Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: NEIGHBOR (06/01/17)
- TITLE: A Pot, A Blender, A Prayer
By Lynda Schultz
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One of those sunny souls, María Jesús, came to the occasional ladies’ craft class held in the apartment complex we both lived in. Since we lived next door to each other, she would pop in for a chat and sometimes stay for coffee. Her husband, Braulio Sr., was friendly, but not quite so ready to embrace us since “religion” wasn’t his thing. Braulio and María Jesús were close friends with our landlords, who had once lived in the apartment, but had opted to move out of Caracas to a farm they owned in Mérida.
Then our team got permission to use the party room in the complex for our Sunday services. Gradually the atmosphere grew chilly and María Jesús began to distance herself. Soon it come to my attention that she was lobbying to have the party room denied to us. I also heard, via an amazing grapevine that operated all too effectively among the three buildings in the complex, that she had contacted our landlords and was “encouraging” them to evict us from the apartment. Next door became a Siberia when it came to the frostiness of the relationship.
And then the unthinkable happened. Braulio Jr., María Jesús's only child, was coming home from university one afternoon. The car he was riding in was involved in an accident on the freeway. He was rushed to the hospital with multiple injuries, the worst of which left him in an irreversible coma. There are no long-term care facilities in Caracas and once the doctors had done everything they could, the hospital would not keep him. His parents brought Braulio home. Home care services being basically non-existent, María Jesús and Braulio Sr. learned everything about his needs that was possible and took over his nursing care. María Jesús took the day shift, her husband took over at night.
I often found her crying in the stairwell outside our apartments. Suddenly the matter of the party room was not the biggest issue in her life—or whether missionaries lived next door. She couldn’t talk to her husband about what she was suffering. He was convinced that his son would recover. María Jesús knew, in that inner place where only mothers enter, that Braulio was going to die. Neither could share feelings with the other without increasing the tension in a situation in which more tension seemed inconceivable.
Their workload was exhausting.
I wondered how I could help. They were feeding Braulio through a tube into his stomach. María Jesús prepared and liquefied everything that he was given so I volunteered to do that for her. Once a week I would take containers with seven days of meals next door for his mother to freeze. It wasn’t long before she invited me in for coffee while she unburdened herself.
For a while after the accident friends and family constantly come and went from the apartment. But inevitably people moved on with their lives and no one came to visit—except me.
The day came when Braulio Sr. sat down to have coffee with both of us. We would talk about God, and though we were often not on the same “page” where spiritual things were concerned, they allowed me to pray with them, and for them.
The day also came when María Jesús said to me, “I now know who my real friends are.” Braulio mentioned several times that God would be sure to let me into heaven because of my good deeds—despite my gently telling him that my presence there was already guaranteed, as his could be, through faith in what Christ had already done!
When Braulio died, almost thirteen months after the crash, I was the first person María Jesús told. I can’t say that what we talked about in those conversations in the kitchen next door made an eternal difference for María Jesús, or her husband. Time and circumstance separated us shortly after Braulio’s funeral. But the seed to which only God gives life was planted.
But one thing I have learned through the experience is this: A simple, and sometimes of necessity, persistent act of kindness with no strings attached, often ends with surprising results. The tools, even a soup pot and a blender, can become instruments in the Master’s hands as we reach out to those close at hand, or far away.
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