, hope) that neither you nor your parents had known before. He allowed such things to teach you that man does not live by bread only but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."
Is it just me or is that a truth that is worth putting your full weight into, or maybe even permanently tattooing on your body? :)
So let's take a look at the rest of the story of this little phrase, shall we? I told ya it was weighty, and I meant business...
On June 25th, 2010 I wrote my first blog post ever as I prepared to share with the world my adventure to follow Jesus to Liberia, West Africa. In that post, I shared an encounter that had changed my life forever when Jesus allowed me to meet Him in a special way in Haiti.
As a young teenager without Jesus, I ventured off with an organization to feed orphans in Haiti. Before we traveled, we were clearly informed not to bring candy or we would be bombarded by the multitudes. In my rebellious 12 year old mindset, I interpreted that rule as
"well then, I will only bring one pack of skittles."
Quit giving me those stern eyes through the computer, I know, I know, it was wrong.
Well, after a couple days in Haiti I met a little 2 year old girl named Lovely in a bordering village called Bordmere. She lived in a little hut with her 5 or so siblings and they all slept sideways on one big mattress. After meeting this precious orange-haired bright-eyed child, I couldn't help but spend every spare moment of my free time frolicking over to her village to hug, dance, giggle and play with her.
After lovingly looking back over every daily encounter, it is evident that God truly wrecked my life in such a beautiful way on that trip through little miss Lovely!
When I looked into her eyes I saw an indescribable beauty that I'm confident was the radiant reflection of Jesus. It's quite possible that Lovely was an angel that God brought to this earth to take me one step closer to His love and salvation. The day before we left I ran over one last time to share with her the gift that I had been saving for one special child; yep, the rebellious pack of skittles. When I marched over there and offered her that sweet little package, the look in her eyes taught me that never had she received such a sweet gift. Her eyes grew huge and then she danced lightly on her feet doing a fancy toddler jig, and then took off into her house like a flash. I stood shocked and nervous about the 6 children that would soon parade out of the house expecting to "taste the rainbow".
As they all ran toward me with a posse of their friends, my heart sank. Then the scales fell off my eyes and my heart as I watched what unfolded next. This- what should be self-concerned- toddler joyously ripped open her gift and in turn passed out every single skittle to all the children around her, and never thought twice about keeping it for herself.
At that moment, they tasted the rainbow, and I tasted Jesus; I wholeheartedly experienced the Gospel in a profound way, and my life was never the same.
In honor of this child's life, and her death*, and the irreplaceable role that she played in so powerfully teaching me (and now so many others) about Jesus-
the tattoo on my left wrist honors and rejoices "Remember Lovely, Jesus!"
*She was embraced into the arms of Jesus the year before I was able to return back to her village; her family shared with me her tragic story of being crushed by a cinderblock during a house building project for their family. God has truly made beauty out of this precious child's ashes. Her life was not lost, but rather truly remains established both on earth (as long as I live and her story is told) and in Heaven.