One Monday in August at 6:00 p.m., the skies darkened and rain poured down like sheets. I waited in the lobby of my building a good 15 minutes, hoping toget to the Bronx Seventh-day Adventist Temple on time. Suddenly the rain stopped and sunlight shone once again. I was reminded of humanity’s trials and the promises of God.
After a lovely song service, the evangelist spoke, basing his comments of Mark 5:25-34, the story of the woman with the issue of blood. The evangelist breathed fire into the roles. He was lively and humorous, and at the same time seriously intelligent.
His sermon was just beginning when a young woman walked into the church and sat toward the front. As I watched, I was reminded about the reality of human suffering. I prayed that she would stay, and that this step toward God would not be her last.
When I opened my eyes, she was gone. But then she came back (nature had apparently beckoned, and she answered).
The End of the Service
When the service ended, some people left their pews and bid their goodbyes while others lingered behind. Several people extended greetings to the young woman. I stayed in the pew facing her and prayed.
One sister initiated a conversation by sitting next to her and asking if she had enjoyed the service. She invited the young woman, whose name we learned later was Maria, to return for the next meeting. Maria spoke angrily at first. We began to understand that it was her pain and bitterness speaking, not Maria herself.
The pastor finally reached out to her. Maria spoke about a friend who had died violently some months ago. She explained that his death was the reason she came to church that evening. She also said that she was pregnant and homeless. Her appearance spoke of years of addiction and surviving on the streets.
When the pastor excused himself for a moment Maria told me that her friend’s untimely demise was affecting her mind. She said she “sensed” the deceased person’s presence and thought he was after her. She was scared for her life.
She walked over to a tapestry of the Last Supper that hung on the wall and touched the image of Jesus.
The Beginning of Service
I learned much from Maria that evening. I learned that when she spoke about the dead, she wasn't asking for a Bible study about what happens when a person dies.
When she touched Jesus’ image, she was essentially exercising her faith, and that it was not a time to tell her about worshiping images.
When the pastor bought her sopa de salchichonon, it was not the time to talk about unclean foods.
I learned instead to listen to the Holy Spirit and meet the needs of someone in great need. I learned that a group of caring Christians can touch people’s lives. In the words of the apostle Paul, “By this kind of hard work we must help the weak” (Acts 20:35).
God bless you, Maria, wherever you are.
Milagros Flores-Santana writes from Bronx, New York.