“But Joseph replied, ‘Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.’ So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.” Genesis 50: 19-21
Ricardo was eight years old when he left his town, riding on the top of a bus six hours to Port-de-Paix, Haiti. He slept on the roof of a police station, figuring it was the safest place around. When it rained, he slept under a parked car. Santoni’s mom has AIDS; his siblings have all died of the same disease. Andrew and Bud are brothers who have lost both of their parents. While they were attending the funeral of their Mother, someone broke into their house and stole all they had left. An Aunt promised to take them in, but they refused, because orphans in Haiti are treated like slaves.
My son, Will, and I and the rest of our group sat and listened as ten former street boys told their stories. It seemed unbelievable to me as I looked at them. I have visited them several times over the past few years, knowing them to be smart and capable, with love for Jesus. They are full of life and hope. But how? How have they risen from such adversity?
“What dreams do you have,” we asked them. “What do you want to do with your lives?” Without hesitation they told us their dreams to be doctors and lawyers, pastors and engineers. They told us of the hope others have given them, of how they were rescued from the street by the missionaries. They have been loved, they have been saved and it has changed their lives because someone dared to bring light into their darkness.
There is no doubt that we live in a messed up world. We check the headlines— doomed internationally, nationally, in our state and our region. We check facebook— sadness on our feed, among our friends. Then we look at our own lives and our own families and we wonder how this mess will ever be unraveled.
The Bible tells us Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers who were jealous of their father’s love for him. You can imagine the string of injustices their decision meant for Joseph. He was beaten and forgotten in jail. He had been falsely accused, in a foreign country, separated from all he had known. He had every reason to be broken beyond repair. Yet, in the midst of it all, he clung to hope as God blessed him and placed him in a place of prominence. And so it happened that when his brothers traveled from their homeland to find grain in the middle of a famine, Joseph was the one in charge. When he finally revealed to them who he was, they were terrified for their lives, knowing the revenge he could place on them. But instead of hatred, Joseph responded with forgiveness and love for them.
Ann Voskamp writes, “What was intended to tear you apart, God intends it to set you apart. What has torn you, God makes a thin place to see glory. Whatever happens, whatever unfolds, whatever unravels, you can never be undone… Out of a family line that looks like a mess, God brings a Messiah.”
You can never be undone.
There are ten boys in Haiti who will change the world because Jesus has come into their lives. They will dare to hope and dare to dream, because what was intended to harm them, God has used for good. There are scars and there is hurt, but there is Jesus.
It’s Advent and we are waiting to celebrate the birth of Christ. The promises are there for us, too. God can take what is torn and broken in your life and He can turn it into a gift. Jesus is our Savior who takes what was meant for harm, and transforms it for good.
“Break open your words,
let the light shine out,
let ordinary people see their meaning.”