Now, most people that are living on this earth think family involves some kind of genetic material such as blood. Am I right? Well, the last couple of weeks God has broadened my simple mind, lol!
So, we made this trip and arrived home on Sunday afternoon. As you typically do, I went through our mail from while we were gone and there it was, a letter from my relative I've been telling you about. Now, before I start, I should share...I've been struggling for the last couple years. Our family has been through a lot, causing me to question so much of God's calling in my life. My wife keep us moving forward, encouraging me to move one step at a time, even when I can't see why or don't feel like it. This year, however, I have been feeling closer to God, a renewal and healing that has allowed me to feel joy again about returning to Ghana and the work God asked me to join him with since 2008. Anyway, this letter is where my story about how God works in our lives comes to play.
They wrote me a letter saying how proud they were of me throughout my years, following God’s plan laid out for me. This letter walked through my whole life, expanding through my childhood, my adult life, and the journey in between. To be honest with you, there was stuff in there I had totally forgotten (it’s an after forty thing I’ve been told or, maybe I just blocked them out.)
Now, to the point...out of the blue, God used my relative to encourage me to keep pushing forward. He will encourage you through family, when you least expect it. This letter alone, and the encouragements spoken over me were enough to bring me back on track and once again see God's plan for me. Well, sort of. That was part of the problem to begin with. You see, I thought I knew exactly where God was going to use me, how God was going to use me, and as it turned out I believed God's plan for me was something different than what has become reality and it has been difficult to accept. But, this letter reminded me of who I am in Him. It reminded me He is really there and beside me, and He is the plan worked out. I am just going to keep moving forward one step at a time as Casie keeps reminding me to do.
Another point to this is, family isn’t always immediate family - not always the family right in front of you every day, or even sharing your same DNA components. It's people, key people, He puts in your life right when you feel lost or distracted by the enemy.
This is going to be difficult so, bear with me on the back ground story, a little bit. I think they call it the plot. I’m only teaching up to eight grade Lit, in my homeschool teaching career. This story also involves family, again, non-blood related (to me). This person did something, not-so-nice when they were younger. Instead of putting the blame on someone or something else, they took responsibility for their wrong doing, admitted the fault, and asked for forgiveness. I should mention, this isn't a conversation between two people in an arguement. This was before the Clemency Executive Board of the State of Florida. (Governor, CFO, State Attorney, Commissioner of Agriculture) You get my drift...major deal!
This extremely smart, giving, kind-hearted person was on a track going VERY downhill, REALLY fast. God doesn't waste. So, God stepped in with a life changing plan. Not one neither this person, or anyone really plans when thinking about their future. But, again, like I said, God doesn't waste and over 20 years ago He stepped in with this life-changing plan, which ended with this person going on a vacation to "serve time due".
From the start, while on this forced state-funded vacation, this person dropped to their knees and sought God for answers. They weren't sure they'd receive a reply, but it was rock bottom and what did they have to lose. Of course, God showed up. He had been there all along, waiting. This person turned their life around, gave themself to God - accepting Jesus as their savior. In those less than a handful of years on vacation, this person touched many lives around them on this vacation spot. God's work through them allowed others to experience Jesus up close. Besides their walk and talk, they worked hard and earned unprecedented amount of respect, as shared by the guards. Actually, this person was even granted, while on his vacation, to live and work off-site, helping to organize and run the volunteer fire department.
God doesn’t always put us or paint us in the perfect picture. Matter a fact, in my own experiences - the situation is always, always messy and a challenge. Hey - isn't Jonah a case in point? Now, back to the story and onto the redemption part.
This person served his vacation time, moved on, started and built a new life. They have an amazing life for themselves, considering they started completely from scratch - starting over - in their 30s. I have to tell you, this person will give you the shirt off their back, wisdom they've learned throughout their life (even if it isn't solicited). God gave this person such a gift, a gift only a Father could give a son. Redemption!
Standing before the Clemency Executive Board of the State of Florida, humbled, honest, and repentful of his past mistakes, this person told it like it was. No sugar coating, no lies, no excuses, no blame...just - I did it. I knew it was wrong. I deserved to be punished. I didn't deserve any of the benefits and blessings I received, but God was good. Unlike the others heard that day, this person shared about the mistake made all those years ago. They shared their regret, how God changed everything, and how they lived from the very moment they stood up off their knees.
The two daughters spoke on this person's behalf. One is the step-daughter and the other is the biological daughter. You know, this person never said - not once - when introducing or sharing, this was the step-daughter. Remember...it's all about family. To this person, they were both daughters, and that was that. For this blog, I will differentiate, but know this person didn't. The step-daughter shared without this person's love and direction in her life all these years, she would not be the person and mother she is proud to be today. She shared about the unfailing love received, and no matter how imperfect, she felt blessed by this person's unconditional love and support. The biological daughter shared how she never felt unloved and since the arrest all those years ago, she had witnessed a person of consistent integrity. She shared how even as a young girl, she noticed how even the guards noticed something different in this person. The respect given during her visits by guards and other vacationers left a lifetime impression. She learned, this person didn't hide their mistake, they used it as a message about bad choices. This contributed to the person she had become today and the work God had called her and her family into. They both shared, even if the Clemency Board's answer was no, this person was loved and had a full life. God had already given this person the gift of a second chance.
It was still days after the Orlando shooting. A time in our current affairs where offenders should be punished and not forgiven. A meeting held quarterly at the State Capitol to allow current offenders to request early release if they are still on vacation, previous offenders to request restoration of rights and/or a full pardon (full forgiveness, as if it never happened - requires a minimum of 10 years since released). A day where the list was nearly 100 people petitioning for their gift of forgiveness. A day where I witnessed "deny full pardon", over and over. There were some pardons granted, but the offenses were much less severe than this special person to me.
When they finished talking, before the daughters even started...I could see it. Unlike any other case, the board had no questions about his past mistakes. They had peace in their eyes. They asked the daughters if they wanted to speak, they asked them for them. This special person, was granted a FULL pardon from his mistakes and bad judgments. A better word in this person’s case would be Forgiveness! Like our only Daddy in Heaven can give! A hug, love…..Grace...and A FULL PARDON! The room, still filled with people heard and waiting to be heard, was filled with clapping - filled with inspiration. I will tell you, there were only two others granted at that time, and there was clapping then too. But, this time it was different. You could feel it. So, here again, God save us at our lowest. He brought this person out of the dust and into His arms. (Do you like that...very Casie wasn't it...) And, the reward was redemption - over 20 years in the making.
I am not a perfect man, and I've certainly fallen off the track a few times through this journey. And, in the last two years, I have encountered some hurdles, struggled with forgiveness and struggled where I fit in the big picture. But, this year has been different. I've been different. I have been facing the hurdles, some of the hurdles anyway. I am forgiving more and more every day, and starting to see myself in the big picture again. Our trip to Florida was profound. I am grateful to have been included and to have experienced such a God moment.
As we head to Ghana in 2016, I reflect on family here and there, my daddy Eddie, Dave and Ellen, Ben and Rachel, all who don’t even share a drop of my physical genetics but, we all share God’s genetics! And we are all on the same or slightly different path God has given and put us on, we all ended up in the same place doing the same work for the kingdom of our Daddy. And, we all can agree a reminder of why we are called and the blessing of redemption encourages us to take one step at a time, and stay focused on God's plans for us.
Please, pray for us for favor against attacks from the enemy, and for travel safety’s and funds of course. We are close, still need $2,500 for trip expenses. And, we are still raising funds for Hep B clinic. $25 for each child. http://www.onestepinfaith.org/fundraising/partner-with-us
God-Bless T Haight