Tuesday, July 7, 2009

And It Is So ...

I listened with a knowing ear - - the one that's heard these stories time and again. I never tire of them, and rarely are they shared that I don't weep as if hearing something new and profound for the very first time. They are the stuff of breathlessness.
His name doesn't matter, but let's call him Arturo. His story spans many years and a good many detours that had taken him along the dark back roads of gang life among Arizona's Hispanic communities. It's a world unfamiliar to most of us; a world of drugs and guns, blood feuds and violence.
For many years Arturo's young wife, a Christ-follower, encouraged him to join her at church. He couldn't be bothered. His gang was both church and family to him, and he would have no part of God talk. Even after the addition of children to their lives, Arturo could see little reason to attend church.
He had become such a feared and revered gang member that even his own family - mother & father, siblings - had severed their ties to him. He'd seen none of them for nearly eight years.

Arturo's wife never gave up hope. She clung to her Lord, to His word, and to the community of believers that shared her heart's cry in prayer.
Eventually Arturo relented, agreeing to attend church for the sake of the children, but having put his wife on notice: he'd have no part in all that church stuff; stuff like Bible studies or praying. He wasn't about to become some fanatical Christian.
She made no demands, grateful for the small steps that brought her husband to a place of worship, a place of hearing God's truth spoken.
Little-by-little seeds were sown into Arturo's heart. A small crop began to sprout. In time, he decided he wanted Christ as his Savior. Some weeks later he asked to be baptized.
Before long, he and his wife had joined a small group (aka a home team, or cell) - a gang of believers - where they were establishing friendships and learning more about God's word and ways.
A few weeks following his baptism, pastor was listening to Arturo speak of his former days as a powerful gang member. Pastor asked him: So when did you actually leave your gang affiliations?
Without hesitation Arturo responded: The day of my baptism.
Pastor was incredulous, wondering how it had gone in recent months with Arturo now having so many enemies among the people he once called friends.
Arturo shared how they still called him, both to encourage him to share in planned violence, or to threaten him for his seeming betrayal. He would tell them: You don't understand. You were once my family; now this church is my family. I cannot return to you, but you can come here to me, to Jesus.
And then Arturo began to elaborate on the terrible turn his life had taken just since his decision to follow Christ; to leave the gangs. He had no income, no job. He couldn't make his house payment or his car payment. They were running out of food and had, in fact, fed their children stale cupcakes for breakfast but a few short weeks ago.
With tear filled eyes he went on and told about the many prayers spoken on his behalf by his small group, and about the night he decided he would pray aloud himself. He described the incredible fear that gripped him that night; the shame-filled inadequacy that rushed in to rob him of sensibility. He could barely pray so fearful was he. All he could say was: God, I want my family back.
By now Arturo was sobbing; the listening pastor too.
Arturo lifted his eyes, took a long, deep breath and went on.
The next day; the VERY NEXT day, a large van pulled into my driveway, followed by several cars. Out poured my mother and father, my sisters and their husbands, the cousins. Within a few moments my home was filled with some 30 relatives I'd not seen in eight years, and who had no idea of my prayer the night before. They had heard of my change. They came with a van-load of food and household items. They paid my rent for six months and stood alongside us until we could stand alone.
And it is so ... yet another of the stories - the miraculous - that sweeps us away in tears. Yet another bit of evidence that embodies all a small fraction of what is good about God, proving again and again that He always, always, always leaves ripples in His wake. Amazing, sometimes "coincidental", always life-changing, miraculous ripples!
This is a true story. It could be told of people in your church or your neighborhood. It just so happened to be lived out by the former gang member Arturo who has thrust himself into God's arms here in my church. It is my pastor that wept alongside him, and one of our small groups that surrounded him with love and prayer long before he ever stepped one foot into a church setting. This is Arturo's story. More importantly: this is God's story. Another one. And it is so ...


Robin @ Be Still and Know said...

From the mother of one who is running from the Lord, I thank you for this reminder that no matter who or what the situation God never turns away from those who run from him. He patiently waits for all to bend there own knee in repentance and accept for themselves the salvation and joy that comes in a life turned over to Christ!

Thank you for that powerful reminder!


Runner Mom said...

Oh, how beautiful the Body of Christ! I love this--thank you for sharing it today. God is so good.


Alleluiabelle said...

My Dear Friend,

I am so deeply touched by this amazing story and life-changing transformation that happened with this man. No, we never give up. We will always uplift our prayers for all and all will be accomplished in His timing no matter how long it may take.

Love this post. Love the Lord. Love you! Thank you for an amazing testimony.

Blessings & Hugs,

Beth E. said...

Weeping tears of joy, praising GOD for Arturo's salvation! What a wonderful testimony.

a portland granny said...

What a marvelous story of hope, of transformation, of prayers answered, and above all, God's goodness.

Recently Godly friends of mine, had their prayers of thirty years answered when their son accepted the Lord. Even tho raised in a Christian home, its as if it is all new to him--He is constantly calling his parents, or one of his sibs, exclaiming over something he has discovered in the Word!!

Isn't God good? I think Arturo was blessed to be placed in your church body--wonderful story--thanks for sharing it in your own writing style which so speaks to my heart!

"Just Me - NC Beth" said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful and amazing story...the power of prayer, and never giving up....

What an awesome God we serve!!


christy rose said...

This is a great testimony! You wrote it beautifully!

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh wow--you made me cry. What a blessing to share with others. You did write this perfectly and I was amazed how his family came and supported him. Amen!!

~*Michelle*~ said...

Oh wow! What an amazing story!

Happy tears streaming down for this testimony of our Faithful Father!!!

LisaShaw said...

My heart is so humbled by this as I cry and weep for those who yet to know Him....

and I rejoice for those like Arturo who have come to know Him. Like you Kathleen and myself and others we know. Our stories are all different but each one of us has seen and continues to see the imprint of GOD's love and grace on our lives.

I have to post your link on my Facebook to share this. I read as I listened to your video above.

The two go perfectly together.

Love you.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

The greatest miracles ever done in our generation is the miracle of a changed heart and life! Please let Arturo know he stands as a witness to the power of God's grace and mercy.

What a powerful transformation!