A Story of Hope from Colombia
It was in January of 2014 that I got the phone call that left me in shock and trembling. How could this be? Flor and her husband, Antonio, had just been at our house three days before for dinner. At one point during the conversation, Flor had turned to her husband and said, “Antonio, I know where I’m going when I die, but you don’t! The thing I want most in this world is for you to accept the hope that Jesus offers you!”
Back up with me almost two years to the Sunday that Flor’s oldest son, Victor, was visiting the new church plant in the center of Bogota with his wife and children. He had decided to come to church that day because he needed a favor from God. His mother, Flor, was lying at home in bed with a life-threatening blood clot in her leg. After the service, Victor approached us and asked if we would be willing to come to his mother’s house and pray for her. When we finally understood that he meant that very day, we agreed on a time and wrote down the directions. We packed up our little girl and baby boy and drove further south into an unknown and tightly packed neighborhood.
To our surprise, the entire family was waiting at the house when we arrived. We were led through the first-floor garage which was converted into a pre-school and then up thin twisty stairs to the second floor. Flor lay in the bed with her husband, Antonio, standing beside her and all six of her grown children standing around in the crowded room with their spouses and little children. Daniel gave a clear presentation of the gospel and then prayed for God’s healing, physically and spiritually, for Flor.
God chose to heal Flor and her blood clot went away, but He had plans for her spiritual healing as well. Flor called to tell me the news of her recovery and that she wanted to learn more about God. We arranged a time for me to drive to her house for a weekly bible study.
Armed with my Bible, notebook, and The Story of Hope, I arrived excited and nervous for the first study. I had gone through the Good Soil training and was pretty sure I could do this for the first time completely on my own, but I had no idea how God would use this story of hope for His glory and in my life.
Flor had no problem with the introduction, believing that the Bible is true and is the Word of God. Her catholic background also gave her a foundation and belief in the Trinity and certain aspects of God’s character. Due to her great eagerness to learn, we flew through the lessons, sometimes covering more than four biblical events in one session.
I’ll never forget the day we arrived at the story of Abraham and Isaac. As we had been applying the practice of coming at each biblical event through new eyes, trying to forget what we already knew and receive the story as if for the first time, I was surprised when she put the book down and said to me, “I know what this is about.” I stopped the lesson and asked her what she meant by that. With tears in her eyes, Flor looked at me and said, “This is a picture of what Jesus did for us. God is the father who was willing to give his only son. Jesus is the Lamb who died for us.”
I admit that I had a moment of silly panic when she said, “I want to accept this salvation. I want to receive what Jesus did for me,” because I thought to myself, “Wait! We haven’t finished the study yet! Can she get saved before we even finish?”
And the answer, of course, is yes. God’s timing is perfect. I drove home that day so buoyed by the thrill of watching a soul’s rebirth. The rest of our time studying through The Story of Hope was that much more enlightened. The Holy Spirit spoke to her through His Word in ways that brought new insights to me as we studied and grew together.
Flor began to call me “Mamita,” because, she said I was her little spiritual mother. It was a new experience for me to be a spiritual mother to one who was old enough to be MY mother. Flor in turn, mothered me culturally, showing me how to make Colombian fruit juices, chatting with me about colloquial sayings, and lovingly and laughingly correcting my grammar mistakes.
The Story of Hope brought so much hope and life into Flor’s family. She found freedom from guilt through studying the prophets, assurance of her salvation as we studied the story of Nicodemus, and deep-seated joy as we studied through the life of Christ.
After we finished the study together, Flor asked if Daniel and I could come and share The Story of Hope with her whole family on Thursday nights. So began a weekly bible study with 10-20 family members and children every week. Several family members made faith responses, and Flor continued to invite neighbors and friends to join the bible study. We celebrated birthdays with their family, they visited our home, we counselled them through family problems, and rejoiced with them at the victories and changes God was working in their lives.
And then that phone call. At first, I couldn’t understand his words, but Diego, her third son, was calling to tell me between sobs that Flor was dead.
I couldn’t believe what he was saying. He said it repeatedly until finally I was able to process some of his words. Daniel and I left immediately to drive the now well-known route to this area of town and cherished house where we had shared so much life with this family.
My mind didn’t want to accept the truth. Flor had died in a tragic car accident while on a day trip with her sisters and nephews.
The funeral was so different from what we are used to in our American culture. There was no hope among so many attending. There was loud weeping, constant prayers with the rosary, priests sprinkling holy water and speaking empty words. Family members sobbed uncontrollably, throwing themselves over the coffin and nearly knocking it off the stand. One even had to be held back as she attempted to throw herself into the grave at the burial.
When I saw Flor in the coffin, my mind finally accepted the fact that she was dead. But as I looked through the glass window on the top of the closed coffin and I saw the empty shell of Flor, I was flooded with peace and hope. I looked at the body that Flor had lived in, had suffered in, had come to Christ in, and I knew in that moment that Flor was no longer there. Flor was with Jesus.
God used The Story of Hope to help this fledgling missionary wife share the hope of the gospel with this dear woman. God knew the days he had counted for her. God knew the plans He had for her life. God knew that His Word never returns empty. I praise Him for this hope.
For we do not “sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who [b]sleep in Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 4:13-14