We recently had the opportunity to host a mission team from Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida. They came and left a wake of love, joy, peace, and hope, everywhere they went. One of the team members was a gentleman named Johnnie. Johnnie is one of those guys who is really easy to love. He has great stories of his travels around the world, and even greater stories of how God is working in and though him everywhere he goes.
Johnnie and I spent some of our time together looking at various construction projects for future mission trips. I knew of a family that needed to build an addition on their home to provide some much needed space. However, I was a little hesitant to suggest the project because it was the home of Carlos.
Carlos lives in Juan Pablo with his wife, five children, and four grandchildren. They all live together in a small three bedroom house. Carlos is a crack addict, and his addiction is destroying his family, and his faith.
To be honest, I had all but given up on Carlos. Like many of the crack addicts I know, it seems impossible for him to ever escape the death grip of crack addiction. However, as I was about to be reminded, God never gives up, and nothing is impossible for Him.
As we approached the house I explained to Johnnie that this family has fallen onto hard times. They come by the mission house looking for food and clothing from time to time. We have also provided help through the 6:8 Child Sponsorship Program. God has provided sponsors for his youngest son, and two of his grandchildren. Carlos is the primary bread winner, but his crack addiction has left him unemployed. They have no food or money, and not really any means to get them. The only income his family has is a measly government pension they receive for his oldest son, Christian, who was born with a severe handicap.
Shortly after we knocked on the door we were greeted by Carlos. Surprisingly, he appeared sober, and happy to see us. He welcomed us into his home. We explained that we came to look at the project on his house, and he quickly led us to the site where he wanted to build the addition. As we were planning the potential construction project, God was working on a different type of reconstruction. The conversation that started about building an addition slowly became a conversation about how God wanted to rebuild his family and his faith. Soon I was only translating as Johnnie and Carlos, two brothers that had never met, speaking different languages, were united by the life changing power found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Soon Carlos was crying as he explained, "I know God is good, and that God never forgets; but I feel forgotten". He told us about his dream of having all of his children, and grandchildren, living happily together in one house. He had great plans for his daughters, and both are unemployed and have children out of wedlock. He thought God would heal his son, but he is still handicapped.
"It wasn't supposed to be like this!" he said as tears rolled down his face.
At one point during our conversation, he used the illustration that he felt like he was drowning in a sea of hopelessness and despair. He laid his index finger along his bottom lip, and explained that waters were rising, and that he was scared. He was scared it would completely swallow him. He admitted that he started using crack to escape reality. It worked for a little while; but now everything is worse than it was before, and now he doesn't have the strength to quit, even though he sincerely wants to.
We explained that we felt God had sent us to try to help rebuild his house, his family, and his life. In the end we prayed for Carlos and his family. We left believing that God had used us to bring a glimmer of hope into his hopeless existence.
The next day Duke, Candy, and I delivered some groceries, a Spanish Bible, and a pair of reading glasses. As we presented the gifts and he was overwhelmed with gratitude. He put on his new reading glasses, opened his new Bible and exclaimed "EXCELLENTE!" We prayed for the family and left full of joy and excitement. Since my encounter I've been thinking of the best ways to help Carlos. I realize these are the first steps on the long, hard road of recovery; but I'm determined not to let him walk it alone. I'm looking into a drug rehab center that is not far from here. I'm going to pay regular visits, and I'm going to continue to pray for Carlos and his family. I'm also going to see that he gets the addition he needs on his house. I can't help but believe that God is going to complete the work He started in Carlos, and that He is calling me to be part of the process. God has not given up on Carlos, so neither should I.
In closing, this experience has taught me something. I realize that I've become calloused by my environment. I see the power and destruction of crack addiction everyday. It's part of the way of life here in Alajuelita. I've started to buy into the lies of the world - there is no hope, they are lost and incapable of change. The truth is that if there is no hope for crack addicts, there is no hope for me. The same gospel that rescued me is powerful enough to rescue them. Ultimately, Carlos needs the same thing we all do. He needs the gospel of Jesus Christ to bring change, hope, peace, and freedom.
Thank you for all the prayers and support. We realize that we couldn't be here doing this if God didn't provide people like you. We are awed by His provision, and in His ability to use us in such a powerful way.