the community organizer

Gerald Lumarque was our guest at church the other week. Gerald is a community organizer in Fayette, Haiti. One of our church members got to know him when she spent a couple of years there with the Beyond Borders organization and worked with Gerald. Since her return, our church has supported some of his ongoing work—primarily in adult literacy.

Gerald works with an organization called Têtes Ensembles (Heads Together). As a foundational group, it identifies basic needs in the community and then supports other groups formed to specifically address those needs: educational needs (it started with adult literacy and then branched out into elementary education so there wouldn’t be as many adults needing to learn to read and write), environmental needs (working with the levies and with reforestation), health needs (cholera education and first aid training), agricultural needs (tools and irrigation and planting), and financial needs (micro-lending). When food was a basic need in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, Têtes Ensembles coordinated several feeding stations, and, again, our church was privileged to be a part of that work.

All good. Each work profoundly important in and of itself. But then, as you listen to Gerald, you begin to learn how Gerald goes about his work—in such a way as to empower people, and I think of the woman he described who took one of the adult literacy classes so when she applied for her passport, she could do so by signing her name and not by marking an “X” on the application. I think of excited children in an environment of learning never suspecting they might well not have been.

His work dignifies people—not as the gift of his work but in his simple recognition of their own dignity within that work (what a difference!). All the various groups of Têtes Ensembles meet and conduct their business in Reflection Circles. People gather in a circle, and it’s not that each person is given a voice, but that each person is listened to—heard—as someone with a voice worth listening to (again, that difference!)—someone whose perspective is needed within the circle. Gerald’s leadership is an authority released and regained—strength let go and reclaimed, and it is transformative. While the dignifying of individuals is not the goal of his work, nor a byproduct of that work, it is the means by and through which he works, and it transforms people (blessing them) even as their most basic needs are being met.

Gerald Lumarque was our guest at church the other week. He is a community organizer, and he does the work of God.

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