“Tipa, Tipa.” That is what they say in Haiti. It is Creole for “Little by Little.” Or, “Step by Step.” It means that with large tasks in front of us, we should be persistent and keep going and take things one step at a time. I love that saying. In my many trips to Haiti over the past 5 years, I have seen this life philosophy at work in the lives of the people there and have adopted it as my own.
This saying shows up in other cultures. The Chinese say, “Constant dripping of the water wears away the stone.” You might have heard the saying, “Little strokes fell great oaks.”
“The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” – Frederick Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Job 14:19 says, “the waters wear away the stones…”
One day at a time.
This perspective has gripped me as the basic way that change happens. Sure, we all want big things and quantam leaps from one position to the next. We look for the next big thing. But, after the “big thing” happens (and it does sporadically), we are still left with the “day by day.” We are still left with, “what's next?” That is where “tipa, tipa” comes in. “The waters wear away the stones.” The tortoise beats the hare.
At first glance, it seems like the rock will win. It is hard and often immovable. But, the constant drip. The persistant witness. The continual presence. It can wear away the hardest stone and leave holes wherever it does its work for more water to flow through and for movements to begin. Years ago, in my ministry, I said that I wanted to be a “drip” for Jesus. My prayer has always been that the “drip, drops” of the Kingdom of God would keep falling and would slowly wear away the rock of this hard earth and bring about a new reality for the glory of God and the good of man.
I always want the big thing. I want the “big win” and the massive victory. But, those are elusive and if they are not surrounded by the persistent, constant drops of waters that wear away the stones, those “big wins” are more like waves that come in and go out. They have an effect, but can be forgotten.
My trips to Haiti have taught me “Tipa, Tipa.” There, people live simple lives and are often immersed in poverty that those in the United States cannot comprehend. But, there is joy and persistence there. And, God works in the lives of those who turn to Him. Little by little. Step by step.
I started blogging 10 years ago. At the time, I was writing about policies with the International Mission Board that restricted missionary appointments. I wrote and lobbied and talked to people. Many of us did. We believed that policies about baptism and a missionaries private prayers were unnecessarily restrictive and wrong. It seemed that no one was listening. For several years I wrote about this. The cause was lost and forgotten. I was a “drip” of water outside of the system and I thought that our cause was hopeless. This past May, under the leadership of David Platt at the IMB, the restrictive policies were revoked. There were others who were also persistent and they brought about the “big change.” I was exceedingly glad.
A couple of years ago, I turned my attention toward the lack of ethnic diversity in SBC leadership on the trustee boards at the entity level. Changing this issue seemed to be impossible. Racism was not the major barrier. A lack relationships was. But, work had already been done and the will was there. It was just that things were not coming together to actually bring about the change. We needed some more drips of water. So, I found ways to work on that behind the scenes with a lot of other people and within the system and found that many people were already doing great work on this! (Special thanks to Frank Page and Sing Oldham of the Executive Committee and Paul Kim, and so many others). Last year at the SBC convention, it all came to a head and the “big thing” happened that would help move the conversation forward. A report was given by the Executive Committee that chronicled the progress of the SBC in racial reconcilation and diversity. Led by Dr. Ronnie Floyd, the convention meeting at Columbus, Ohio in June, 2015, was the most diverse that we had ever had. There were more appointments to committees and leadership from different ethnic backgrounds than we had ever seen. We now have a marker to judge from and strong recommendations to our entities to move forward. The report was affirmed by the entire SBC gathered. Being a “drip” of water inside the system was well received. It worked. Things are changing. Tipa, Tipa.
This concept of “Tipa, Tipa” affects all of life. Our discipleship and relationships and the way that we make it through the days and years are affected by small, persevering, daily decisions. I often think that if I can accomplish one thing in the morning of each day and one thing in the afternoon, it might not seem like much, but that is two things a day and around 12 significant things a week – 48 things a month. 576 things a year. It all adds up. Tipa, Tipa.
