Tuesday, January 19, 2010

To be free...

"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." -Nelson Mandela

That quote is on a t-shirt I got at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa. And a few months ago I heard a man speak who lives by that motto naturally. I have no idea if he's ever read that quote, but I get the feeling he wholeheartedly lives it. This man who lives this quote doesn't even know his real name. He goes by Jean-Robert Cadet which was the name his owners gave him in order to bring him to the U.S. from Haiti. Yes, I said "his owners." Jean-Robert was a Restavek. Restavek is a creole word that means "stays with" and it accurately describes the life of a child slave in Haiti.

Most of Jean-Robert's childhood was more like the life of an abused dog- he was not treated like a human with feelings. He was treated like an object- a possession- and beaten badly if he behaved any other way. Once his owners moved him to the U.S., he was eventually discovered by truancy officers. That's when he started going to school and learning that he didn't have to live as a slave any longer. He learned how to escape to freedom. He went on to college, got married and had children. And he started a foundation to help free more children from slavery. Here's the link (if you want to learn more about his story) to his foundation's website: www.restavekfreedom.org

Jean-Robert is part of my church community. Last May my church sent a shipment of 7,000 meals to the foundation's orphanage in Haiti which holds over 100 children saved from slavery. However, those meals sat on the docks in Port-au-Prince waiting for customs clearance ever since May. We got word last week that the food was finally delivered to the orphanage the morning of January 12th...just a couple of hours before the earthquake hit. In the midst of devastation, God is so Good.

I wrote this piece on MLK Day because Martin Luther King, Jr. lived in a way that respected and enhanced the freedom of others. He is famous for his civil rights activism, but his speeches are applicable to ALL people's freedoms. Didn't he say something about his dream being that one day a person would be judged by their character and not by the color of their skin? I think he said it more than once!

If you read the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (and I highly recommend doing that), you will notice that all his speeches quote the Bible. Because he knew the true source of his freedom was his faith in the truth and grace of Jesus Christ, who came to teach us ALL how to be FREE!