Saving the Man Who Saved My Life
I was in Haiti in October 2005 researching my book on modern-day slavery when I contracted a severe case of malaria. A young Haitian man named Bill Nathan, then 21, who manages a shelter for homeless boys in Port-au-Prince, took me in and attended to me daily as I lapsed in and out of consciousness. He found the chloroquine that kept me alive.
When the epic earthquake struck Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010, I saw a chance to repay the debt.
At 4:51 p.m. on that day, Bill was on the seventh floor garden on the roof of the Maison St. Joseph, a sanctuary of peace for some 20 boys who have been abandoned by their families, or who, like Bill himself, were child slaves. He had just ushered five of the boys down to their chores on the ground floor, so that he could enjoy his one daily indulgence: a few moments of solitude in the roof’s little gazebo, surrounded by potted plants, before evening prayers.
Two minutes later, the quake smashed open the building, and the top three floors pitched northward, hurling Bill down nearly 80 feet onto a neighbor’s concrete roof, where he landed briefly, apparently on his back. Almost immediately, he tumbled onto a tin-roofed shack, and then to the ground. A neighbor later said she saw Bill “flying like a bird.” In his last moments of consciousness, Bill saw the top three concrete floors of the orphanage, along with a massive wind charger hurtling toward him. Instinctively, he rolled out of the way and grabbed a clothesline, pulling himself into a corner before the cement crashed exactly where he had fallen. His legs wouldn’t work, so he crawled for several feet over broken glass, before passing out.
The first three floors of the house, where all but one of the boys were gathered, shook “like a scene out of Titanic,” said house founder Michael Geilenfeld, but, miraculously, they did not collapse. Had the quake hit 15 minutes later, all of the boys would have been on the sixth floor. Tragically, a 25-year-old American seminary student was crushed on the fourth floor.
Forty-five minutes passed before the others in the house discovered Bill, unconscious but alive. The older boys carried him on a table to Kez Furth, 24, a volunteer American nurse living next door. For the next four days, Furth treated him on the floor of her 500-sq. ft clinic-apartment, outfitted with less than the average public school nurse. At the same time, she attended to dozens of other victims, who convened in a refugee camp up the block. Some had traveled up to a mile for treatment.
When news of the quake reached me, I immediately called Bill’s cell phone, to no response. On Wednesday morning, I reached out to Miles Wright, the no-nonsense, burly Texan who serves as treasurer of Hearts With Haiti, the group under whose umbrella Maison St. Joseph and two other similar facilities run. Over the next 48 hours, we heard just sporadic reports that Bill had regained the ability to sit up, then to walk gingerly, but that overall his condition was worsening. Miles immediately resolved to act: “‘Round where I’m from, when your family’s in trouble, you show up.” On Thursday night, we convened in Ft. Lauderdale. Through the extraordinary support of Hollywood director Tom Shadyac, a friend of Bill’s and mine, we were able to hire a small twin-engine plane. Although that morning the FAA had ordered a ground stop on all flights bound to Haiti, I worked the phones, and by the next morning, we were packing the six-seater with two Haitian surgeons and some 200 lbs. of medical supplies and baby formula.
After dark on Friday, the U.S. military finally cleared us to land in Port-au-Prince, and we drove into the city past clusters of Haitians standing in defiance of the destruction around them, praying and singing in impromptu street concerts. The orphanage lay half-shattered. Concrete chunks hovered precariously over surviving structures, suspended only by rusty re-bars. Maison St. Joseph had been looted of its store of rice and beans. When Geilenfeld hired a neighbor to carry some of the remaining food to a more secure location, a desperate crowd by the Caribbean Market mobbed the neighbor, beat him, and stole the provisions.
In the candlelight of Furth’s clinic, Bill lay on his stomach on a mattress on the floor, his arms outstretched. He was in a great deal of pain and had difficulty moving from that position, but he managed a smile when I came in to hold his hand. I lay next to him that night, with Furth resting on an adjacent mattress. It was a sleepless night: on the other side of the wall lay a trapped dog that howled whenever tremors moved the rocks around it. Furth said it had been slowly starving to death for four days. The clinic had just finished the last of its clean water.
The next morning, I helped Furth make her rounds of the refugee camp, and we rushed Bill by van to the airport. We faced resistance from the Marines guarding the entrance. Attempting to make an order from chaos, they were understandably wary of admitting a non-responsive Haitian, even when he was carried by three passport-holding Americans. Finally, a lieutenant named Brandon, disciplined but sympathetic, heard my plea: “It’s a matter of honor,” I said. “This man saved my life, and I need to help him.” ABC News anchor Dan Harris, a mutual friend of Bill’s and mine, backed up my story, Lieutenant Brandon waved us through. French medics gave Bill a morphine drip and we loaded him, along with a 19-year-old American who survived the quake, onto our waiting charter. (See the top 10 deadliest earthquakes.)
