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GOD CAN’T SLEEP: Waiting for Daylight on Life’s Dark Nights
Palmer Chinchen. David C. Cook, $14.99 trade paper (240p)
A former missionary kid in Liberia and now pastor in Arizona, Chinchen (True Religion) writes an all-in book about life lived full-on. This is not your father’s theodicy; it aims higher than chirpy preacher platitudes and tells the stories of people in international settings from Haiti to Liberia who embody God’s goodness to overcome evil in the world. Chinchen’s chapter on heaven is powerful and moving, interweaving the little that Scripture has to say about it with God’s “snapshots” of heaven on earth.
His writing is low on religious sap and backed up with life experience. His fresh voice is as good as Rob Bell’s or Donald Miller’s, but a cut above them theologically, and he offers more authentic global stories to boot. The 20- and 30-something generation will devour this one like termites in a lumberyard. This isn’t the next Blue Like Jazz; it’s better. (June)
Today, Palmer reflects on a moment of opportunity to do justice in Haiti . . . a moment that came and went. I think all of us who are flunking sainthood can probably relate. –JKR
By Palmer Chinchen
I’ve just returned from Haiti with an incredible team of 22 people from The Grove. My mind swims with rich moments and stories and experiences from our week in the mountain community of Les Penez. But sinking in my gut amidst a sea of beautiful memories is the gnawing feeling of regret.
After almost a week on Bellevue de la Montaigne (The Mountain with the Beautiful View) with Pastor Felix and his people, our team was making the drive down to Port au Prince when I caught a glimpse down the road of someone throwing a punch. “Hey, everyone,” I said to the six others crammed in the crew-cab with me, “look, a fight.” Just as everyone turned, the truck in front of us cleared and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, a man was whipping a woman with a branch. She was swinging back to fight him off.
“Arrêt, arrêt,” I yelled as a grabbed our driver’s shoulder from behind. Mark hit the brakes and slowed quickly. I reached for my door handle to jump out… but just as I thought we were coming to a stop… Mark accelerated.
I blurted, “Arrêt, arrêt,” a couple of more times but Mark just – kept – driving. I know my French isn’t perfect, but I do know how to say stop! I can’t explain why he kept driving.
My next thought was, Ok, I’ll tell him to turn around. But that felt so impulsive. There were three vehicles in our convoy packed with our people, one was already ahead. I vacillated. But with every passing second we sped further down the mountain.
That night I laid on my cot in Port au Prince full of regret. I couldn’t sleep.
That’s it. There is no story. We’ll never know her name. It’s too late to go back. I could not go back now if I wanted to. No one will rescue her from the shame of being publicly humiliated by her boyfriend or husband. No one will stop the cowardly blows. On that day, no one will tell her she is loved and beautiful.
All I’m left with is gut-gnawing regret. It’s a relentless beast. I can’t stand it.
I say all this to remind you that life is like that. Your life is like that. The glimpse out the window is very fleeting. When you see something messed up and God screams at you do something, the time to act is now. Or, the moment is gone forever; and all you’re left with is sinking regret.
That’s why I hate regret.
I was on a flight to Haiti a few months ago, reading USA Today, when I came across an article that read, “A number of colleges have shown interest in helping Haiti after its earthquake. But they’re being discouraged” from going because it’s too soon. (Betty Klinck, ’Alternative’ spring breakers steered from Haiti missions. USA Today, March 8, 2010, Life D10)
If today is too soon, then when will the day be right? What greater disaster must a nation suffer before the time is right? Because the CIDI (an ominous-sounding acronym for the Center for International Disaster Information) is advising volunteers to “wait until conditions are better to serve … at least one year.”
What tragic irony. How will conditions ever get any better if people don’t go and help make things better?
This same kind of reasoning is what vexed me when buildings came crashing down in Port au Prince. It took five days of sitting and watching and assessing and evaluating before our government felt it was “safe” enough to allow earthquake rescue workers into Haiti to begin digging through the rubble for survivors. FIVE DAYS! I was sick. We should have had people there in five hours.
That’s why I traveled to Haiti with a team of doctors and nurses from my church, The Grove, just days after Port au Prince collapsed. That’s why we sent twenty-three people back to Haiti a few weeks later to build a dorm with a concrete floor for orphans who were sleeping under a tent on a dirt floor.
Circumstances will never be perfect or perfectly safe. So act now. That’s when you’re needed most.
If you don’t want to live with regret, begin to act now.
Palmer Chinchen is a popular speaker and author of God Can’t Sleep (David C. Cook, June 2011). He grew up in Liberia, West Africa, witnessing firsthand the ravaging pain of the AIDS and malaria pandemics, the atrocities of civil war, and the daily burden of extreme poverty. For many years Palmer served as a College Pastor in California and Wheaton, IL. Today he serves as Lead Pastor of The Grove in Chandler, Arizona. Palmer is passionate about the need for Christians to respond to the problems of affliction and injustice, and share the love of Christ. He holds a PhD from Trinity International University (TEDS) and a BA and MA from Biola University.