She looked at the ground avoiding eye contact with me as she called me "little blondie" in Portuguese. I had a jug of coffee in my hands and a back pack with sandwiches in it. "can we go around the corner to an empty house my family owns?" she asked me, seeming nervous. About 6 months back, I would walk to Mrs. Paula's house every Thursday night to help her lead a new small group in her house. The road I had to take to her house took me on a new path that I rarely went on and I was passing a certain house weekly, each time The Holy Spirit would point me to notice that house and the people there. Men would sit outside barefooted and shirtless with their Brazilian liquor bottles as they talked extremely fast with each other. But a lady lived there, she had the facial expression of a woman that needed to know she was loved.
This same woman, lets call her "Sue", began going to that small group at Mrs. Paula's house. I made sure I made eye contact with her and personally spoke to her. I had to ask other's to help me practice her name multiple times. There were nights I would dream about her or wake up with a desire to pray for her. I knew nothing about "Sue's" life history, but I knew she needed to know the endless love that God has for her. I sensed she had an overwhelmong feeling of shame hovering over her. Over several months, I was able to have more and more "light" conversations with her, I wanted her to know I was genuinely interested in her. One night on the way home from Mrs. Paula's small group, she walked up beside me and giggled "I love the way you teach about Jesus's love, I think about it alot". I knew God wanted us to have more conversations, but what if my accent when I spoke Portuguese would confuse her? What if she had all these problems to talk to me about and I wouldn't know how to talk with her? Is her house safe? I hope she isn't just trying to talk to me because I am the American. The doubts flooded into my thoughts. Not long after, I was walking with my daughter when "Sue" stepped out into the road, directly in my path. Weeping, she told me she needed someone to talk to. There it was, God confirmed what I was already sensing. I was able to spend some time with her that day, but she just sat quietly, too scared to talk.
Several weeks later, I went to "sue's" and clapped as I whispered prayers to myself. (we clap here for the same reason Americans ring doorbells). She came out in the yard with surprise "little blondie!" I asked her if me and another lady in the community could come every Tuesday to study God's word with her, she was excited- but hesitant. But we confirmed the time and the next week I headed over with my snack and coffee to share. She stared at the dirt and told me "today won't be a good day". Not holding any grudges, I consistently returned with spiritual and physical nourishment.
Over 8 weeks, I was able to sit on her porch with her every Tuesday. Turns out, she can't read, so I read scripture and we would discuss it, I would also share about hard times in my personal life when Jesus carried me and continued to love and guide me, I confessed my past mistakes and how dark my life was before I really met Jesus. Also, the man she lived with ran the drug movement in that community- from the very house we would meet (another thing I did not know). "Sue" slowly began to feel comfortable making eye contact with me, she would hug me, kiss my collar bone with each hug (typical Brazilian sign of affection) smile, and even open up about her thoughts. But this particular day, she wanted to have our study in this abandoned house around the corner. It was the hottest time of day here and the house only had a little wooden door that we left open, hoping to get a breeze in there since it had no windows. We sipped hot coffee and discussed God's will for our lives, reading scripture that would help us understand the purpose of His will and how ours may be different. I was full of curiosity that day and hounded her with questions as my face poured sweat, my tank top was drenched. I hoped I didn't intimidate her. But she looked me in the eye "I have drank for years, I stayed drunk. Do you know why I have no furniture in my house? I sold it all to buy liquor. I was drunk when I washed dishes and hung up my laundry. But ever since you started doing this study with me, God's word has removed my desire to drink and I am so thankful, I want to invite my daughter who is 23 to meet you and study with us".
It was there in that dark abandoned house where once again, I encountered the Lord's magnificent goodness and I had a front row seat to understanding His will a little bit more and how He really does work in our lives. "Sue" still has a far way to go in her healing, but the Lord is working in her already. As I looked at the light shining in through the tiny wooden door, I was comforted as I remembered how the eternal light of Christ shines right through all of my dark doubts that I had. Many times, people think of missionaries as dunking people daily in baptism or kicking down doors to fight injustice. It just a life of simple obedience, where we trust in Jesus with a spirit of complete dependence with literally each footstep and each word that we live out.