Watching for the Light: The Reciprocity of Light

When I was reflecting on Advent and our theme of “Watching for the Light,” I kept thinking about the reciprocity of light.

When I was a teenager I went on my first mission trip to Ecuador. It was a medical mission trip, and I went because I planned to study medicine and wanted the experience before college. That was my first memory of the light.

In my 20s, I went on many other mission trips to countries like Honduras, Peru and Mexico. The thing about mission trips is it doesn’t matter how many you have been on, or whether they are near or far, at least in my case I always went thinking I was going to bring the light to others. But every time, in different ways, I ended up receiving far more light than I could have ever given.

This month, for Jake’s end of year project at school, our family was asked to do a presentation on a country of our choice and how they celebrate Christmas. I’m curious which countries each of you would pick? Maybe that’s something to talk about with your family, or a fun exploration during Advent. Personally, I am always partial to Spanish speaking countries, but it was a story of the reciprocity of light that made us choose Haiti.

My husband Jeffrey’s grandfather was an ophthalmologist. Dr. Gardner Landers and his wife, Francis, went on their first medical mission trip to Haiti in 1977. While Gardner was performing eye surgeries, Francis met an Episcopal priest named Pier Jean-Albert.

As the story goes, the Priest told Francis very matter of factly, “If you want to help Haitians see, if you want to give them vision, then give them an education. Teach them to read.” She went to Haiti with a plan to share her light and came back with a light ten times brighter.

That reciprocity of light became the Haiti Education Foundation, an initiative that has built and maintains 40 schools in the mountain villages of Southern Haiti where there would otherwise be no option for learning to read, and no sharing of light.

As we begin this season of waiting and watching, these stories of the reciprocity of light remind me of both the simplicity of the light and the magic of the light. The simplicity: when we share it, we see it. The magic: how God, through the Christ child, gives us light, then when we share it, takes our light and makes it shine in ways we could never imagine. Surely this is at least part of what we mean by the phrase, “the miracle of Christmas.”

Ashley Landers, Evangelism Chair