International Ministries

The Unexpected

January 20, 2004 Journal
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In our work here we have been immersed in the most difficult situations, and sometimes it is hard to see if the counseling or the workshops that we are giving will have any positive results.Our clients include people who have been through the toughest trials and seem to have little hope of finding a way out.There are days that we wring our hands, and pull out our hair, wondering if we can be of any help at all.

I'm not sure if you know what I mean or can identify with what I am saying, I really hope not, but I have felt on many occasions the need to know if what I do is making a difference in the lives of those I hope to serve.But all too often, as we are dealing with patterns of violence, aggression, and low self-esteem, complicated by the severe poverty in which our clients live, the process of change is imperceptibly slow.And as I ask, "Is this where I am supposed to be?" the answer doesn't always come when I need to hear it.

I have been invited on several occasions to give workshops on the US side of the border, in Southern California, to groups of Hispanic Baptist women who are interested in our ministry, and who struggle with the same problems that inspired the women of Baja California to begin Deborah's House.It is wonderful that they have organized several events around the theme of domestic violence and the family, and I have been honored to participate.

After my workshop at the most recent conference in the LA area, I was asked if I could do several hours of individual counseling for those women who wanted it.It was only after my 3 hour workshop and several more hours of counseling that I finally had a chance to sit down and eat lunch, which a couple of the women had saved for me, and which I tried to eat quickly so as not to miss the evening worship session.It was as I was eating that I noticed a young woman nervously moving around me, paying close attention.She obviously wanted to tell me something, but was embarrassed to say anything.Not being quite able to enjoy my meal with her staring at me, I asked if there was something I could help her with.

"Could I have my picture taken with you?" she asked, and then quickly added that she could wait till I was done.I was honored by this request and thought hard if this was someone I knew, or should know, but couldn't remember her from anywhere.I immediately answered that we could take this picture right away.We asked someone to snap the photo, and after it was taken, I thanked the young woman for her interest and returned to the desk where my food was waiting.

But she didn't go away.She still hovered around me, again anxious to tell me something but without quite enough courage to say it.So again I asked if there was something more she needed.She spoke nervously and had to choke back her tears as she told me words most unexpected, and words I shall never forget. She said that she needed to let me know why she wanted so badly to have her picture taken with me. "Someday, when my two year old son is old enough, I am going to show him your picture so that he will know the woman who saved his life."

She went on to explain how she was at the conference the year before and had the opportunity to hear me talk about child abuse and domestic violence.How she had before then, as a single parent, taken all of her frustrations out on her son and, in many occasions, had beaten him with a belt to the point that his skin opened up and he bled.She had no idea how to parent him, and without the presence of a man in the family, thought she needed to beat him so that he would learn respect.But something in the words that I had spoken to her a year before caught her attention and she changed.She told me that she had made a promise to God that very night, on her knees, that she would never lay a hand on him out of anger again.And now a year later, she wept as she told me that she has kept her promise.

I suppose that when she went to that conference a year before she never expected to be confronted with something that would change her life and that of her son.But I thank God that she did, and that God allowed me to be a part of the change.

I know that as I saw this young woman hovering around my table, I never expected that she was going to tell me something that would affect my life as greatly as it did..But I thank God for her and for God's answer for me through her words in this most unexpected way.

Adalia Gutiérrez Lee