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What Am I Here For?

June 1, 2012

There are days that I feel my presence at the school is only a reminder to Haitians that the world I am from is doing so much better than they are, and it doesn’t much care.  But it is on those days that God speaks to me most loudly.  For he didn’t bring me to Haiti for the sake of the people here.  He didn’t bring me to serve them.  I am in Haiti for the glory of God.  I glorify him by loving the people here, not by accomplishing either my agenda or theirs. For as Martin Buber said, “Success is not a name of God.”

He understands my failures and my disappointments, for he is not a God of power and action, but the God of the cross, a suffering servant.  He suffers by the misery I cause, and with the unhappiness I experience.   He shares in my suffering, and when he draws all to completion, he will share his joy with me.

Therefore I can be angry with God’s wrath, the anger of wounded love.  I can suffer with God’s suffering.  I can hope with God’s hope.  I can step outside of myself and take part in the lives of others, and can rejoice and suffer with them.  I can love them with God’s powerless love, the love that empowers.


Paris Reidhead was a Christian and Missionary Alliance preacher who served as a missionary with Sudan Interior Mission directly after WWII.  I came across this excerpt from his famous sermon So Great Salvation, and it brought back fond memories. I had seen a film adaptation of the story a long time ago and loved it, but I have been unable to find it again.  If anyone knows anything of it, I would be very grateful.  I hope you will enjoy the story as much as I did.

Years ago an Englishman had made his fortune in the gold fields in California. He was returning to England to live. He forwarded his wealth to London and came overland by stage and river steamer to New Orleans. From there he planned to take a ship to New York and from there to England.

As a tourist in New Orleans he did as most tourists do; he went down to the slave market. In the early 1850’s slaves were still being sold in New Orleans and elsewhere in the South. It was a noisy, active market. Men were gathered observing a young, very beautiful black woman who was up for bid. He heard the men’s comments as they were speaking about her. He saw two evil looking men bidding for her, quite heatedly, and then he overheard them say what they would do with her. His heart revolted against the whole swinish business.

Finally, as the bids rose higher and more frenzied, he beckoned to the auctioneer and quoted a figure which was exactly twice the last bid, utterly beyond anything that had ever been paid for a slave in New Orleans before.

The auctioneer said, “Have you the money?” “Yes, I have.” So the bill of sale was made out. The Englishman went over to the block to claim the woman he had purchased. As she came down one step and stood just about level with his eyes, she spat full in his face and hissed through her clenched teeth, “I hate you.”

He said nothing. With the back of his hand he wiped the spittle away. Then he took her by the hand, walked down the street, through the mud, and down another street. Finally they came to a little office building. She couldn’t read and didn’t know what the building was.

The Englishman went to the desk and began to speak. The man behind the desk began to protest. Ignoring the agent’s protests, the Englishman said, “I insist. It’s the law. I insist.”

Finally, after the business transaction was completed, the Englishman received a paper with an official seal. He then walked over to the black woman, who was like a beast ready to spring on him. He extended the paper to her. “Here are your manumission papers. You are free.”

Still she hissed, “I hate you.”

“Don’t you understand? Here are your manumission papers. You are free.”

“No, I don’t understand. You paid twice as much for me as any buyer in the New Orleans market, now you are giving me my freedom. I don’t believe you.”

“Yes, these are your manumission papers, signed and officially sealed.” And he put them in her hand.

“Do you mean to say that you bought me to set me free?”

“Yes, that is why I bought you; to set you free.”

Tears came up into her eyes. Her face softened, and then she slipped to her knees and reached down and put her hands on those rough miner’s boots, and then laid her cheek down on the toe of one of them. Through her tears she sobbed, “You bought me to set me free; you bought me to set me free. You paid an exorbitant price just to set me free!”

Then she choked through her tears, “Sir, all I want in life is to be your slave. You bought me, to set me FREE.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. bryan permalink
    June 10, 2012 9:09 pm

    What a beautiful story. How I long to have that constant understanding of the price paid for me by Jesus to set me free from the bondage of sin. All too often the things of this world steal my full grasp of the price He paid. So great a salvation indeed!

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