Seven weeks and counting. Then I am done being a 40/40 in Cusco. Even writing that sentence feels surreal, because these two years have quickly passed us by, and wrapping things up includes bittersweet feelings as we think about saying goodbye to the disciples we have made, and leaving all of our hard work in the hands of our local pastor.
Work has had its ups and downs, times of extreme victory and times of mundane routine. It becomes less about the big events and more about the small moments and slow transformation happening in people’s lives.
What I will carry home as a highlight happened in the life of Jovana on Saturday, March 10, 2012. As I begin to tell this story, I am not even sure that words can convey how special it was. But I will try.
Jovana is from Lamay. If I recall correctly, I met her in my first few months of working there, but we began studying the Bible with her in her home in August of last year. The first thing Jovana told us when we met her was that she was Catholic, and her family was Catholic. But she showed great interest in learning with us.
Teaching Jovana was different than teaching most other people, women with no education who have never learned to read or write. Jovana is very bright, very intelligent. She could teach herself anything, and when she read a passage of the Bible ONCE, she would explain to us exactly what it meant. That NEVER happens. I mean EVER.
But she hadn’t really made a commitment yet. The roots of her tradition, her religion, and her family’s customs bound her tightly in a not only dead, but pagan version of Catholicism.
On Saturday we were visiting her with our pastor. Heading to her house, I knew it would be a make-or-break meeting. After all this time, I knew things couldn’t continue as they were, with her dipping her toes into the pool of faith but refusing to dive in. There were only two possible outcomes: we would either leave there and not return because she would no longer want us to teach the Bible to her, or she would go all in, giving up dead religion in exchange for a live Savior who wants to be her friend. We had reached a breaking point.
Once we got to talking, Jovana expressed her fear that if she “changed religions,” God would be upset with her. After all, her family is Catholic, and she has always been Catholic. Pastor Arnaldo showed her through the Word that religion does not bring us closer to God, and that this kind of religion is actually upsetting to God. At the beginning, her face was full of doubt, but it changed—it softened. She had her questions answered and realized for herself what I already new—that she could not continue as she was. She was doing the Christian hokey-pokey and had to finally “put [her] whole self in.”
And she did. I felt the Holy Spirit in that room. I saw her break open and give herself to the Lord. I was overjoyed and couldn’t stop the tears from falling.
Jovana came to church that night for the first time. She wanted to give her tithe that night. She wants to share with her family what Christ has done in her life, and it is a beautiful thing.
This type of change is not as common as we wish it would be. It is hard to get to this place. But oh so worth it.