As I waited anxiously for the meetings to start, I wondered if we had done enough preparation or visited enough homes or just simply encouraged enough the local congregation to come out in support of the meetings. I had a short list of names that we had been working on and prayed that the Spirit would bring these people to the meetings.
As the nights progressed and calls were made by Elder Jose Rojas, I tenderly approached each individual as they passed to the front and heard from their lips their sincere desire to be baptized. I was truly happy for these individuals as they were buried in water night after night, but every time a call was made I would turn and look for the one girl I had been praying for a long time. Let’s call her Mara.
You see, her story is a rather sad one, abused as a very young child she grew up confused and full of anger and guilt, she eventually left her single mom (the mother later remarried) and returned to her biological father’s house in a different state. Everyone thought that perhaps this would heal her wounded heart and finish high school and make a life of her own.
Unfortunately she was violated by her very own father, became pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful child. You can imagine her state of mind, not to mention her mother’s desperate attempts at justice and concern for her daughter. My counseling sessions were long and emotional; her husband was supportive and decided to confront the situation as best they could.
Because of her age and state of mind, the state took control of the new born baby, and there was no consolation for Mara as the state pursued a legal recourse to take the baby permanently from her. This would of course take time. Meanwhile, Mara accepted to come back to Oregon and live with her mother while the courts decided her case. She was so afraid and embarrassed to step back into church, afraid of judging eyes and loose mouths. I reassured her of my total support and invited her to the Check Him Out meetings. She would not make a commitment, but agreed to think about it. I prayed she would.
It was Thursday night when Jose made a special call, for all those who were hurting and wanting forgiveness from Jesus. There was an overwhelming response from the youth that night, and as Jose kept making the appeal I would once again turn my head around and look for Mara. And there she was! Seated and not responding to the calls, quiet as a mouse, yet I could see in her eyes a faint response, an almost imperceptible gesture of wanting to respond yet not being able to, as if something pinned her down to her chair. It was the look in her eyes that told me she really wanted to stand.
Suddenly our eyes met and I would not let her look the other way. I focused my eyes on her like a laser beam and raising my left arm I invited her to come, she suddenly snapped from her trance to reality and her eyes grew cold and serious. She very clearly told me no with her mouth. Jose kept making the appeals. She grew tense and started to look for a way out of the auditorium. Her mother was seated next to her and was crying and praying.
I prayed a different kind of prayer that night. I wondered what I would do if this girl was my daughter. Would I give in to feelings of shame and frustration? Would I deny my own daughter one more chance at salvation? I had to say no. Not in a million years! And as these thoughts passed my head I also had a huge lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Once again our eyes met and I would not let her go, I was surrounded by young people who had stood up in response to the call, they were taller than me, so I had to weave my way around and stay focused on Mara. I raised my left arm and invited her to come, once again she said no, but this time it was not as strong as before, she had tears in her eyes and I could tell the Spirit moving inside her heart. I pleaded with her to come, she came and I hugged her. We both cried a bit, I could tell she was happy with her decision, and as I congratulated her for taking a stand for Jesus her mother came over bathed in tears of joy and we had a short sweet prayer of thankfulness. Mara had come back home. That Sabbath she was baptized.
As to her legal situation, it is still in court. We have asked the Lord to be the attorney and allow Mara to raise her baby. We believe He will.