Typhoon Soudelor brought destruction to the whole island of Saipan. More than that, it brought sickness and famine to the poorest on the island. When your house is destroyed, it is terrible, but when your place of employment is destroyed, it makes things even worse. No home, no job, no money, no food, and no hope. This was the position of Joel Enriquez when I first met him. I was working for Adventist Volunteer Services in the warehouse, distributing water and food.
After a day of work, I would visit local people, helping and praying with them. When I met Joel, he was standing in front of his demolished house with his children and many cow legs. Joel was hanging the cow legs from metal wire and cooking them with a blow torch. They received them free from a local slaughterhouse. The cow legs were all Joel could find for his family to eat, and they were all very hungry. I brought him and his family some cases of emergency food. They were so happy to have good food to eat. When they thanked me, I told them the food was a gift from Jesus. We became friends, and we started studying the bible together.
I remained in Saipan as a Bible worker for a local church. After weeks of studying, the Holy Spirit convicted Joel and showed him that his life was “no good.” He needed and wanted a new life in Jesus, but the chains of addiction and a lifetime of sin do not let go without a struggle. Greater hardship came when Joel lost his contract worker status and was forced to return to the Philippines. He was scared and desperate, but he went back to the Philippines, forced to leave his children, who are Untied States citizens, behind.
I continued to minister to his family after Joel left. Often his family would use my phone Sabbath morning on the way to church to say happy Sabbath to their dad in the Philippines. I could see on Facebook that Joel was getting his life together. He reconciled with his wife, he quit drinking, and he was going to church with his family in the Philippines. To our surprise and sadness, Joel became sick and died unexpectedly. It happened so fast I could not believe it. I could not make sense of these events. Why had God permitted these things to happen? I struggled with disappointment. I could not see it, but God always has a plan. All things are working together for the good of those who love God and are living according to His purpose.
More than a year later, I was at the Saipan Central Church for Sabbath when a well-dressed, smiling woman approached me after church and asked, “Are you Brother Kris?” She told me that she was Joel’s sister Vivian. She said that before her brother died, he had returned to the Philippines a completely different person. At the end of his life, things were much different than at the beginning. His last act in this world was to tell his family he had found the truth in Saipan, that God has a special people and a last day church, and that Jesus is coming soon. Vivian was here in Saipan to check up on Joel’s family and to learn more about the truth that had transformed her brother’s life.
God had timed her arrival perfectly. Our Unlock Revelation Series started the following week. Vivian was excited and came every night. She was baptized and began a completely new life in Jesus, joining our church family. You can see the blessed hope in Vivian’s smile and the peace of God in her eyes. God had a plan. He always has a plan. He took Joel, with all his struggles and challenges, and made him a powerful soul winner for Christ. God is amazing. I never want to forget the lesson that God is always in control, turning the trials and difficulties of this world into precious memories and successes. There will be a day when I see Joel in the Kingdom of God with Vivian and his family, smiling and happy together, never to part again. Come soon Lord Jesus.