A reflection written whilst in the Dominican Republic:
Meeting death in the face. As we sat in the Church in the Woods a woman died right in front of us.
It was distressing, many of the Haitians there were screaming out, and many of our team were crying with slow tears.
For me, I was taken back to my personal struggle with death. But I didn't cry. I'm not sure that I wanted to, although I felt in a struggle I also felt an overriding peace with God. It is hard to watch death at its rawest, right in front of you, tearing a life apart, but I know that I am sure that if God had not wanted us to see that, then we wouldn't have.
Also, 'Our God is stronger, Our God is greater...'.
Facing things like this is hard and explaining them isn't easy, but God knows it is hard and that's why He stepped off of His throne for us, to die at our hands, to conquer death. He is the conqueror of all, and we need to trust in and rely on Him because His love is so much greater than all this. It is all-conquering. He gives and He takes away, but all we can do is trust. Trust in Him. Trust in His love.
Even in all this we need to be on our knees, and we need to realise that all is grace.
Chasing the moon isn't always easy. It isn't easy to see the breath-taking beauty in every moment, it is hard to see that all is grace.
It can be easy to look down, focused on the pain, and the suffering, and the hurt, but we need to look up, fall to our knees in unending praise and adoration and turn to focus on Him.
'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...I will fear no evil...for if our God is for us then who could ever stop us? And if our God is with us then what can stand against?' - You Never Let Go, by Matt Redman
After the woman died we moved to the other side of the Church in the woods for a while, to give us space to pray. When I sat down, a little girl came up to me and hugged me and hugged me, I was reminded that there is death, but there is also life and we need to grasp that life with both hands, and live every single moment to the fullest possible.
The people at the Church told us that the woman had turned away from God, and had done some bad things, but she had returned to the Church for the past few days, as she was very ill, and was likely to die.
I don't know why what happened, happened. I don't know what this woman did, what her relationship with God was like. But I know that in the house of God, all is grace and I know that His love is so, so much greater than all things, no matter what this woman had done He still loved her, and He still continues to love her. It is not our place to pass judgement over any of it, but we need to rely on the knowledge that God is love, and we need to trust in Him.
Afterwards, we left the woods, and climbed into the bus and all I could do was pray. As I did, I could feel God using the bus as a sanctuary for Him, a place of complete peace where we could all learn to rest in Him. Resting in Him.
That day was hard for us all. I think Romans 8:38-39 says it all...
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In the Church in the Woods I could feel God's presence, His spirit moving between the trees, His face shining upon us like the sun, His love cradling us, His peace washing through us. It almost felt like all this true beauty was torn apart by what happened, but I know it wasn't, even in the pain, the team joined together, opened His Word, soaking ourselves in it and falling to our knees in unity as we turned to Him, asking Him to help and guide us through.
Falling into His arms of love, grace, peace and hope.