by Lon Fendall
The first time I heard this phrase was in a Good News Associates meeting recently. The GNA director, Jan Wood, used the phrase in response to my report about being involved with some projects in rural Haiti. Jan said something to the effect of, “Whatever you help with in Haiti, make sure it results in “assertive and visible goodness.” I said I agreed with that goal, but then later wondered if I even understood what the phrase meant in that context.
The next day while the GNA Associates were talking about something entirely different, Jan said we needed to be sure we as followers of Christ set our eyes on assertive and visible goodness. Again, that seemed like a good outcome, but I still wondered what Jan might have meant by it. So I asked her later if she had gotten the phrase from someone else or if she coined it herself. It was the latter, she said. She is a person who prays a lot and in the process hears a lot back from God, so I set about to think about the phrase as an important outcome of a proposed project in Southern Haiti.
My first visit to Fond des Blancs, Haiti, happened more than thirty years ago. I had met Joy Treharne Thomas a number of years before in two of the classes I was teaching at George Fox University. I wish I could take some credit for the wonderful ways God has used Joy in her roles as co-founder of the Haiti Christian Development Fund (HCDF) projects in the mountainous southern peninsula of Haiti. I use the term “co-founder” because she has been much more than the wife of the HCDF director, Jean Thomas. Even more than the mother of their three sons and two foster daughters. Much more even than the first principal of the L’Exode Primary School and later a teacher in the L’Exode High School. She has been the welcomer of visiting groups, the mentor of school teachers, the encourager of kids in the neighborhood on their way toward becoming leaders in the work in Fond des Blancs, and the loving companion of the director of HCDF. Oh, and did I say they are the proud grandparents of the beautiful baby shown in the photo?
[A radio show I used to listen to on National Public Radio took occasional breaks for what they called their “shameless commerce” announcements. Mine fits well here. This is a book that I helped with, that was mostly written by Jean and Joy Thomas about their first twenty years of ministry among the rural poor of southern Haiti. It is called, At Home With the Poor, (Barclay Press, 2003).]
Currently the Haitian Christian Development Fund is in the early germination stage for what might become one of the next projects in Fond des Blancs. The shape of that project is not even close to being clear at the moment, but its intent is to give vocational options for young men and women in Fond des Blancs for whom the next step in life after high school is very hard to discern and discover. It will be months and maybe even years before these ideas take shape. But as a volunteer advisor and honorary member of the HCDF board I’m eager to understand what God might have ahead in the lives of the young men and women in Fond des Blancs, some of whom will be graduating in a year-and-a-half.
With so many possible directions this exploration could take, the outcome I’m most determined it will accomplish will be to cultivate the desire among the young men and women of Fond des Blancs to become the designers and agents of “assertive and visible goodness.”