Why did Bill deserve a special mission? Not just because he saved my life. Helping people is what Bill Nathan does. Orphaned at age seven, Bill was taken in as a slave by his neighbors who forced him to do domestic work and beat him mercilessly when he did not perform to standard. According to UNICEF studies, such child slaves number as many as 300,000 in Haiti; typically, desperate parents yield their children to fraudulent recruiters willingly, a phenomenon that becomes more pronounced after natural disasters. After three years of bondage, Bill was rescued by an American nun who had known Bill’s mother. She brought him to St. Joseph’s, where he thrived and soon he was managing the recovery of hundreds of other boys. “God kept me alive for a reason,” he told me in a fleeting moment of lucidity. “I will keep doing the work that I’m doing.”
There is a theory of massive disaster triage that advises that the first people who should receive treatment are doctors with non-life-threatening injuries. Though Bill is not a doctor, he has a demonstrated ability to improve the lives of hundreds and to resurrect his community and his country. Saving Bill means saving more lives.
The fall that Bill endured should have killed him, but he was in peak physical shape. His injuries are painful but survivable. While his condition continued to be assessed, we know he has suffered an abrasion on his liver, broken ribs, extensive muscle damage around his vertebral column, cuts and contusions all over his body. The Israeli trauma specialist who attended to Bill upon arrival in Ft. Lauderdale said that he had seen some lucky patients since he first practiced medicine as a war medic in 1965, but Bill was certainly up there. “We can debate the role of luck, I suppose,” muttered Miles, who is a devout Christian. Maybe Bill has good fortune on his side, maybe he has God. He certainly has friends.
By Benjamin Skinner
Meditation: And now may the Lord show kindness and truth to you. I also will repay you this kindness, because you have done this thing. – 2 Samuel 2:6
You will succeed because Jesus loves You!
What God Does with Your Flaws
A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on the end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots was perfectly made and never leaked. The other pot had a crack in it and by the time the water bearer reached his master’s house, it had leaked much of its water and was only half full.
For a full two years, this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his master’s house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.”
“Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”
“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.
The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion, he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”
Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again the pot apologized to the bearer for its failure.
The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of them. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”
Each of us has our own unique flaws. We’re all cracked pots. But if we will allow it, God will use our flaws to grace His table. In God’s great economy, nothing goes to waste. Don’t be afraid of your flaws. Acknowledge them, and you too can be the cause of beauty. Know that in our weakness we find our strength.
– Author Unknown
Meditation: And he said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness”. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Corinth 12:9
You will succeed in Jesus Name!
Walking through the forest, a seasoned hiker came upon a broad, slowly moving river. He stopped to gaze over the waters, appreciating the beauty, when suddenly he heard a faint cry coming from upstream.
Looking in the direction of the noise, he saw an obviously drowning man floundering in the river and drifting slowly toward him.
The hiker was stunned momentarily, but he sprang into action when he saw the man disappear beneath the waters. Throwing off all of his cumbersome gear, he dove into the river and swam like a madman toward the spot where the man went under.
Upon reaching the spot he plunged below the surface and frantically hauled up the helpless man. He then laboriously towed the victim to shore. Heaving the lifeless body up on the riverbank, the hiker attempted to revive the man, who eventually spit up water and began to breathe.
Relieved, the hiker paused to catch his breath. But no sooner had he done so than he heard another voice out on the water. Another drowning person!
Once again he swam out and pulled the person to shore, a little more slowly this time. As the hiker-turned-lifeguard revived the second victim, he heard yet another cry for help.
All day long the hiker worked, rescuing one person after another as they came drifting down the river. There seemed to be no end to drowning victims, and the hiker didn’t think he could keep it up.
Just when he was about to collapse from exhaustion, he spotted another man walking rapidly beside the river, headed upstream. “Hey mister!” he cried out. “Please help me! These poor people are drowning!”
Amazingly, the man kept walking upstream. The astonished hiker called out again. Without even acknowledging the cry, the man kept going. Indignant and angry, the hiker leapt to his feet, ran toward the uncompassionate man, stood directly in his path, and in a loud voice demanded, “Sir! How can you possibly walk past all these drowning people? Have you no conscience? Must I force you to help me save these people?”
The stranger stopped, looked at him for the first time and said with a calm, focused voice, “Sir, please get out of my way. I am headed upstream to stop the guy who is pushing all these people in.”
Each of us has a role to play in rescuing those who are drowning in sin. Some of us pull people from the water and resuscitate them with counseling, food and shelter, a rehabilitation program, a support group, or financial aid. Affirm those doing these important ministries.
Others of us find our place of ministry upstream, opposing the one pushing people into the river. We do this by introducing those people to Jesus Christ. Knowing Christ sets a person free from sin and releases them from Satan’s power over them.
