Twenty-nine years ago, beginning when I was just seven years old, my father took me along with him whenever he traveled to do evangelistic preaching and also when he went to different homes to conduct Bible studies. In fact, many times there were evangelistic services in our home and I remember those times very well. The people gathered there would first sing and then pray, and then my father would preach. It was all very precious.
I remember that I was often attentive for a portion of the service, but then, being a child, I would eventually get distracted. But there is one thing that I have not forgotten. At a certain moment during those services, after they had already begun, a woman would enter looking very nervous and rushed. She would come in, worship the Lord along with the others, maybe recite some biblical texts from memory, and then quickly leave. Afterward, the brothers and sisters would pray for her. Some years later, I understood why she did that.
Sister Paula came to know the Lord as a married woman. Her husband wanted nothing to do with the Lord and had no respect for his wife’s faith. Often, her husband would openly mock and insult the brothers and sisters of the church for their faith, ridiculing them. But mostly, he attacked the faith of his wife Paula. Only later did I discover the full extent of her suffering at his hands. But through it all, she continued trusting in the Lord and praying that He would change the heart of her husband.
When there were services in our home, Paula’s husband did not want her to meet with us since he would never allow her to meet with believers. He would often lock her in the house and not allow her to leave. He would only allow her to leave to go buy their groceries in order to prepare supper. When that happened, Paula would leave the home running and would buy the groceries as quickly as possible, and once she had done that, should then secretly came to the meetings in our home to sing and read Psalms and other portions of the Scriptures. She did all of this quickly and with fear that her husband would find out. Later, it made more sense to me why she arrived so nervous and left so quickly. For a long time, this sister suffered secretly.
The years passed and Paula’s husband did not change. He continued getting more and more consumed with drunkenness and gambling. Her husband would rip her Bible to pieces, raise his hand against her, and do many other terrible things. But through it all, nothing could take from her the treasure that she had in Christ. I had a great appreciation for this woman who was, in many ways, like a mother to me. She would always visit my home and tell me that she was praying for me. Despite all that she experienced, she never allowed her heart to become embittered.
Eventually, her husband became sick with lung cancer. His last days were very painful. In the midst of his terrible suffering, he called for Paula to come. He asked her to forgive him for the way he had treated her for so many years. With tears, he begged her to forgive him. He told her that he wanted a pastor to come and talk to him about the gospel. He wanted the peace that he had seen in her, but that he had never known. A pastor came from Sullana and preached to him before he died. According to his children who were present in the room at the time, in his last days, he expressed repentance toward God and faith in Christ.
Today, Paula is a widow with six adult children and many grandchildren. After her husband died, there was now nothing to keep her from serving the Lord and she became a very active member of our congregation. She has a very joyful spirit and she is passionate about evangelism. The Lord has given me the privilege of being her pastor, and often, her chauffeur bringing her to church or taking her to buy her groceries.
Sadly, several weeks ago she suffered a stroke. She is an older woman with little strength and a number of health problems. As her pastor, I have visited her and it’s sad to see her condition now. She’s permanently in a wheelchair, no longer able to walk because of her advanced arthritis. When she sees me, she is still very happy, but now she has severe pain owed to the stroke. She often feels like her eyes are burning. Still, she listens to me as I talk to her about the Word and she speaks to me, though with difficultly. When I visit her I pray with her, but what I love most is being able to listen to her pray. In the midst of her pain, she prays for me, giving thanks to God for me as her pastor and thanking God for my visit. In her prayers, she quotes Psalms of comfort. Her prayers manifest that she belongs to the Kingdom of Heaven. She is a woman whose faith has endured, even through immense suffering.