Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Very Inspiring Woman

Juana, who is nearly 70 years old, and has never been to school. Yet, just in the past four years she has learned to both read and write as she has studied the Bible in the classes I teach in Ensenada. She is a very special person and hers is a very exceptional occurrence, but she’s not totally unique because other women, who didn’t read and write or barely did, also learned to enhance their skills during these study sessions. Juana couldn’t do more than put her ‘x’ on important papers and her husband had to sign her name for her when a real signature was needed. She lived in embarrassment and shame due to her lack of education. Juana is from a group of what is often called, ‘mountain people.’ Women there don’t need to know things like reading and writing, because there isn’t any reason for them to know such things.

I have seen this idea in other Mexican subcultures; in fact, some men from these types of villages don’t believe that women should ever read the Bible and that they can’t even be baptized. Of course, they can read the Bible and they can be baptized, the Bible mentions women being baptized and even states that men and women were baptized, Acts 8:12.

Juana was denied a basic education, simply because she was a woman from a village community in the south of Mexico and grew up during a time, when women were not educated, nor encouraged to learn on their own. How sad. But, God had other plans for Juana.

About six years ago, on an evangelistic and church planting trip to Taxco, Iguala and Paintla, I met this interesting mountain family. Their pastor died the day I got there so the family and the tiny church were looking for guidance, help and comfort. After spending two weeks with these people and listening to them and praying to the Lord, I decided to bring them up to Ensenada so that they could join the Bible school and learn more about God, study the Bible at the school and then come back and pastor the burgeoning church.

Let me tell you, that Juana is an exemplary student. Her desire to learn and know the Bible is amazing. Remember, she didn’t know how to read and write, which at first required a lot of extra work to help her gain knowledge from her Bible. But, little by little, slowly reading page by page and forming letter by misshapen letter, she struggled ever onward. With Bible pages flying, scribbling out marks and squiggles on wide ruled school paper, she always got all her in-class and homework done. Her husband helped her a lot in the beginning. He could write and lent a hand with spelling and was patient with her.

Week by week, month by month then year by year, time passed and her ability got much better. All along I could see something exciting happening within her heart and mind, of course, only God could see what was stirring in her spirit and soul. But it was obvious she was growing by leaps and bounds, Philippians 1:6.

Now, let me tell you some thing, no one is like Juana, she loves the book of John and is always asking me for extra studies on the book. She, who once didn’t know how to read and write, now seeks to memorize scripture, study the deeper things of God’s Word and she loves to share her personal experiences with others at the school and in other churches. She loves to go to women’s retreats to tell her testimony and let others know that hope is a real thing and that God answers prayers. She had always wanted to read and write, and she had always wanted to know what the Bible says for herself and now, she does, 2 Timothy 2:15.

In this photo, Juana, due to her adept ability to memorize Bible verses was presented with her very own Rainbow Study Bible in Spanish, which is a vital tool for her future spiritual growth and education. When I go to pick her up for school I often find her sitting outside, after working hard all day long washing clothes by hand, washing dishes in a tub and scrubbing floors on her polio-bent knees, reading her Bible with pencil and paper, marking down things that she wants to memorize.

Juana is not unique, but she is an inspiration to me and hopefully to you, too. Couldn’t we all do more to know learn about our Lord and Savior? I can tell that she’s motivated and inspired, and that, I hope, will be encouraging and contagious. Amen.

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