By itself, pulling people from the water isn’t enough. We need to help people deal with the problem of sin at its source.
– Author Unknown
Meditation: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” – Romans 10:15
You will succeed because Jesus loves You!
There are many reasons why God shouldn’t have called you. But don’t worry. You’re in good company…
David’s armour didn’t fit.
John Mark was rejected by Paul.
Timothy had ulcers.
Hosea’s wife was a prostitute.
Amos’ only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning.
Jacob was a liar.
David had an affair.
Solomon was too rich.
Abraham was too old.
David was too young.
Peter was afraid of death.
Lazarus was dead.
John was self-righteous.
Naomi was a widow.
Paul was a murderer.
So was Moses.
Jonah ran from God.
Miriam was a gossip.
Gideon and Thomas both doubted.
Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal.
Elijah was burnt out.
John the Baptist was a loudmouth.
Martha was a worry-wart.
Mary was lazy.
Samson had long hair.
Noah got drunk.
Did I mention that Moses had a short fuse?
So did Peter, Paul — well, lots of folks did.
But God doesn’t require a job interview.
He doesn’t hire and fire like most bosses because He’s more our Dad than our Boss.
He doesn’t look at financial gain or loss.
He’s not prejudiced or partial, not judging, grudging, sassy, or
brassy, not deaf to our cry, not blind to our need.
As much as we try, God’s gifts are free.
We could do wonderful things for wonderful people and still not be Wonderful.
Satan says, “You’re not worthy.” Jesus says, “So what? I AM.”
Satan looks back and sees our mistakes.
God looks back and sees the cross.
He doesn’t calculate what you did in 2020.
It’s not even on the record.
Sure. There are lots of reasons why God shouldn’t have called us.
But if we are magically in love with Him, if we hunger for Him more than our next breath,
He’ll use us in spite of who we are, where we’ve been, or what we look like.
Pray that as Christians, we will step out of our limitations into the illimitable nature of who God is.
Then our passion for God and our passion to communicate with Him will
make mincemeat of our limitations.
— Author Unknown
Meditation: So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land. – Ezekiel 22:30
You will succeed in Jesus Name!
Today, we shall look at the concluding part of the series on how to define your purpose…
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
– Colossians 2:8
Perhaps, it sounds controversial that the billions of living humans – including those who had lived and those yet to be born – can all trace their individual purpose to just one Man, Jesus Christ. Logically speaking, it sounds harebrained; but then, God doesn’t operate by logic. The Bible affirms ‘it pleased God that all the fullness of life should dwell in Jesus and to reconcile all things to Himself, through Jesus, whether things on earth or things in heaven’ (Colossians 1:19-20).
That tells us there can be no better template for purpose or an ideal model for living than Jesus Christ. Corroborating this, the Bible further states, “in Him [Jesus] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you [humans] are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:8-10); thus lending credence to the verity that Jesus is 100% God and 100% human. He embodies God and humanness at the same time; and He is the ultimate model for divinity and humanity.
The major reason most discourses on purpose usually leave people confused, unenlightened and unable to identify their purpose is because most teachers and authors of the topic only premise their teachings on logical reasoning and principles, postulating passion as the best way to identify one’s purpose and failing to trace the origin of the various purposes of humankind to Jesus Christ, who had lived them all.
Purpose is one of those topics it is easy to deviate from God’s word and start waxing philosophical. Perhaps, that was the reason God cautions that, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
Your purpose is entrenched in the Bible and is crystallised in Jesus Christ.
You will succeed in Jesus Name!
This is the first of a two-part series on how to define your purpose…
For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell.
– Colossians 1:19
In the past few days we have considered various thoughts on purpose. Subsequently, we will bring our meditation closer home by examining how you can centre on your own purpose and define it in easily understood words that will have direct meaning to you and, perhaps, others.
As we have learnt, the word of God is the only resource where you can discover your purpose. Seeking it elsewhere is an effort in futility. And there is Someone who is the personification of God’s word, He is Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate fulfilment of the word of God. He is the consummate man. The Bible says all things consist in Him; that means without Him there is nothing that merits its name. He is the centre of the universe; He is at the core of everything created.
Jesus is the perfect example of humanness. He is 100% God, yet 100% man. His life is the perfect example of “live-ing.” And in Him all the purposes of humankind on earth are captured. He is the embodiment of all human missions. There can be no identification or fulfilment of purpose outside what He came to do. And, among other things, He came to demonstrate how we should fulfil the assignments that God has allotted to each of us on earth.
Therefore, if you desire to identify and define your own purpose, you need to study the life of Jesus vis-à-vis what are written “in the volume of the books” about what He came to do on the earth.
That is what we will be considering in subsequent editions of this devotional, so that you too can be able to discover your life purpose and put a name to it. Are you ready?
You will succeed in Jesus Name!