Me with Lucrecia (in the red shirt), her son (in the yellow shirt), her daughter-in-law (holding the baby) and Paty, my wonderful translator/amiga
Last week I encountered one of the most God-filled, humbling, incredible experiences of my life. Lest I forget any of the details as time goes on, I had to write it all down now.
This is the story of Lucrecia.
To start at the very beginning, I woke up around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, and couldn’t fall back asleep for awhile. I know whenever it takes awhile to sleep, especially on mission trips, that it’s a sign that God wants me to pray. So I started praying — praying for my teammates, for the people we’d encounter later that day — and suddenly I knew I needed to pray for someone I’d encounter that day, someone who was suffering from some deep heartache. I knew it was God’s voice inside of me. I kept picturing a face with tears streaming down it. To some this may sound like some crazy talk, but I knew distinctly it was the voice of God talking to me, so I started praying for this unknown, weeping person.
Wednesday morning “officially” rolled around eventually and we headed out to the church my sub-team was based out of for the week. In the morning I had a previously scheduled Bible study at the home of a woman who had accepted Christ as her Savior the day before. Around lunch time, I thought about my 3:30 a.m. experience and wondered a bit about it, almost wondering if I had made the whole thing up. I hadn’t told anyone about it yet.
After lunch we talked to Pastor José Luis and all came to the agreement that we would go to visit homes down on a stretch of road we had not yet visited. So Paty (my wonderful, dear translator/sister now), Manuel (the local church member I was teamed up with all week) and I went to visit a home that was two homes down from the church.
Manuel called out “Upe!” (the traditional greeting in Costa Rica they call out from a gate or fence since almost all Costa Rican houses are protected by a gate and/or fence, so marching up to a door and knocking is rarely an option), and we were eventually greeted by a young man, probably in his late teens or early 20s. He invited us into the back of their family home, which was a tin-covered area with a dirt floor, a wood-burning stove and a very beat-up couch. There were some boots caked in mud in a corner; a few bags of rice sat by the stove. There was little besides that. He invited us to sit down and called for his wife, who was finishing laundry in a small shack a few yards away, with their young baby on her hip.
Eventually we started talking to the young man, but before long Lucrecia came out. She politely greeted us and sat down. Manuel introduced all of us. She started to share her story almost immediately and soon after the tears started to flow. She was talking so fast and crying so much that when I looked to Paty for translation and guidance, she wisely said, “I’ll catch you up later.” So we listened (I just prayed the entire time since tears are tears in any language) to Lucrecia tell her story. I later found out it was a story full of hardship, illnesses that had plagued one of her sons in particular, and the death of her husband 6 months ago. She had lived a very difficult, painful life.
During a pause, Paty turned to me and said, “Tell your story.” So I looked into Lucrecia’s sorrowful eyes and told her my story — how I grew up in the church setting and was knew a lot about Jesus at a young age; how I could see and tell there was a difference in the way my parents lived and a sense of peace and joy that was different from the way many other adults seemed to be. I explained to her how I heard someone talk about heaven one day, about how it was a perfect place free of sin and sadness, so I went home and asked my mom how I could go there. I shared how my mom had explained to me that we’re all sinners, even as young kids because we disobey and lie and steal, and sin separates us from God and His perfection and holiness. Because of that, God sent His only Son, Jesus, to earth to live a perfect, blameless life, take our sins on the cross and forgive them. He was buried but rose again after three days, which means we don’t have to fear death or the grave anymore. He has conquered it all. My mom asked if I understood, and I remember saying “yes.” I was only 6 or 7 years old, but I vividly remember realizing I needed forgiveness, just like everyone else. So my mom helped me pray and ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins, that I believed He died for me and rose again, and that I wanted Him to be my Savior. And now I have peace; I have peace that no matter what happens in this life, because my eternity is secure in Him. I don’t lose sleep at night or fear death because I know my name is written in the Book of Life.
After I finished telling my story, Manuel shared with Lucrecia a little card that e3 uses for evangelism because it perfectly shows the story of Jesus and how we all have a choice to make: accept His free gift of salvation or turn away and reject it.
By this time, two more sons of Lucrecia’s had joined us and heard what we were sharing. Lucrecia said she wanted to pray, and the rest of the family members echoed her statement. Paty lead them in a prayer asking Jesus to be the Lord of their lives, and it was honestly one of the most beautiful moments I had ever been a part of.
After the “amen,” I noticed Lucrecia was crying again, just releasing everything she had been holding for so long. I went over and hugged her, and she grabbed me back. It was an embrace unlike anything else I’ve ever felt before. I could tell that this was a release of years and years of fear and frustration and sadness. She held onto me and sobbed into my shoulder for awhile and I held her back while Paty prayed over us. It was a glorious, cleansing moment.
Once we let go of each other, she went and hugged each of her children, holding onto the son with the health issues for the longest. Most of them were emotional, too, and I realized we were watching a family be transformed before our eyes.
Eventually we told them about the Bible study that would be happening in a few hours at the church two doors down, along with a reading glasses clinic. We said goodbye and headed back to the church.
I was overwhelmed. THAT was who I had been praying for at 3:30 a.m. God had been moving long before we had ever showed up.
The evening rolled around and the Bible study started. I was playing outside with some of the kids who had accompanied their parents when one of my teammates came and said, “Molly, I think your lady is here.” I ran into the church, and there she was, with a smile on her face.
After a quick wave to her, I started running the eyeglass clinic with another teammate (which, by the way, the eyeglass clinic is a pretty incredible thing to be a part of — the look on some of the people’s faces when they realize they can read their watch or their Bible again, sometimes for the first time in years, is absolutely humbling.). We were winding down when Lucrecia came in. We were figuring out the best pair of glasses for her when she started talking to Patti, my North American teammate/now sister and friend, who also happens to be bilingual.
Patti started translating what Lucrecia was telling her, and I was astonished. Lucrecia said she had woken up that morning and had been crying out to God. Then, when she was taking a nap in the early afternoon, she said she had awoken by what felt like a hand touching her side and a voice said, “Somebody is here to see you. Get up.” And that was when she came out and find myself, Paty and Manuel in the back part of her home.
I still can’t think about or type that part up without being absolutely overwhelmed, speechless and awestruck by God’s goodness. He works far beyond what we can comprehend or understand, but He allowed me, graciously, to be a part of a truly transforming, God-filled moment in Lucrecia’s home.
The photo at the top of this entry is from the Thursday night celebration service, where all six churches that our sub-teams partnered with for the week arranged for buses to bring people from the area who wanted to attend. I just about lost it when I saw Lucrecia, her son and daughter-in-law sitting in the service. Afterwards we shared another wonderful hug and exchanged words. I told her I’d never forgot them and would be praying for them.
My heart’s cry, and one I would appreciate you joining me in, is that Lucrecia and her family continue to follow Him. That they get involved in the church that is very close to their home, attend Bible studies, lean on other believers during their difficult days, etc. Please be praying for all of them.
Ephesians 3:20-21 – “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Below: Lucrecia practicing with Pastor José Luis, when we went back the following day, how to share the evangelism card with others.