“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Such a familiar verse is Romans 8:28. It is recited often, meditated on, memorized, and Christians look to this truth in search of peace, comfort, and to know that no matter what happens in our lives, God is using it for His purpose.
This was especially true for me during the month of November. I had received a donation from a family friend, and when I asked God what I should do with the money, He led me to rebuild a small house for a teenage girl I had met over a year ago in the market. Her name is Fredline, and she lives in the zone of Makandal, which is a very poor neighborhood. With the help of my teammate, Lindsay, we purchased all of the necessary materials to build the walls, foundation, and roof for her house, which had been completely destroyed by the hurricane. A team of Haitian builders were ready to get started and the floor was laid, the walls went up, and finally the roof was put on. It was a well built house by Haitian standards as well as a safe and dry place to live. Fredline was very grateful.
During one of my visits, a cousin of Fredline’s began to complain that I should rebuild his house as well, so he showed me the little shack that he lived in behind her house. I told him that I didn’t have any more money to spend, as I had spent it all on building Fredline’s and the extra materials had already been promised to another larger family who was in need. He got angry and started to say that he would take the materials and use them himself, but I told him gently, they were not for him, but to bless another Haitian family. I left Fredline’s house, and was going to come back the next day to pick up the remaining materials. I should have known better than to leave them there.
About an hour or so after leaving her house, Fredline called me and preceded to tell me that “everyone” was stealing all of the leftover materials, and she couldn’t stop them. Lindsay and I drove down there as fast as we could on her moto and discovered that everything we had left; 11 bags of cement, 11 2x4’s, and 13 pieces of sheet metal, had all been stolen. It was worth about $300. I confronted the cousin, and asked him where the materials were, he didn’t say anything, we asked all around the neighborhood, and everyone said the same thing, they didn’t see anything. Fredline was nowhere to be found. We had lost everything, and now another Haitian family would miss out on being blessed. I felt the weight of the theft heavy on my heart because even the family I built the house for did not help us.
Greed is a very prevalent thing here in Haiti. There is a deep-rooted poverty mindset that keeps the Haitians locked in bondage. They think that white people have endless resources so if they take something from us, we can just go out and buy another one. There are many “teachable moments” here when we encounter problems like these.
This was one such moment.
After leaving Fredline’s house, sad that no one had stood up for what was right and told us who stole the materials. I prayed that night, and asked God for compassion on the one who stole, to not lose heart because the materials were only things, I prayed the cousin would encounter Jesus.
The next day, Lindsay and I went back to Fredline’s house with a clever Haitian friend of ours. We confronted the cousin again, and this time, with a little prodding from our Haitian friend, he confessed to stealing the materials, but he wasn’t going to give them back, he was very happy with himself. Immediately, we left, and the cousin thought we were just leaving and giving up. We went and found a judge, who decided to help us, and we went back to the cousin’s house with the judge, and six very large Haitian police. Everyone was surprised to see us back with that entourage, especially the cousin. I did not revel in entering the area this way, but we wanted to stand up for what is right, and to not allow people to think that stealing and lying is ok. This was a teachable moment, and we were sure God was going to do something good with this.
It took the police no time to find the hidden materials the cousin had stolen. They put him in handcuffs, and put him in the police truck while we took all the recovered materials out to the main alley way in the zone. While we were waiting for our friend to come help us transport all of the materials, we noticed a huge crowd of at least 50 Haitians had gathered to see what was going on. Lindsay took the opportunity to share the gospel with them, to share that stealing and lying is not ok in God’s eyes and that people who follow paths, such as those, need to repent and come back to Jesus. Everyone was impacted by the speech, some apologized for the cousin’s actions, others were angry that we had him put in jail, but they all heard the gospel, and they heard that God stands for truth.
I went to talk to the cousin before they took him to prison, I told him I forgive him for stealing and that I don’t hold it against him. He told me he didn’t steal, and looked away from me. That was the last time I saw him. He only spent two days in jail until his family bailed him out.
God taught me a lot through that experience. He taught me it is ok to stand up for what is right in His eyes, it is ok to ask for help, especially in tough situations, He showed me that I am stronger than I think, in Him. And most importantly, He showed me that this was an opportunity He had provided for me because He gave me this opportunity to be loving, compassionate, and forgiving even when it was extremely difficult. A few years ago, I would have just let this go, not done anything about it, and let the people who did wrong stay in their sin because of not wanting to face conflict, but Jesus in His goodness would not let ME stay that way. Shouldn’t I follow His lead? How many conflicts did He face? He was not a people pleaser, but a game changer. He set the standard; He honored the Father in everything He did, even when people hated Him for it. So many people’s lives were changed through His life and testimony; He stood for the truth, He lived the truth, and loved people with the truth. I want more of that. I want my life to be a living testimony of who Jesus Christ is and how we are to live in Him, every day. Through moments like this, Jesus is doing that, He is making me more like Him. Even though these moments are painful, hurtful, and sometimes discouraging, I am grateful for them, because He is WORKING. He is always working.
He always works everything to the good of those who love Him.