At the little coffee shop.

She sat across the table from us at a small little coffee and pastry shop with tears pouring down her face. Her story was ugly. It was incredible how she survived what she did survive and I was struck by how strong and fragile she was at the same time. A mother of six, three who were grown and three who were still young, she sold avocados to make ends meet while her husband worked at the hospital nearby. She left the house at 4am every morning to get to the central market by bus so she could get the best avocados and would then haul a large sack or two home to set up her stall a few blocks from where she lived. Her story was hard to swallow, but it was not uncommon for that part of the world, unfortunately. Surrounded where she was living by street crime, drug addicts and prostitutes, along with all the things she had gone through, she managed to stay on the straight and narrow, working hard along with her husband to eke out a living for their family.

We got to know her through her son, a drug addict who was living on the streets when we found him. He was only 19 at that time. Part of how we worked with the drug-addicted youth on the streets then was to also work with their families, those whose families were still around to be found. In this case, we were fortunate. In time, we realized that just as much as her son needed help, she needed help too. And that was how we ended up sitting at that small little table in that coffee shop. My husband and I shared Jesus with her that day, letting her know He is the only One who can heal the hurts and wounds she was still carrying. She gave her life to Him that day at that little coffee shop. From that day on, we started teaching and counseling her.

The change in her was immediate and drastic. She held onto Jesus with all she had and it showed. His redemptive love worked miracles in her life, literally and figuratively. She used to nag at her husband all the time to communicate with her and when we taught her that was pointless and not how a marriage should be, she listened and implemented biblical changes. Weeks later, she told us her husband actually sought her out to talk to her, wondering what had brought about a change. She said that she had stopped nagging him when he got home from work and instead made him coffee and said very little to him while she prepared his evening meal and instead,  allowed him to rest. He, in turn, started talking with her and instead of her having to nag at him to talk to her, he now did it willingly. She told us too about her younger sons, about how she started realizing that their growing up into men of valour had nothing to do with luck but much to do with upbringing, on how they were taught, what they were taught and being taught about consequences when they behaved badly. Her younger sons started respecting her authority and obeyed, and in doing so, became better behaved and obtained better grades in school.

There is another part of her story that I will save for another day. What I would like to say for now is that we need to know that when we are so stuck in our problems and can see no way out, we can trust Jesus to not only save but heal us. He also makes a way where there is no way. But we have to be willing to make some changes in our lives, too. Nothing happens without us participating in the change to bring about better results for ourselves. The lady in this story decided that her life could be better and had to be better. She decided that she wanted to let go of her past and forgive all those who had hurt her so badly and move forward. She wanted a better marriage for herself and her husband; and children who had principles that would steer them towards a different future than what was around them. So, she took the steps needed to start the process. The first step was to give her life to Jesus. The other steps were to obey Him and to let go of things in her habits and behaviour that contradicted His teachings. She made the effort to change her ways of thinking and let NOTHING limit her. And this is a lady who only has a Grade 2 level of education.

God can and will do amazing things in our lives if we let Him. But letting Him means we also need to start making changes in our own habits and ways of thinking which is not always something we like to do. So much has to do with us holding on to what we believe to be "our rights". Yet Jesus said that whoever wants to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for Him will find it. The lady in this story gave up what society would have called "her rights"; her rights to resent and hate those who had hurt her throughout the years while continuing to hold on to her hurts, her rights to nag at her husband because he was not communicative, her rights to demand more, expect more and not to leave her home at the crack of dawn to work because she didn't want to, etc. Instead, she gave up all those "rights" to Jesus, humbled herself and chose to follow His ways. What society said she would lose, she gained more than she would have thought possible.

There is always a cost when we decide to follow Jesus. Yet the gain is much more than we can imagine or hope for.

Stay tuned for the next blog post with the continuation of her story.


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