The house where I was sitting was once thought to be the worst house in the worst neighborhood of a small little mountain town in the Dominican Republic. You would never have guessed that was true by sitting where I was and looking into the warm eyes of the couple that lived there.
Theft, prostitution, assault, and murder once ran rampant through the streets here. It was a dangerous place where darkness reigned. The couple sitting across from me used that exact word to describe the area, “Oscuridad — darkness.”
My two friends and I sat and listened as this couple’s story was translated to us. We didn’t expect for them to open up so quickly, let alone so honestly.
The man who sat across from us smiled at us showing the braces on his teeth. He sat proud, transparent, and redeemed. This was the man who, four years ago, rejected the darkness in his soul and in his home. His family was in shambles for the eleven years prior. Adultery, hatred, and assault were commonplace, but as we sat there in their very home I couldn’t believe it to be true.
This couldn’t be the same family. This couldn’t be the same home.
There was no light in this family or in this neighborhood until Jesus changed the heart, mind, and soul of this man who sat across from us. The light came and it came strong. His wife wanted nothing to do with him and had plans to marry a European man in order to flee the Dominican Republic leaving behind him and her three daughters.
“Jesus gave me a love in my heart for my wife. A love that wasn’t there before. I love my wife,” he said as he looked over at his bride. His heart was laid open for us to see, and it was oh so bright.
After hearing his story of redemption my friend leaned in and told our translator to tell him that he was a jewel in his heart. ”Usted es una joya en mi corazón,” he told him.
Little did we know that the neighborhood we were sitting in with this jewel of a man was called, la Joya, or in english, the Jewel.
The neighborhood we were in is called, “la Joya,” with means, “the Jewel.” The interesting thing about a jewel is that light is required in order for others to experience its beauty.
Four years ago this neighborhood was in darkness, but now it is full of light. Once the light came into this home the darkness fled, not just in the home but in the entire neighborhood. Another family moved into the area. They were Christians and they brought light with them as well. The darkness had nowhere to go, so it left.
This man, this jewel of a man, was changed by the love and grace of Jesus Christ. And in the process an entire neighborhood was changed.
A jewel sitting in the dark does no one any good. This jewel of a man, and his family, are no longer in the dark and my friend and I were able to see the brilliance of their shine.