Updated: Oct 26, 2022
For most people, success is determined by the lives they’ve lived; however, for some it is the qualities they possess and how they use those gifts. You are about to hear a story about one individual who has had nothing his whole life, but brings so much joy and happiness to those around him.
John Fortune came into the orphanage around the age of three. He has never met his parents, and no one has ever visited him since he got there. So, he doesn’t know anything about his family. It is sad to admit that they might even think he’s dead. He was very malnourished when he arrived and couldn’t even stand! One person told me, “I have never seen someone in this shape; I don’t know how he is still living!” From the stories I’ve heard from the nannies at the orphanage, he was on a different food plan than anyone else and they feared he might die. Most people think his lack of nutrients and other necessities caused John to be mentally challenged. He cannot read and can’t care for himself. The result is that he usually gets picked on.
Luckily, John always has other people to look out for him. From the time he arrived, until he left the orphanage, God has always put a “guardian angel” next to him. It was an honor for me to be one of those. When things became difficult at the orphanage, I started taking care of him. There were so many times when I had to give him a shower, brush his teeth, and dress him. John has always been a little brother to me, and he will always be. I used to get into arguments, because kids were picking on him. It was a privilege to go through life with him.
I left Haiti right after the earthquake, and I was very concerned about John. I was curious as to who was taking care of and looking out for him. But God always had that covered. John is a beautiful soul! He is that type of friend who makes you appreciate life – I mean, really admire life and live like you were born to be. He is always happy, always kind to others, always ready to help when asked, and anything will make him laugh! One of my favorite things is watching him pray. Seeing him, raising his hands to seek God, is something magical. He knows Who created him, and he loves the Lord. When sitting next to him, all you see is contentment. In fact, I heard someone say, “There are many times that I wish my life was like John Fortune. He loves people, loves to help, and is always happy. It seems life could never be difficult for him.” That is the peace only the Lord can provide!
Throughout the struggles John goes through in his life, he never changes. He is the same guy I left in Haiti, seven years ago. And to me, there’s only one explanation for John’s peace: God’s love. As it says in Philippians 4:19, “You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, His generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.” So John is doing exactly what he is supposed to do, and that’s just living life to the fullest. No matter what happens, he simply lives his life. When he gets picked on, he usually ignores it. When he cannot find food to eat, he does without. I don’t know. Maybe John has found a secret to inner peace we don’t know about. How could someone be this happy, no matter what life throws at him?
Since he recently left the orphanage, he has spent most of his days and had many of his meals with us. Every time we saw him, the smile was always there. By the time one of us would get to him, the laugh would come out. How I love this guy! Through John, God continues to display His glory as He keeps his promises. God never fails John, and He never fails us. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27 For me, John is living proof of that promise. No matter who you are or what you have, these promises are for you. You just have to be willing to accept who you are, as God created you, and let His glory shine through you.
(Kenlley Leyendeckers is a Haitian native, who was adopted by American parents at the age of thirteen. As a young boy, living in an orphanage there, he had met missionaries who inspired a growing vision within him. He knew he wanted to help bring hope to the children around him. The 2010 Earthquake precipitated his father’s going to Haiti to escort him to America. He quickly adapted to the American language and culture, graduating from high school and attending college. He is now the associate director of Mercy International.)