Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Encouragement (02/23/12)
TITLE: FROM PRISON TO PARADISE
By Dolores Stohler
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He led her into the darkest prisons of Mexico and throughout the rest of Latin America. Prison guards would laugh and mock her good intent but she always shouldered on. If Esther were Catholic, she might have been canonized and recognized by the world in which she lived. But, being a protestant of no particular denomination, her message of hope and salvation went largely unnoticed by the rest of the world. With a cheerful heart and a smile to brighten the darkest dungeon, she entered the hellholes of the world handing out Bibles and pointing the way to Paradise.
Her only possession was a small suitcase containing a few changes of clothing and as many Bibles as she was able to carry without breaking her back. She slept in places that no tourist would find comfortable. When temperatures soared into the hundreds in Mexico or Guatemala and she sweltered in her little cubicle of a room, she would fall to dreaming. She dreamt of exploring the fjords of Norway holding a silver cup and sipping water from the springs of Heaven.
When winter gripped the tropics and Esther laid freezing under a too-thin blanket in the lofty heights of the Andes, she imagined herself in a cozy cabin in the Adirondacks, nestled beneath a comforter with logs ablaze in the fireplace. With her vivid imagination, she could be anywhere she wanted to be in the whole wide world of oceans, plains and palaces.
When dawn painted the sky, however, she went where her mile-high heart told her she was desperately needed. She was a friend of the poor as well as the prisoner. And very often the prison cells were small and dirty, smelling of sweat and vermin and all sorts of vile things. Scowls of suspicion would great her as she opened her Bible with an air of unconcern and began to read from the first chapter of John. She continued as long as the prisoners would listen. And she would remain standing, answering questions in her fluent Spanish, often not leaving until she was literally thrown out of the prison. But she never allowed herself to become discouraged.
Esther once told me about a time when she entered a prison in Mexico with a bag of cookies in her hand and was led by the guard into a dining room swollen with inmates. On a whim, she offered cookies to a few men standing nearby and was soon surrounded by a mob of men with outstretched hands begging cookies. The cookies vanished quickly and she held the empty bag aloft to show the men that it was empty. But they only pressed closer, threatening to knock her down. Silently she prayed, petitioning God for a rescue.
“Lower your arm,” whispered a voice in her head.
The bag began took on weight as Esther lowered her arm and soon she was handing out cookies to whoever pressed in. The cookies kept reappearing until all had been satisfied and, when Esther left the prison, the bag was still full. I regret that I can’t remember all the stories she told but there were miracles of healing and redemption, enough to fill a book. Esther would never write that book. She was too busy saving souls.
I write this in her memory, the bravest and most inspiring person I have ever known. Her real name wasn’t Esther but she would wish to remain anonymous since fame had no appeal to her. I choose to call her Esther after a woman of the Bible as courageous as she.
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