As the pandemic continues, stay-at-home orders for several countries remain, and others begin to open back up, our work in each base is looking different every week. However, we are blessed to continue finding ways to serve God in the communities to bring light and hope. Today’s heartfelt story comes from our field director in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic, Eric Miller.
It was a rainy day in February over eight years ago when I made my way back to a dimly lit room in a small house. Dilenia, one of the associates at our Microfinance ministry in the Dominican Republic, had a son whom she wanted me to meet. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I made out her son lying on the bed, and it didn’t take me long to realize that he wasn’t doing well. Frankely was young, only 21 years old, and had been paralyzed in a motorcycle accident six months prior. The despair was evident in his voice, and the hopelessness he felt seemed to take up all the space in the room. I was young too. I was nervous and new to the mission field and was unsure what to say to help. Despite my inadequate Spanish at the time, I managed to make some small talk and tried my best to encourage him. I prayed for him, and I left. The whole encounter took less than 20 minutes, and I had no idea how God would use that small moment to build an incredible friendship.
After our initial encounter, Miriam, my coworker, and I would stop in frequently to see Frankely. The first few months weren’t always pretty, but little by little, we started watching him come to life as both his health and hope began to improve. I found out that Frankely loved music, and we would sit and listen to bachata while we talked. Occasionally, we would watch an episode of “Cops” dubbed over in Spanish or “Caso Cerrado,” which is the Latino version of Judge Judy. I would teach him words of English, and he would correct my somewhat limited Spanish. I discovered that he had an incredible spirit and sense of humor. He LOVED people and enjoyed having anyone stop in to visit. He was quick to crack jokes and make fun of himself. I often took American students on short term trips by his house for a visit, and he quickly made them feel at home. He was unashamed to use what little English he knew, and he shamelessly begged for pizza from everyone and anyone.
Yet despite Frankely’s inspirational spirit, life continued to be hard in many ways. His own family often failed to take care of him, leaving him to sit for hours unfed and soaked in his urine. Several times over the years, they took advantage of his physical condition for their financial gain. He struggled with his health frequently and would find himself sick for days at a time. He spent weeks in the hospital fighting off pneumonia, kidney stones, and other types of infections. And more than anything, Frankely struggled to come to grips with his physical situation. His heart longed and hoped for the ability to walk again. He would ask me to pray for healing over him every time I came to visit.
This past May, in the middle of COVID, I got a heartbreaking message. My good friend “Kely” had died unexpectedly. I sat in my office chair and wept. I had talked to him only a few days prior but never dreamed it would be our last encounter. I went to the hospital, prepared his body along with his family, and buried him only a few hours later due to the concerns of COVID. Miguel Ovallel, a pastor on staff here in the DR, shared the gospel at his graveside. Heartbroken but reminded of the gospel once again, I recognized that Frankely’s life and memory is a perfect reminder of the hope we have in Jesus.
For Frankely, his physical paralysis was a constant reminder of the brokenness of his world. His body and flesh no longer functioned the way that it was originally designed. And his greatest longing was for a redeemed and restored body. A body that we prayed for often. A body that only new life in Jesus can give.
The world we are living in 2020 is similar to Frankely’s story. We have experienced and witnessed tragedies and injustices and watched the world paralyzed with fear during a global pandemic. The relationship with spouses, kids, families, and communities have been noticeably broken and divided. They are reminders to us that the world is not what it should be, that we are broken and are longing for the redeemed and restored bodies that only Jesus can give.
I am confident that Frankely is walking in the presence of the Lord today. He has been made whole and is finally experiencing what we prayed for all those years. A final restoration. A body that works perfectly the way it was designed. He is experiencing the fullness of the presence and hope of Jesus. A hope that forgives our past, sustains our present, and gives us steadfast confidence of a better tomorrow!
Would you consider honoring Frankely’s life today by joining us and taking a moment to pray for someone you know in your community who is looking for hope?
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
– Romans 15:13