A year ago when we lived in Jacmel we had a house helper named Melitah. She was a great worker and a lover of Jesus. She was very dependable and an efficient worker. She would pick up the broom at exactly 7:00 am and would not stop cleaning until her time to go home came at 3:00 pm. She liked everything to be cleared of messes and cleared of dust. Sometimes stuff that I was working with seemed like little messes to her and she would magically make them disappear. I would end up searching all over the house for my stuff only to find them neatly stacked somewhere out of sight. I liked the fact that she loved to clean. I liked the fact that she loved to tuck all messes out of sight. But I certainly didn’t enjoy that my stuff would end up MIA and had to play detective to find it.
Months after the earthquake Melitah and I had a rough encounter. The language barrier created chaos. I was very frustrated with the way I understood some things she said and did and apparently she misunderstood some things I had said and some things that I had done for her. It was truly a bad situation. So after a quick Nehemiah prayer, consultation with my wise friends, and allowing a wave of frustrations to conquer my heart I began to look at Melitah in a different light. She no longer seemed to me as the sweet hard worker and house helper that we had hired. In fact, in my eyes I began to see a lot of faults in her. My lips began to share my frustrations with others. Some agreed that my frustrations were justified and others disagreed.
I ended up listening to my heart and one day I sat down to write this very lengthy letter in Kreyol that I was to read to Melitah. The letter began with praises about her work and expressions of thankfulness for all she had done, but it ended up with You are fired! Melitah was devastated. She got on her knees and begged me to allowed her to stay. She mentioned her five children and her need for money to be able to sustain them all. She cried tears and her countenance was very very sad. I wish I could tell you that my heart was soften and I was able to look at her and extend mercy and give her hug. That was not the case. I told Melitah that she had to go. And so she left. Sadly, I was happy with my decision and proud that I had written such wonderful letter, in Kreyol, to get rid of my problem.
The next day, Melitah’s daughter, Nadia, came to my house to work. We had hired her, prior to me firing her mother, to help us with an upcoming team. She was supposed to be Melitah’s helper. While Melitah cooked for fifteen people, her daughter would clean the house. I was trying to communicate with Nadia and since my Kreyol was very limited I asked what I knew to ask. First, I asked her how old she was. She said she was nineteen. Then I asked if she was going to school to what she replied no. So I asked her why no. She said, “manman m ‘pa gen posiblite”, which means that her mother doesn’t have the means to send her to school.
I was crushed. After hearing those words, I went upstairs and wept bitterly. I was ashamed of what I had done. I couldn’t believe that I had just taken food, clothing, the means to care and provide, away from a single mother and her five children. So I told a friend to please go to her house and bring Melitah back to me. I asked her to forgive me. I asked her if she would come and work for me again. And she did. Although I was thankful that she came back, our relationship was not the same. I began to work hard to restore it, but now it looked as if I was forcing the relationship. Its natural course was lost and Melitah was having a hard time trusting me. She was walking on egg shells unsure of my next move. I am safe to assume that she was deeply hurt, although she never mentioned it.
It was shortly after that that Susana became very sick. Melitah loved our girls so much and she sat by Susana’s bed often to try to comfort her and make her feel better. She hugged her. She kissed her. She prayed for her. It was the first time that I saw a Haitian friend care for one of my family members in such an intimate and tender way. She looked at Susana with eyes of compassion as if she was one of her own children. I knew then that I should have never ever ever told Melitah to go. But unfortunately the inevitable happened and we had to return to the states. Of course, this left Melitah without a job. To compensate for her loss we paid her for one extra month of salary and we also gave her some money to rent a new home in Jacmel since hers had crashed during the earthquake.
While in the states I thought of Melitah often. I even toyed with idea of hiring her back when we came to Haiti. Unfortunately, once again I began to listen to both my heart and rumors of what seemed to be faults and lack of godly character on Melitah’s part. I never saw these faults, but I did believe them without questioning them. So when we came back in May I was hesitant to hire her again. I struggled with the desire to look for her and my wounded pride based on hearsay. So I began to pray. I prayed. And I prayed for a few days. And I asked God, “what do You want me to do?” I wanted to know that the Lord was speaking to me. I wanted to make sure my heart was not persuading me again. I wanted, this time, to do what was right and honor Christ with my next move. It was then the Lord began to show me a fountain of hidden sins in my heart. What I accused my friend of doing, I was guilty of too. And the sad thing is that at times I demanded forgiveness or prayed for justice. I was humbled. So I asked God to forgive me and to lead me in a very clear way. I said, “if I find her and she doesn’t have a job then I would know that You want me to offer to her her job back. I am okay with Your will for me. It is okay if I don’t find her.” And so I convinced Cody to help me look for her and we set out on a hunt for Melitah under the pouring rain.
