If you met Lauri today, you might notice that he’s a little bit shorter than most 20 year olds. After all, he’s a rapper whose stage name is “El Pitufo,” which roughly translates to “The Smurf.” Lauri was born with an inherited bone disorder that causes dwarfism, hence the nickname, but it wouldn’t take long to realize his stature bears no resemblance to his personality. If his height is dwarfed, his personality is anything but.
I was on the shoot of I AM THAT MAN, so I can personally attest to this fact. It took Lauri less than five minutes to go from interviewee to co-director, suggesting shots and quieting onlookers and generally becoming the Dominican Martin Scorsese. Think I’m over-exaggerating? Here is Lauri, mid-interview, putting his director skills on display in Spanish and English.
Click here to watch this clip.
But if you were to meet Lauri for the first time today and look him in the eyes, shake his hand, and start a conversation (scratch that; he would start the conversation), you would never guess that this man with a personality as distinct as any of his physical features was pushed to the brink of suicide by a disability that forced him into isolation. What you would be least likely to notice about Lauri now is probably the first thing you would have noticed about him back then: his legs — legs that were clearly not pointed in the right direction, legs that made him believe there was no hope for the future.
Back then, Lauri’s legs defined his life. They prevented him from engaging the world. Walking was physically painful. Being seen in public was emotionally jarring. Where Lauri comes from, disabilities are more often met with cruelty, not compassion.
So he did what seems nearly unimaginable now: he hid. This bright, vibrant young man stayed tucked away in the house, disconnected from the world. Sometimes, he tried to write songs. Writing had always been a way for him to express his feelings, so he would venture out of the house to go down to the beach and write. But the lyrics fell flat. His songs were uninspired; his life, similarly so. They were intrinsically linked, and neither brought him the joy they once did.
There is a man in the Bible who understands Lauri’s plight. We don’t know much about him other than the fact that he was disabled and was also waiting for healing, so much so that he spent a significant portion of his life waiting by a pool that was reported to have healing powers. When the water was stirred, those with illnesses would flock to the pool and immerse themselves in the hope that they would be healed. The man singled out in this story was separated from the water by the very disability that necessitated his presence there. Unable to walk, he lacked the ability to move toward that which gave him hope.
It was the same for Lauri, but instead of being on the outside looking in, he was on the inside looking out, longing to be part of the world. All evidence pointed to his condition growing worse and worse with each passing year. He started to believe that healing was impossible.
One man was sitting by a pool. One man was sitting inside his house. Jesus found them both.
Jesus stopped and paid attention to the man at the pool, the man who others had spent years walking past. And after asking if he wanted to be healed, Jesus told the man to do the impossible: Pick up your mat. Walk.
Jesus did the same for Lauri. At a mobile clinic near his hometown, Lauri was also presented with an opportunity to do what had once seemed impossible: Get out of the house. Go to the hospital. Be healed.
Lauri’s legs were straightened at CURE Dominican Republic by skilled medical professionals. The spiritual ministry team told him about Jesus and prayed with him as he recovered. Today, Lauri sees himself as a modern day representation of the man who was told to pick up his mat.
Click here to watch I AM THAT MAN.
Watch the video. You can see Lauri light up with the full measure of his passion as he proclaims, “I am that man!” Separated by 2,000 years, he is the same as the man who was told to pick up his mat. The two are connected by one common thread: both lives were changed by unexpected, life-altering healing.
Lauri wants to be a hip-hop star. I think we can all agree he has the charisma to become one. Whether or not he turns into a world famous rapper is yet to be seen. What really matters, though, is that Lauri is healed, and the world has regained what it could have lost: the joy of Lauri being Lauri, engaging each day with a degree of enthusiasm that is truly larger than life.