I feel compelled. I met so many people, real people, this past summer whose stories blew my mind, rock my system of thinking, and gave me new eyes of understanding of broken, outcast people. So much so, that I honestly couldn’t talk about it much in the following weeks. I felt I really couldn’t communicate the amount of impact their stories had in my heart and life, nor could I fully explain what I saw and heard. There is no box I can place them in, and neither shall I try.
But I must tell their stories. I know that I met them on purpose, for a reason beyond my finite understanding. I have decided to change their names since this in published on the web. I didn’t want to because I felt that their name for me was emotionally and intricately tied to who they are and what they represent, but for sensitive reasons and love, I will adapt.
May these Real Lives open your eyes that there are real people around your real life every day. This is not specific to Betel. When Jesus by example served the broken and outcast of this world, He did so knowing that each one of us will have the opportunity to live as He did. If only we were aware. If only we opened our eyes.
Vina was one of the first people I met upon arrival in Spain. Her appearance: eclectic. worn. haggard. Her body: abused. tattooed. thin. Her clothing style was, shall we say, gypsy-european. Perhaps a bit Bohemian. She often wore gaucho-type pants, printed shirt, sandals, and always with a pair of flashy sunglasses, usually leopard print or glamorous faux-diamond. Vina did not speak English, yet we had a unique connection. From the beginning, my Spanish was a roller coaster experience and I really struggled with communication. Certain people I could understand more than others. Most people could not understand me at all. Yet Vina always understood me and would clarify my broken Spanish to the other women to help them understand. She was smart and quick witted. Always kind and patient.
She loved Jesus—yes, that was obvious. When I watched her worship in church, she was oblivious to everyone else. It was as if she were pleading with God to come down and fill her. Her spirit was always eager to learn, her actions always filled with love and compassion, her mind always yearning for more knowledge.
I remember just 1-2 days after arriving in Madrid we were sitting outside the house in the garden (comparable to a front yard), and Vina just started telling me about how she came to Betel and how Jesus had changed her heart. I didn’t understand everything, yet… I got it. Her expressions, her emotions, her spirit—it rang true in my heart. She said, He is my Savior and I live for Him. She loved talking about her God, about her new life.
Vina was so beautiful to me. Her scars were simply grace-lines forever imprinted on her skin. Yet, she also seemed somewhat sad. Or perhaps, weighted down. Sometimes I would see her sitting by herself in the living room, and there was just a sad presence about her. No, not despair. Just, constant struggle. Like a heavy burden. I wanted to help, yet in many ways, I couldn’t. The effects of her past had taken their toll on her, and physically and emotionally she constantly struggled. I could see it. I would sometimes ask, Como estas, guapa? How are you, beautiful? She would usually reply in a way that let me know that she was struggling, yet some Truth was always present. Something bigger than her pain that gave her the strength and assurance to press on.
Vina is HIV positive. She also has several forms of Hepatitis, along with a long list of other medical issues. Everyday is a trial for her. What thoughts must go through her mind: How much more can I take of this pain? Will I develop AIDS? How can I afford medical treatment? I am really tired right now; maybe I’m contracting a new virus. Do I need to go to the hospital? How long will I live? God did forgive me, didn’t He? I know my past and its rebellion is nailed to the cross… yet I still feel it in my body, and will feel it for the rest of my life. Can not God heal? Why has He not healed me? He’s good…I don’t understand…but I know He’s good.
Always loving, always giving. I felt shallow when I observed her. What a beautiful woman. I love Vina. She has a special place in my heart—I connected with her in a way I didn’t with anyone else in Madrid. I wish I could’ve told her that.
I don’t know when I’ll see her again. I hope she is well, yet I know…
man, I hate sin. So destructive. damaging.
Oh but what an example of the hope of Christ, in the Gospel! A tyrant living in outright rebellion against the Creator, now worshipping Him with the hands once used to destroy her body. This is what made me awe-struck and I know I’ll never be the same. Do you know a Vina in your life? Go find one. It’ll change your life too.