When you read the title of this blog, even if you don't know who Simone is, you've probably conjured up an idea of what this person must have done to merit being called a "Great." They must be a conquering giant who slays enemies and is revered by many. This person must be a seasoned champion who didn't get the fame from just defeating an adversary one time. You might think of this well-armored, valiant warrior who stands tall and proud as they overlook their domain. This someone has a clear purpose, passion, and resolve like none other.
Did the warrior you were imagining look like this?
But allow us to take a moment to challenge your image of what greatness looks like.
If you've been to Haiti with us, follow our work on social media, and/or have been in conversation about our work in Haiti, chances are you've seen and heard about Simone on more than one occasion. It's no secret that we adore this lady and lovingly call her our Haitian grandma. She also calls us her children and like any loving parent does, she continually prays for us. Hang on, let me rephrase that last part because she doesn't just pray...she continually fights for us in prayer. She contends for us. She throws the holy smackdown on the enemy. She assaults Satan and laughs in his face. She victoriously marches around the room trampling satan under her foot. She reminds satan he has been rendered powerless because of the blood of Jesus Christ constantly. She calls on the name of Jesus all day, every day, because in her words, "His phone is never busy." When she prays, she has God's ear and she delights in the instant access she has to him. We're all convinced that when satan and his band of thieves see and hear Simone, they tremble and flee as fast as they can lest they face Jesus in her and come to ruin. This little 94 year old lady is a giant in the faith and one of the greatest warriors we will ever know. She is also someone we want you all to know about as well.
But there's something about Simone's faith that sets her apart. We once had a team member who met her and when he walked away he said, "she is connected [to God]." That is one of the most powerful descriptors when talking about Simone and her faith. In 94 years, Simone has been well seasoned when it comes to the ebb and flow of life. She's seen more seasons, more life, more death, more devastation, more restoration, more hunger, more plenty, more suffering, more healing, more struggle, and more victories than many of us ever will.
Simone came to faith in a crisis many years ago. Her daughter was in the hospital and there was so much uncertainty about whether or not she would live. During their time there, the gospel was shared with them and they both accepted Christ initially out of desperation and hope that God would intervene. I'm not sure about her daughters relationship to this day, but I know that Simone has desperately clung to Jesus every day since then. Simone's faith has been tested and forged through the fire of many trials and tribulations life has thrown at her.
In the book of James, we are admonished to "consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." -James 1:2-4
Simone's faith is not lacking in any sense. We have seen a joy that is counterintuitive still exude from her in the midst of her suffering. She has persevered and persevered victoriously as she has unwaveringly held on to Hope. Her suffering produced a maturity that isn't ruled by emotions. She is ruled by faith, trust, and the Word. The flesh has been crucified and she joyfully continues to crucify the flesh daily because that means she can experience more of Jesus. She delights in His will and reminds everyone around her that "outside of Jesus, there is none other." Because of her suffering and brokenness, there is a nearness of God and when you are near to her, there is a real sense of being near to God yourself. Given time (which you should always allot for when knowing you're going to visit her), she will share story after story about times Jesus has shown up and provided, protected, and strengthened her. Some of these stories may have taken place decades ago, but she shares the story like it happened just yesterday. There is a sweetness that comes from hearing and watching her share these stories because they bring her so much joy. Jesus is her best friend and the love she has for her best friend challenges even those who have been walking with the Lord for many years. Oh to have the faith of Simone and the joy that comes from that faith! The joy of the Lord is truly her strength.
While we could go on and on about Simone and her faith, we want to share a story that demonstrates just how connected her and God are and He how works through her as she fights for us at Konbit.
Recently our organization went through a little rough patch and we were constantly going before the Lord and asking for wisdom and discernment regarding a certain situation. Thanks to a generous donor, every week for the past 6 weeks, we have been able to deliver food to Simone and her little family as food security has been a longstanding issue since we met her. We have seen time and time again just how much of a difference food makes in her physical health so we have taken up our sister's cause.
On one delivery day, both Kris and Jessie went to deliver the food and check in on everyone. When we arrived we were greeted with lots of excited hugs and kisses and she informed us that "God has sent her on a mission to pray for us so we have to let her come to our house to pray." She shared how God woke her up in the middle of the night a few nights before we arrived and told her that we needed prayer. So she did what God asked her to do and she was up all night praying for us not knowing any specifics. She let us know that when God sends you on a mission, you have to go and in her case, she said she would become "cold" if we didn't let her come. Her faith is hot and she doesn't even entertain being lukewarm because that's one step closer to being cold and how could she be cold after all God has done in her life. We then made arrangements for her to come first thing the next morning. Once back at the house, we shared what Simone said with Rachael and we just thanked God for how sweet he is on us. God uses Simone in our lives over and over again and she speaks words and life that we need to hear at just the right time.
The next morning at 9 am Simone and Wislande (her 19 year old grandaughter who she has been raising since she was a baby) were knocking on our gate. We opened the door and were ambushed with hugs, kisses, laughs, and so much joy. We could tell Simone was on a mission though and as soon as we got in the house while Rachael was still pouring her a glass of water, she informed us on the order of the events that were about to take place.
"We are going to sing and we are going to pray."
She chugged down the last of her water and shot up expecting us to follow suit. We did.
Simone started singing. Wislande joined in. Our friend Jeanette who was working that day stepped away from her work and started worshiping with us. Rachael and Jessie joined their hearts in worship as well.
When the song finished, Simone broke into passionate prayer for us.
We all followed and lifted up our voices to the Father.
It was a beautiful moment.
This is one aspect of the culture we love. When it comes to prayer, Haitians never rush it. The prayers come from the heart and time doesn't matter. They praise the Father, are thankful for the Son, ask for the Holy Spirit's direction, recount the goodness of the Lord in their life, and lift up everyone that comes to mind while praying. They are faithful to pray for those imprisoned, the ones who are sick, and the ones who have yet to accept Christ. They pray like they are dependent on God for every single thing both small and large. Because they are. And we westerners, should pay attention and take note. We are just as dependent. This is just another way the Haitian culture continually challenges our faith in the best way possible.
When we were finished praying, we spent the next hour talking about how God let Simone know we needed prayer, shared a couple testimonies, and then we let Simone in on what we were going through and why we needed prayer.
"AHAAA!" she exclaimed with humble satisfaction.
She began thanking God for letting her know and then let us know that God had a reason for waking her up and asking her to pray for us. She reminded us how God sees and knows all things. She reminded us that the battle has been won. She reminded us as she marched around the kitchen that we too are crushing satan under our foot when we pray. She reminded us that God's "phone is never off" and when we call on him He will also answer. She also reminded us also that our prayer work is never done and that obedience is the ultimate form of love.
When we are with Simone, we reminded of the words of Paul in Philippians 4:11-13:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
She has seen, lived, and learned through all that God has thrown at her. She has come out stronger, more gracious, more refined, and more confident in God's faithfulness because she has seen Him show up, show out, and show through over and over again. She understands that whether she is in need or has plenty, that God is enough and because He is enough, she is content. Her contentment is full of joy and like I've mentioned before, that joy is her strength.
We hope this has expanded what your idea of greatness looks like through this tiny 94 year old champion of the faith in a Spiderman t-shirt.