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Bringing Heaven to Hell on Earth

Ten-year-old Deannzi greeted us with a bright smile as she stood in front of her broken home. I asked for Rosetta, she led us through the rubble to find her aunt.

I had met Rosetta just after the tragic earthquake in Port-au-Prince, she was living under bed sheets on the dirt. Her makeshift tent-home sat in front of a pile of broken concrete that used to be her home. Rosetta and a dozen other family members were sleeping in the yard of their crumbled home. Some slept between the crevices in the slabs of concrete. Two of her family were still buried in the rubble.

It was hell on earth.

. . .

Sometimes when I tell people to take pieces of heaven to places of hell on earth, some say my language is too harsh. They say, “It’s not really that bad.”

I say it is. Because right now when mothers in Haiti run out of flour, they make cookies for their children out of mud. If there is a place in this world where mothers must make cookies out of mud—that’s a place of hell on earth.

When women are stoned to death in Afghanistan for adultery—that’s a place of hell on earth.

When an infant dies every 30 seconds of malaria in Africa—an utterly treatable disease—that’s a place of hell on earth.

When 6-year-old girls in Thailand are sold for sex—that’s a place of hell on earth …

… and we better do something about it.

That’s why I say, if you have any aspiration of living the kind of Kingdom-life Christ calls you to, then start taking a bit of heaven to the places of hell on earth.

That’s the part of the Gospel we don’t talk about much, that the Kingdom of God has come to a desperate world. And God is repairing lives and making this world more beautiful—through the lives of His people.

You see, this world is a broken place, but it doesn’t have to be that way—God wants to use your life to spread the love, hope and beauty of heaven. He has put you here to be a voice for the silenced, stop the injustice, free the oppressed and end extreme poverty.

Here’s the best part: When you begin to live that way, something very transformational happens in your own life. I’m convinced there’s a kind of spiritual formation that only happens when you go to the places that are like hell on earth. In the same way educators say cognitive-disruption (disequilibration) causes intellectual growth, we need a disruption of the soul to experience deep spiritual growth. In short, give your life away to change this world—and God will change you.

. . .

I was back in Haiti, two months after I met Rosetta, to help rebuild an orphanage. I had had a tough time forgetting about Rosetta. I don’t think life gets any worse than when you end up living on the dirt in front of your broken home full of sorrow.

When Deannzi led us to Rosetta, we found her and her three small children still living on the dirt. I thought she might be, and I knew that when the rains came her bed-sheet home would become a muddy pit, so I brought Rosetta a tent. Tom and Rich helped me put it up.

But as we put the tent together it looked small. Target labeled it a “six-man” tent—it’s not that big; I wished it was bigger.

Rosetta smiled. She was gracious and said, “Merci” a lot.

But the bright green tent was dwarfed by the slabs of broken concrete piled high behind it; it looked small. I sure wished the tent was bigger.

As we finished putting up the tents, Rosetta thanked us profusely. After we said goodbye I told Tom I wished the tent was bigger. Tom said he thought the tent was good. He said, “It’s better than the dirt that will turn to mud when the rains come, plus the brilliant green tent seemed to brighten Rosetta’s day.”

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Tom was right; it was good to see Rosetta smile.

I guess I say all this to remind us—remind me—that sometimes the world’s troubles seem so daunting that we begin to believe our efforts will be too small to matter. So at times we choose to do nothing …

A tsunami crashes onto the shores of Japan, we do nothing …

A tornado shreds a city in Missouri, we do nothing …

A woman is raped in Tripoli, we do nothing …

We must respond. We must reject apathy. We must do something.

Tom’s words reminded me that God has a way of using our smallest efforts. Because isn’t it true that God uses one person to touch one life at a time?

So maybe, on some days, it’s OK to do the small things that are good.

Because on some days, maybe God wants to sprinkle heaven just one drop at a time.


Palmer Chinchen is a popular speaker and author of True Religion: Taking Pieces of Heaven to Places of Hell on Earth (David C. Cook, June 2010) and God Can’t Sleep (David C. Cook, June 2011). He’s also Lead Pastor of The Grove, in Chandler, AZ.

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