“Can a woman forget her nursing child? Can a mother have no compassion on the son she has born? Even if that were possible, I will never forget you. I have written your name on the palm of My hands.” Isaiah 49:15-16
Born in the suburbs of Gonaïves, Jonas was the youngest of four, and sick from the start. “My stomach was hugely swollen and painful,” he remembers, “and so when I was four and my parents split up, they decided to be done with me. My father took 2 of the kids, my mother took my sister, and they left.”
A cousin tried to take him in for a few years, but she was unable to feed him, much less put him in school. Jonas’s sickness and agony continued, and finally, she left him at an orphanage at age 7, the orphanage he still goes home to now over Christmas and summer breaks at Emmaus.
For the first time, Jonas’s life was full of education, food, and stories of Jesus. He learned that the sickness plaguing him wasn’t sickness, after all, but malnutrition. So much permanent damage had been done that he underwent corrective surgery at age 10 and was finally healed. He met Jesus over and over, and started telling the 70 brothers and sisters he grew up with that one day, he would be a pastor.
The dream faded, however, at 17, when he stopped being influenced by people in the church and started to be influenced by people far from the Lord.
“One day,” Jonas remembers “I snuck out and participated in a party that brought shame to my caretakers. The orphanage was worried about the choices I was making, and they sent me away to one of their Haitian missionaries in Gwo Mourne for 22 days. There was no power, no phone service, no water, no parties. I was helping the pastor there, and he gave me a Bible, the first one I’d ever had. He told me that he could see in me great potential to lead, but that I had to decide now if I was going to be a leader for Jesus, or if I was going to lead people in darkness. He told me that every day, I had to open that Bible, and I would find what I needed.”
When Jonas returned from the mission, he told the directors that he wanted to be baptized and follow Jesus. But he still wasn’t ready to give God his future. “Do you still want to be a pastor?” they asked Jonas, but Jonas said no.
“I decided I wanted to be a dentist, because I’d helped dental teams from time to time, and I saw that in Haiti, it is NOT easy to be a pastor. I told them that I was sure God was calling me to something that would make money, not to a certain life of poverty.”
When Jonas graduated, he was pared with a sponsor from the United States, and that sponsor asked Jonas if he truly felt called to be a dentist. “I told him no, but that I was sure I was called to have money. He didn’t agree with me, but told me the same thing that missionary from Gwo Mourne had told me, to be in my Bible every day, and that God would make my path clear.” It was arranged for Jonas to study dentistry in America, and his visa work began.
“But then one night in my bed,” Jonas recalls clearly, “I was laying there and audibly heard a voice. ‘Jonas, why are you struggling with me?‘ “
It wasn’t the only voice in Jonas’s life. His sponsor showed him Jeremiah 29:11, and though Jonas began to realize that God had a good plan for him that might not involve riches or dentistry, letting that go wasn’t easy. Weeks of prayer and fasting ensued, with pressure mounting.
“People kept telling me that I had to pursue something profitable, because if my family left me at an orphanage, it was because they would be expecting me to leave the orphanage with a profession, with a way to get them money” Jonas shared. “Finally, my pastor said, ‘OK. Your family is waiting to get money from you and waiting to get a house from you and waiting to get a car from you, but what is GOD waiting for? God is waiting for YOU.'”
With that, Jonas finally stopped struggling against God’s best for his life. His very mother had forsaken her child, but God had his name written on the palms of His hands, and had a plan for Jonas’s life that could be trusted.
Another graduate from the same orphanage was in the middle of his first year at Emmaus, about 3 hours from Gonaïves, and both he and Jonas’s pastor told him the same thing. “If you want to learn philosophies about the Bible or hear what people think about it,” they said, “Go somewhere else. But if you want to have God’s Word, go to Emmaus.” Jonas is now in his second year of study at EBS.
“People always go to church,” Jonas observes, “but the rest of the time they keep repeating the same life they lived before they were followers of Christ. That is a big problem, and I think it’s because people don’t really know the Bible. I want to disciple people to be in God’s Word every day, because that is what will change who they are. God’s Word will truly bring transformation in people’s hearts, just like it did mine.”
To help students like Jonas continue to be Biblically-equipped and well-cared for through EBS Haiti, please give online here now or send checks payable to Emmaus Biblical Seminary (memo line: Student Scholarships) to 1022 Main Street, Sabetha, KS 66534.