Yolanda

September 15th, 2015

I began crying as our eyes met. She opened her heart and shared her story to a group of strangers standing in the sweltering Mexican sun. She stood outside of her one room apartment, humble and vulnerable, weak and poor; she showed us the abundance of giving out of nothing. We marveled at her faith and saw a glimpse of the Kingdom – a kingdom that includes this unknown place and unknown woman. The widow’s mite was no longer just a story in the Bible; it was a reality we were witnessing before our eyes.

I recently had the privilege of helping lead a short-term missions team in Acuña, Mexico. We worked with an organization called Casas por Cristo, and built a house for the Betancourt family in just under four days. On the morning of the house dedication, a small group of us went to the house of a woman who started a feeding program in her neighborhood. We picked her up in our white 15-passenger van, drove her to the supermercado, walked the aisles with her as she picked up hot dogs, buns, tomatoes, and onions. She knew we had come to help her shop and pay for the groceries, and asked how much she could get. I told her to get all that she wanted and shop extravagantly. Her extravagance was mere modesty, but she was pleased and very thankful. We drove her back to her apartment and left her with her daughter-in-law to cook and prepare the meal for the 30 or 40 kids that would shortly be walking through her door. The five of us drove back to the worksite to pick up the rest of the group before returning to the apartment to help serve the food and hang out with the kids. We brought balloons, soccer balls and willing hands ready to assist and play.

Yolanda was her name, a name unknown to most of Acuña, and a name certainly unknown to the world, yet a name that is precious and known by the One who created her. Yolanda’s backyard was a collage of brightly colored hand prints and names. The kids were singing “Father Abraham”; voices of those who live in poverty, innocent voices that sing sweet praise, voices that proclaim prosperity in the midst of scarcity. Their voices bounced off the cement walls and echoed in the chambers of our hearts.

On Yolanda’s front door was a sign that said, “My confidence is in the Lord.” The Israelites, while slaves in Egypt, smothered the blood of a spotless lamb on their door so that the angel of death might pass over. And Deuteronomy says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart…You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (6:4-5,9). Yolanda’s faith is also proclaimed on her doorpost, and as you walk into her house and smell the feast that is being prepared and hear the joyful voices singing, you witness a faith that is not just being announced – you witness a faith that is obediently being lived.

Indeed the Lord’s command is written on her heart.

Obedience in the Lord is not drudgery. Obedience is love made manifest. Obedience is joy exposed. Obedience does not count the cost but seeks the promised reward. Obedience wells up and overflows from the realization that one is covered in the righteousness of Christ, saved by grace and not of her own doing so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Obedience bows down to freedom in reverence and lives in reckless abandon to the One who set her free. Obedience is being His workmanship, “…created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Obedience is living into who we were created to be and what we were created to do.

The Lord has given us commands, to love him above all else and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). Jesus goes on to say that “on these two commandments depend all the Law and Prophets” (Matthew 22:40). If one abides in the Lord, they will be about the things of the Lord; loving the Lord’s holiness, righteousness and grace, and serving others as fellow image bearers of the Loving, Holy and Righteous One. In the giving of such commands, the Lord is not seeking to constrain His people or bear on them wearisome burdens. In giving them, He is revealing His character and His desire for those who belong to Him. Obedience then is living in humble submission to the pleasures of God; the things that delight Him and reveal Him. An obedient life is living in the beauty of the eternal.

There stood Yolanda, small in stature but grand in presence. With her worn hands, hands whose wrinkles testify to her persevering and generous spirit, she told us her story. It is not a story of ease, but of change, sickness, hope and desire. She moved to Acuña for reasons unknown to me, battling cancer, and when she arrived she had this fervent yearning to do something. She said she was retired and had nothing to do. She didn’t want to sit around, comfortable in complacency. She couldn’t stand the thought of doing nothing, especially when everything had been done for her by her Lord. Time is not to be wasted, she said, it is meant to be shared and given away. And so she found a need right in her backyard and she went to work meeting that need. She told us she sells homemade flower arrangements and piñatas to make enough money to buy the food to serve to the neighborhood kids. And she takes public transportation to and from the market to purchase the food. Her obedience is not convenient, but transcendent love requires inconvenient obedience.

All that flowed from Yolanda’s mouth were words of praise and gratitude, recounting the many ways she has been blessed. Blessed in the midst of cancer, blessed in cancer’s disappearance, blessed in her simple surroundings, blessed serving the least of these. She is the most ordinary of women, and she is the most extraordinary of servants. Having nothing, yet possessing everything (2 Cor. 6:10).

Yolanda embraced me tightly, tears in her eyes and in mine, and as she peered through the gateway of my eyes into into the depths of my soul, she said over and over again, “God is good, He is so very good.” As a sister in Christ, she knew and felt my unspoken suffering and met me in it. Within her grasp, how could I not look back into her eyes and declare that indeed the Lord is good. In the life and example of such a saint I was encouraged beyond measure. Yolanda, through her devotion, tenderness, and unwavering obedience pointed us all towards the unchanging One who even now in meekness meets the bent reed yet does not break it and in power parts the raging sea.

 

This article is written by Executive Director, Brittany Grider, and is taken from her blog “rugged hope: stories from the wilderness”. If you would like to read more, please visit ruggedhope.com.

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