It has been a long time since I met my friend and little by little I have come to know more of her life. Each time I see a little more, I feel impacted by how dark and difficult it was. I still remember the first few encounters I had with her. She was one of the many girls that have attended the WMF Bible study for young ladies. A friend invited her, saying that she had been on the street for years, and was now changing. And she was.
From the beginning, with her simplicity, shyness, and respect, she participated the most, making it evident that she was hearing the voice of God. In the Bible studies or in personal conversations with her, it was always so encouraging to see how she listened to God’s teaching. Often the girls at the Bible study will say, “Oh! I finally get it!” or “God is so good!” and in their own ways, some have said that God has lifted them up. Despite the emotional and spiritual toll these times often take on me, the girls’ comments fill me up and remind me why I’m a part of this ministry.
My friend Rosa (I’ve changed her name to protect her privacy), has faced many challenges since she decided to live in more obedience to God. Recently, her partner of many years went to prison. After each time of prayer with Rosa, through each payment, fulfilling each responsibility in his absence, she was full of faith, drying her tears and facing her reality bravely, trusting in the army of God’s angels that protected her. It would take too long to share all of the testimonies she has shared with us, some sweet, others infuriating.
I will share with you a couple of her stories. One day, after a lesson about faith and trust in God in every circumstance, she went out to sell her wares. Rosa hardly sold anything during the whole day. She was sad and worried because she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to afford dinner. She thought, ‘God, although it is little, at least I have enough for my bus fare home.’ She remembered the lesson from that day about being grateful to God at all times, so she repeated that to herself as she tried to sell the wares she still had. Late and tired of walking, she sat down and prayed, ‘God even though what I’ve made today is so little, I trust that you know what I need.’ She hadn’t finished her prayer when someone asked her, “Are you selling those?” She answered yes and the person bought several of her products. Rosa was so encouraged by that experience and she headed home because it was getting late. She crossed the park on her way home and along the way people continued to buy her products. She was surprised and thanked God. When she arrived at her bus stop, she saw another woman nearby without any of her product left to sell. Rosa gave her the last of what she had for the woman to sell. Rosa said, “Friend, get up, have these to sell so you can make some money to eat, but have faith, God is going to help you.” Rosa told me later, “God is so good! God helped me sell everything but two so I could also help my friend!”
Rosa has lived through many difficult things in her life and her body bears the marks of these crises. Her arms have scars from the deep cuts that she made in her darkest moments. Recently, Rosa was in the market with her young son and her partner. There was a man there, known and feared by all in that area. He was drunk, sitting nearby. Rosa’s partner dropped a coin and the man claimed it was his own. When this man saw that he was being ignored, he stood up and grabbed Rosa’s son by the neck and yelled for them to give him the coin. Everyone was yelling and pushing. The man grabbed Rosa and hurt her as well. Her son screamed at the man to let them go. Several people intervened and finally got the young boy free. Rosa was injured, lost her purchases and her wallet in the fight, and her son was left traumatized. The man was let go from the jail, thanks to a friend that payed and the man never had to cover any costs regarding the fight with Rosa and her family.
The story of trying to seek restitution is long and unjust. The most difficult thing, Rosa told us, was hearing the police officer, who was tired of her insisting something be done, say, “Don’t insist, that man was hurt too, and what are those marks on your arm from?” Rosa told him that her past had nothing to do with this. All she wanted was for the man to ask forgiveness to bring peace of mind for her son. We know this probably won’t happen, but we pray for God to act.
Rosa, because of the marks on her arms, avoids certain places because the looks weigh heavy on her. Society is so often cruel, including authorities and even one’s own family at times. Painful words can put a person at the edge of a dark abyss, at the border looking back to the street, plagued with addiction and darkness. Today we tell her not to believe the lies, that she is the beloved of God, beautiful in God’s eyes. We remind her that God will sustain her and is pleased with how she lives her life now. We reassure her that God forgives all things including her past. She told me once that every night she asks God’s forgiveness for her faults that day. 1 John 1:9
The marks of society and the judgement of people are worse than the physical marks left on her skin: marks of a past that has been forgiven and erased by Jesus. Today I have marks too. The marks my friend leaves on my life, each time I see her bravery and faith, each time I see Rosa resist evil and move forward in humility and gratitude for everything God gives her.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; God will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
As translated by Linsey Higgins