By Sandy Bowersox
Verses To Read:
The mission team from The Hills had been in the Dominican Republic for about 24 hours when I first met him. Our team of 17 arrived at a dilapidated house with 3 livable rooms and a roof that was caving in. This “halfway house” scantly accommodated between 10 – 15 men who recently completed a substance abuse treatment program and were trying their hand at sober living. The men politely excused themselves, not wanting to be in our way as we worked in their backyard, removing rubble, pouring concrete, and digging footers for a bathroom that would offer them a 2nd toilet and shower; a luxury I take for granted in my own home.
Carlos was one of those men, estimated to be in his mid-20’s with bright eyes, a warm smile, and vertical scars above and below one eye as well as on the opposite cheek. I assumed he had been in a knife fight of some sort, but I didn’t have the courage to ask. On his forearm he had a tattoo that said “abuser,” a sobering reminder of what defined him when he was living far from Christ. When I greeted him, I was surprised at the eagerness he showed to connect and share his story. He hung his head and I lost his eye contact when he referenced his old way of living, but his eyes brightened, and he became animated when describing his new hope that Jesus might be the thing he was missing and the path to a better future. He described losing contact with family members, feeling he was responsible for this disconnect that left him alone and in the halfway house.
He said he was unsure if he could call himself a Christian just yet, but he was learning about Christ and believing that he could be transformed. He used the term “new creation” multiple times, and I had a feeling he had read 2 Corinthians 5:17, which says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” I got a sense that Carlos had a perspective on this verse that I may never fully appreciate. He had hit rock bottom. His sin had defined him so much that he decided to tattoo it on his forearm. He knew he needed Jesus and was not capable of turning his life around without Him. When asked what he thought of Americans, Carlos sheepishly told me he thought we had so much that it was hard for us to need Jesus. What wisdom from this new believer!
I left my conversations that week with Carlos, inspired. I wanted to wake every day looking forward to what Jesus was doing in my life, despite my circumstances. Carlos slept on a mattress without a sheet or pillow, on a tile floor in a room with 10 other men, and he spent his days in a termite-infested, 3-room house with 1 bathroom. And yet, the joy in his smile made it apparent that his time in the Bible, learning from the pastor who visited the house, and listening to worship music had opened his eyes to a new possibility. No longer did his sin have to define him, for he recognized he was a new creation!
Questions To Consider:
1. What parts of your past or current situation are you allowing to define who you are?
2. Have you tried over and over again to change your circumstances through your own efforts, failing to recognize that Jesus is the way all things are made new? Let’s not forget that our responsibility is to remain in Christ, and He will do the rest.
Prayer to Pray:
Dear God, Thank You for the way You change lives. The promise that the old will be gone and the new has come gives me hope in the face of circumstances that seem impossible. I pray that Carlos’ life will serve as an inspiration to those of us who have a loved one far from You. We trust You, Lord, believing You are the path to true life change. Let us remain in You during this coming year. In Jesus’ name, Amen