I did not mention “Tipa, Tipa” in my latest book, Joy Persevering: The Ray and Ruth Bozeman Story of the Better Way of Jesus. But, I should have. It is the story of a couple who persevered through great difficulty and trial through their faith in Christ. Through World War II and disabling, paralyzing polio and many other trials, this couple continued to look to Jesus. Day by Day. Little by Little. Step by Step. A long obedience in the same direction. Tipa, Tipa.
You really should read it. It is an exposition of Romans 5:1-5 as experienced through the lives of a faithful couple participating in a Biblical Marriage for 68 years. It will encourage you and help you see that our lives are not just about the big moments and the big victories. They are about joy peservering through trial and heartache and also through good times each and every day. Our character is formed through how we go through the little things and how we persevere and continue to rejoice and refuse to lose heart and give into cynicism. And, it is in the little things that we find God and love and see the value of one another. The Journey is as important and is shaped by the Destination. Often, it IS the destination.
The picture in the header of this post was taken on top of a mountain on the coast of Southern Haiti a year and a half ago. The children had journeyed to that place by foot to sit in the open air on wooden benches an hour before Holy Week worship services were to start. They walked a couple of miles over rocks and dirt roads, climbing their way up the mountain. Little by little. Step by step. Tipa, Tipa. Just a year before, as had happened every year for decades, there had been voodoo parades and celebrations in this area during Holy Week. But, these children came to gather with a new church that had begun there. Pastor Marc, a local Haitian pastor, was leading them and had been preaching the gospel in these mountains and voodoo was retreating. I got to see them and encourage them and tell them again about Jesus. They were so joyful. They arrived early and danced and sang and celebrated new beginnings. Then, they walked home in the dark over rocks and down dirt roads. A mile and then two. They did this every night during that week.
Little by little. Step by step. Tipa, Tipa.
That is how people change. It is how nations change. It is how churches and denominations and big institutions change. Big changes are good and needed, but to get to the big change and then to secure it with the following support, you need Tipa, Tipa.
Dr. Frank Page, the Executive Committee president, has called upon Southern Baptist churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving by 1% each year. Churches are listening. Last year, 10% of SBC churches increased their giving by 1%. Our church voted to increase it our CP giving by 1.5%. We had cut CP giving years ago to focus on mission work in India. With the missions funding crisis in the SBC and other changes in our society, we are working to bring our church back to the national average of 5.5% CP giving so that we can better partner in SBC life. Little by little. It all adds up. Rome was not built in a day.
Over the next month, I will be leaving the pastorate where I have served for almost 16 years and I am going to work on Immigration Reform in the Southeast with a coalition of Evangelical ministries and other constituencies. I will be working with churches and business owners, with pastors and politicians, with law enforcement and immigrants. I will still be a Southern Baptist and will be a member of a local Southern Baptist church and will be working with the community ministries entity of my local Baptist association in Montgomery, AL as we seek to minister to the poor and immigrants in our midst. I will also be working in cooperation on this issue with SBC entities like the ERLC (see their clear position on immigration reform here), among others. My views on this issue square with the SBC Resolutions in 2011 and 2006. My prayer is that local churches throughout the Southeast will turn with the love of Christ toward the immigrants in their communities who have come from all over the world to find a better life here in the United States. I pray that the light of Christ would shine on these immigrants and refugees as local churches pivot toward them in sacrificial love and that we will be able to work together to solve a national problem that keeps us polarized, as is seen clearly in the current presidential election season. That would be a “big thing.” But, it will only happen with constant drops of water wearing down rock. Then, there will be a breakthrough. Then, more drops of water will be needed. The world has come to the United States and will continue to come. “Missions” is no longer “over there.” It is right here on our doorstep and in our communities. How will our churches respond?
Mark Timmons writes, “The debate over immigration is an issue at the intersection of moral and political philosophy” (Disputed Moral Issues, 3rd ed. Oxford University Press, 2013). I agree. And, I would add that that intersection is crowded with religion, cultural/social perspectives, economic interests, and security concerns – trying to make it through while the traffic lights are burned out and collisions happen constantly. I am going to set up camp at that intersection for a while and I hope to help get the traffic jam unclogged so that things can flow more smoothly for the glory of God and the good of Man.
Little by Little. Step by Step. Tipa, Tipa.