We went to her old house last week during a major storm. I walked into the yard of this very poor home near one of the tent cities in Jacmel and asked a girl sitting outside if she knew Melitah. She immediately called her. She was across the street. And as I turned around to see her I saw this Haitian woman running towards me with arms wide opened yelling my name. Her very first words were, “how is Susana?” to what I immediately began to cry. I told her that she died and we both cried and hugged together. After we cried, she thanked me for the money that we gave her to find a new home. She told me she couldn’t find a new home so she used the money to fix the roof and the wall of her current home which had crashed during the earthquake. She also added windows and a door to her home. I told her that I wanted to talk to her so we went to our truck where Cody and Isabela were waiting for us.
It was then that we offered her her job back. She was so happy and immediately accepted. When we told her what we would love to pay her she replied, “that’s too much for me.” I was truly humbled by her response. In Haiti it is hard to find people who do not want more, especially from Americans. In fact, we hired a lady on a trial basis for a few days before trying to locate Melitah and when we discussed her pay she rolled her eyes because she thought it was not enough. Very sad, especially when the pay we offered was going to be more than what I was offering Melitah. But God had reserved Melitah for us. And through it He showed me a few things.
He showed me that I am here in Haiti to minister to the orphans, yes, but also the widows. Melitah is a widow. She is a single mom of five kids trying to provide for all of them. And she was placed under our care through His sovereign providence.
He showed me that I am not called to pick and choose who to love, but to love without picking and choosing.
He showed me that if I begin to listen to the voices of people and the frustrations of my deceiving heart I will miss some of the greatest blessings He has already ordained for me.
He showed me that true friendships include many hardships. Friendships without hardships are only acquaintances and that although they are not unimportant they offer very little value to godly growth. It is with those you struggle the most that you grow the most into the likeness of Christ. Imagine forgiving like Christ forgave you when your enemy hurts you deeply. Wow! I want that!
He showed me that forgiving a Haitian friend for their weaknesses is no different than forgiving a friend in the states for their weaknesses. It is easier to forgive your own than to forgive those who we think are different.
He showed me that the best friends are not those who pretend that they have no weaknesses, but those who are not afraid or too proud to expose them. Healing and growth comes when we share our shortcomings with friends and find accountability in fellow broken pots.
He showed me that ministry is messy whenever it involves true love.
He showed me that I am to accept Melitah for who she is because He has accepted me for who I am.
He showed me that if I cannot forgive someone’s immaturities or deficiencies it is only because I have forgotten what the cross has done for me.
He showed me that I am equally wrong, equally sinful, equally weak, equally immature, equally mistaken, and equally forgiven as anyone else can be.
And above all, He showed me that I can come to Him with everything and prior to going to anyone else because there is a wonderful covenant relationship between Him and I that guarantees that He will protect me, care for me, provide for me, comfort me, guide me, and much much more whenever I need it. The blessings of this covenant relationship are unending.
If someone rises against me He will vindicate me because this covenant relationship included the reality that all of my enemies, visible or invisible, are now His too. Therefore, I do not have to worry about being taken advantage of. When I feel that I am I can forgive the perpetrator through the grace that He provides and watch Him step up, in His timing, on my behalf. The beauty of it is that this might mean restoration and not necessarily fire and brimstone from Heaven.
Melitah is back working with us. I love her so much. She is my sister in Christ and my friend. We sat down the other day to look at pictures of Susana and she cried. We cried together. She told me that she loved Susana very much, and that she knew she would see her again. And she told me how much she loves our family. We love her too.
I have learned so much from this woman named, Melitah. Some might be surprised that I hired her again, but God is not. I am sure that our relationship will go through twists and turns and many ordeals. She will keep hiding my stuff and I will be frustrated once again with her lack of organization. We will miscommunicate often in the future. And I am sure that at times one of us would want to cut off the friendship. These things will happen because we are merely humans. We are not God. We are not perfect. But through it all, I pray that God will give me the grace to examine my heart and see the wrong in me before I see the wrong in her. Or in anyone else.
The proud man only knows how to point a finger. He cannot see or show his imperfections. He thinks that these will ruin a self-made reputation he is working so hard to protect. He will seek with all his strength to hide his shortcomings from all only to reveal a uncontrolled level of subtle arrogance. But God gives grace to the humble. To the one who says, “yes, Lord. I am a broken pot in need of Your help.” And I pray that that’s the woman I grow into by His grace.
A word of encouragement: Don’t take for granted your failures and trials. Instead, seek to discover how God can use them to transform your heart. Sometimes our failures are the ways God uses to expose something He wants to change in us. And don’t be afraid of sharing them. You just might be the tool God wants to use to transform others. Give Him glory and the credit due for what He is doing in your life. xoxo–Maria
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”–1 John 4:11