I laid out another batch of trim boards on the sawhorses and studied the stack I still had left to do, wondering if the pile was growing when my back was turned. At this rate, I'd never get done by the end of today. My sawhorses were set up along the edge of the church courtyard and people would pass and wave, sometimes stopping to talk, but when they realized I didn't understand Spanish they'd smile and move on.
While mulling over why I was on this mission's trip, thousands of miles from home, one of the church ladies came over, picked up a brush and said something, but I had no idea what. I flashed her my best smile and shrugged. “I'm sorry, I don't understand Spanish.”
She smiled, dipped the brush into the stain and began working. After a moment she put a hand on her chest and said, “Sonya.” Pointing to me she raised an eyebrow.
I might be slow at staining, but I caught on to her game fast. “Rebecca.”
Sonya raised her left hand and showed me her wedding band, then pointed to my own ring. We grinned at each other then, through a series of pantomimes, we discovered we both had three children and even their ages. Sonya's eyes were warm and glowing with joy that could only come from knowing Jesus and I marveled at the connection I felt with her, even though we could only communicate through mime. The silence that fell between us was comfortable, but it didn't last long—Sonya began humming as she worked.
Immediately I recognized the hymn “Trust and Obey” and knew she had given me the answer to my question. I was staining trim in a church courtyard where I was one of the few that didn't speak Spanish because God had told me to. It was about trusting and obeying God. Tears welled up and I blinked fast to keep them contained. Sonya noticed and gave my hand a squeeze as she continued humming.
Clearing my throat I joined her on the chorus. “Trust and obey for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” We sang the rest of the song together, Sonya singing a line in Spanish then I'd sing in English. We finished the song together, laughing at how we sounded, but pleased we'd found another way to connect.
I wrapped my arm around her shoulders for a squeeze. “Thank you!” I knew Sonya wouldn't understand me, but hoped she'd hear my heart. “Before you started helping me stain the trim I was feeling sorry for myself, wondering why I had come here, to a place where I couldn't even communicate. I thought that God could've used me more at home, or at least someplace where they speak English--but now I see that my being here is about me trusting and obeying Him. He'll take care of the rest. Thank you for reminding me of that.”
After a few moments of quietly working Sonya began talking to me, much as I had to her. Even though I didn't understand her words, I understood her tears and her heart, and I hurt with her.
The missionaries' daughter passed by and Sonya called her over to translate. “Her husband is an elder and feels God's calling him into the mission's camp ministry, but he's struggling. His family is also giving him a hard time. It's hard for Sonya, too...”
Our translator was called away, but Sonya continued on, finally wiping her tears and smiling. After another hug I dug in my backpack for my Bible. I turned to Ephesians and showed her. Her eyes lit up and she ran for own her Bible.
With much laughter we got both Bibles to the same place and I pointed to Ephesians 1:15-19 in her Bible, hoping she'd understand I'd be praying those verses for her. With more tears Sonya hugged me then turned a page and pointed. I didn't need my Bible for that one.
“Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”*
Sonya beamed a smile at me. “Hermanas,” she said as she pointed first to herself and then to me.
Somehow, I remembered that word. “Sisters.”
*Galatians 6:2 (New American Standard Bible)
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