Surprised by Joy
by Jaimie Lancaster
Cristina was concerned. She told me her mother had been attending church and had recently “got saved.” That was the reason for her phone call and the invitation to visit her ranch. She wanted us to investigate the church, to make sure it was not among the many fringe groups so plentiful in Uruguay and Brazil.
Cristina was perplexed. We arrived at the sprawling ranch house with its tree-lined drive. We felt as though we were driving onto a movie set. Her grandfather had constructed the two-story ranch house. When he built the house, the cattle slept on the first level in the winter and the family on the second. The body heat of the animals helped warm the house. Thankfully, they stopped that practice long before our visit.
After the cultural niceties and greetings, Cristina shared her bewilderment. It seemed that since her mother accepted Christ as her Savior, she had changed. And that bothered Cristina, because it was so unlike her mother. The worrying, stern mother had become a happy, trusting woman. When one of her brothers sold his portion of the family property because of debts,
Cristina’s mother just said, “Oh well, God has a plan and will take care of him.”
This attitude and her mother’s newfound, consistent joy were foreign to Cristina. She wondered if maybe she could experience this joy too. Tammy left behind a Gospel of John and the book More than a Carpenter, and we said goodbye.
Cristina’s mom really was changed. We visited her, and her face beamed with the message that she had found the “good news!” She shared her testimony with us, telling us about the wondrous work the Lord had done in her life. “It was like a heavy load had been lifted from my shoulders!” she exclaimed.
She knew what she was talking about. Living in the country all her life, she had carried many a heavy load. Afterward, she remarked that Cristina needed this life-changing experience, and she desired to see her daughter saved. We left the meeting almost as excited as Cristina’s mother.
Cristina was searching. About six months later, John William sent a CD to Cristina’s son, his best friend. When she arrived to pick it up, she mentioned that she had read the books and would like to be involved in Tammy’s Bible study. An obstacle loomed: her schedule and the Bible study schedule weren’t a good fit. Tammy offered to meet with her individually. The first week, Tammy prepared the study and Cristina didn’t show. The second week, Tammy prepared the study with the same results. On the third week, however, Cristina showed up late (as is the custom) and they shared their first Bible study. Tammy fielded many questions from Cristina, who had grown up Catholic and experimented with eastern religions. In her search, Cristina had never really found the peace she was looking for.
Cristina was honest and open. After two Bible studies, they discussed God’s forgiveness. Cristina talked about how hard it was to forgive someone who had hurt you very badly. She then went on to tell a very personal story of how she had been wounded deeply. Tammy shared from her own life experience, explaining how she had forgiven someone who caused hurt in her life and the peace that resulted. The stage was set, and Cristina asked the key question: “How could you do that?” The discussion turned to the example of Jesus, His sacrifice for us, and God’s love that sent Him to die. Cristina looked Tammy in the eye and said, “I want that peace!”
Cristina understands. She bowed her head, and with tears in her eyes, this strong, independent, woman acknowledged her position as a sinner in need of salvation, prayed, and received Christ in her heart.
When I came to say goodbye to her that day, Tammy and Cristina were smiling from ear to ear.
Cristina said she finally understands why her mom is so happy and the joy she must feel, because she is experiencing happiness, joy, and peace as well. She left the house with a new Bible and a discipleship study, and without the burden she had been carrying for so long. The person who had hurt her had been forgiven.
More importantly, Cristina had been forgiven. She hurried home to tell her mother the good news and to share her newfound joy with her brother who is an atheist. Maybe he too will find himself surprised by joy!
About the Writer: Jaimie Lancaster and his wife Tammy are missionaries to the city of Montevideo, Uruguay. Jaimie works with youth at Nueva Vida, a downtown church.