Emily Van Gent
The Wandering Path
Jeff Thomas, Store Manager for the Many Hands Thrift Market in Grimes, Iowa, is visiting Haiti for the first time. Jeff has met no stranger here in Haiti, simply friends he never knew before. Whether helping in the First 1,000 Days “Learn and Earn Market” or praying with PET cart recipients, he has enthusiastically jumped right in to help wherever he could. Keep reading to discover what has impacted Jeff the most.
On his second day in Haiti, Jeff Thomas and his five companions set out to encounter a few of the neediest people in Pignon. With three PET (Personal Energy Transportation) carts in tow, they followed the rugged terrain. The team pulled into the meeting spot and the mechanics wasted no time in assembling the carts. A large crowd of people was pulled in, drawn by the tangible excitement in the air. Some nervous laughter could be heard as the first recipient was lifted onto the cart and made his beginning clumsy attempts to maneuver the handle bars. Jeff mapped out the path which the new PET owner was likely to take and jumped ahead to clear it of any large stones. A few neighbors recognized his efforts and joined him in paving the way. The old man was on his way to freedom!
When the PET team’s pastor asked if the recipient knew Jesus or wanted to follow Him, the man said that he was almost ready to give his life to Jesus. But such a decision he would not make without his wife. With the PET team and the growing crowd, Jeff followed as the soon-to-be new Christian traveled the rocky wandering road to his home…and his wife.
A young woman ran ahead of the group. Ducking past the tattered curtain of the wooden door frame, she called to her mother. The small house was dark but she knew that did not matter to the older blind woman. Talking quickly as she bathed and dressed her mom, the woman explained the day’s events. They heard the crowd gathering in the front yard as they finished getting ready.
Within minutes, husband and wife sat side-by-side holding each others’ hands as they prayed to the One who created the universe yet loved them so much that He chose to die for their sins. Two souls made their way home to Jesus in that moment. Little did this couple know that their granddaughter was watching their example. She, too, stepped forward and a third lost soul was found.
“That was my first time seeing something like that,” Jeff says. “Let alone in that setting.” As Jeff’s time in Haiti progressed, he continued to be impacted as God used mundane everyday things such as a dirt path to speak to Jeff’s heart. “I didn’t realize that behind one house might literally be five more houses as long as you walk the path to get down there. These are people who are way in the back. These are people who might feel lost. I think with us going as a group to [follow the path to] find them and pray over them, they then feel as though they’re found and as if somebody does care even though they’re way back there. So that’s what’s neat about accepting Jesus – knowing that no matter where you are and what the situation, He’s there to give you guidance.”
“What do you think? If someone had one hundred sheep and one of them wandered off, wouldn’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillsides and go in search for the one that wandered off. If he finds it, I assure you that he is happier about having that one sheep than about the ninety-nine who didn’t wander off. In the same way, my Father who is heaven doesn’t want to lose one of these little ones.”