An excerpt from my unpublished memoir Walking with the God of Miracles.
Joel was 20 when he went to Haiti with a ’70s Fort Lauderdale street ministry.
In Haiti, one of Final Hour Movement’s young missionaries lived in a mud hut in L’Artibonite, a region infamous for rice paddies and savage voodoo practices.
When the missionary left Haiti, Joel inherited her prepaid rental that was $2.40 a month! Under thatched roof and bulging mud walls, he lived with Haitians and learned Creole.
Upon seeing, his neighbors drink water from the Rivière L’Estere, Joel filled his hat and prayed a positive confession, “I confess these microbes will become vitamins in Jesus name.”
One hour later the contaminated water’s bacteria & parasites laid him under a tree with a raging fever as concurrent typhoid and hepatitis delirium passed him between coma and consciousness.
In a fiery sweat, Joel opened his eyes to a witch doctor shaking rattles and chanting, “You’re going to die. You’re going to die.”
Back at the mission house on Arcachon, Joel saw a Haitian doctor, “You have rheumatism and neuralgia. I will give you an injection and you will feel better.”
When the man’s glass plunger unscrewed from the needle in his backside, Joel, in the third week of typhoid, the deadliest, knew he must get to the States.
At US customs in Puerto Rico, too weak to lift, he abandoned his suitcases and boarded the plane to Miami. A friend sent to pick him up at the airport walked past him, “Donna,” Joel called out.
The weight loss rendered him unrecognizable and she burst into tears upon seeing her wasted young friend.
Joel went to Fort Lauderdale Health Department for blood tests and vitals, then to the Final Hour Movement house. Two days later when a doctor finally read the reports and saw Joel’s pulse at one hundred eighty-five, he sent an ambulance. EMTs warned, “If you do not come with us, you will die from this disease.”
Quarantined at Broward General, Joel overheard a doctor tell the ICU nurse, “I am not sure he is going to make it.”
Nurses administered two grams of ampicillin a day but it did not stop the typhoid as racing pulse and constant pain seared his chest.
Unable to walk Joel lay in the hospital bed until numbness swept from the tips of his toes, up his legs and from the ends of his fingers, up his arms; he shivered and struggled to breathe. Certain his spirit was leaving his body and God was taking him home, Joel raised his heavy arms. “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.”
The cold numbness subsided and Joel pressed the buzzer for a nurse. “I think I just had a heart attack.”
She agreed, “You probably did.”
He opened a bible and read, “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart.”
Comforted God was not finished with him, his fear of death fled with God’s promise to heal his heart. After fourteen days in isolation, no longer contagious, Joel was released. Meanwhile the Final Hour Movement ministry in Fort Lauderdale and their mission in Haiti disbanded.
Back in his hometown, Joel’s mother wept when she saw him and his childhood pediatrician warned, “You know, you will die if you return to Haiti?”
Joel told the doctor, “I will die if I don’t go back!”
Joel knew nothing would keep him from God’s will. One day as he knelt praying for an alcoholic friend, he heard laughter and looked up to see an angel descend through the ceiling. The spirit reached into his chest, removed a dark ball and ascended laughing victoriously. He was healed.
Strong again, Joel ignored his mother’s pleas and headed to Florida for work, this time delivering refrigerators for a plane ticket to Haiti.
Evenings he preached a revival at the Second Haitian Church of Miami. One night, God spoke to him, “The woman in the back row is going to invite you to preach.”
Madam Francine Francois approached him after the service and invited Joel to minister in Saint Raphael, Haiti’s Plateau Central. He accepted.
One week before the planned trip, Joel dropped his savings for Haiti in an offering. He had heard Norwegian Caribbean Lines provided missionaries free passage to Port au Prince. The next day, Joel popped in at the line’s corporate office in Miami.
“I am a missionary who loves God and He wants me to go to Haiti.”
The secretary smiled. “Cruise ship passage is five hundred and fifty dollars. There is an eight month waiting list.”
He insisted, “God will make a way for me.”
Each day to no avail, Joel showed up at the Biscayne Tower office on the 8th floor. One day while delivering a refrigerator, he called Norwegian from a customer’s kitchen; the secretary recognized his voice. “Joel, you’re going! Be at Pier 3 at 12:30 tomorrow; and your ticket will be there!”
A prepaid first class cabin, canceled the day before sailing, was Joel’s. Old Final Hour Movement friends crammed the suite with donated toys until Joel crawled over boxes to the bed. Then the underweight, twenty one year old, ate dinner at the Captain’s table with other first class passengers.
After two days in Jamaica where angry Rastas chased the annoying zealot back to the dock, the ship cruised into Port au Prince Bay framed by majestic mountains.
Struck by Haiti’s magnificence, Joel clutched the rail. This time with no one waiting for him the Lord promised, “I have given you this nation for your inheritance.”
With two shirts, a pair of pants and twenty-dollars in his pocket, Joel stepped onto the dock next to the giant bronze of a regally cloaked Columbus kneeling as he planted a tall cross on his New World discovery, Hispaniola.
After note: today 47 years later, there has not failed one word of God’s promise. Joel is a national celebrity, often called the nation’s pastor