It was another busy morning, beginning with a 9 AM visit to a second escuela de lenguaje on behalf of our son and proceeding to a fourth department store (so far this week) in search for school uniforms. It was 9:40 when I arrived at the latter and the sign on the front door indicated opening time at 10:15. I opted to roll down the car windows and begin filling out paperwork for the school I had just visited. A few minutes later, I heard a voice at the passenger door.
A neatly dressed older woman was inquiring when the store would open. I responded politely and turned my attention back to my papers, but a little nudge inside prompted me to ask if she'd like to sit down in the empty passenger seat of the car while she waited. I was afraid she would think it an odd request and so I hesitated, wrestling a bit in my mind. Finally I asked and she agreed after only a brief thought.
Sra. Alicia turned out to be a charming and talkative companion. She told me her life story, including being married at age 14 and having four children only to be widowed at 28 years old ... then marrying again at the age of 36 to a 19-year old man who has been her faithful husband, best friend and wonderful dad to her (now adult) kids for 35 years! She shared how her daughter, too, was widowed at 28 with four children and that she and her daughter now work together a local high school. Her daughter runs a snack shop, and Sra. Alicia delivers hot lunch to teachers and some students whose parents hire her to do so.
Somehow our conversation turned to religion and she told me how at nine years old she became disillusioned with the Catholic church when a priest asked her a question inappropriate to her age. She never took first communion and lied when asked by the priest who would later marry her and her first husband (a staunch Catholic.) Over the years she has studied with different "teachers" who visit her home and provide materials (ie., Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.) but she refuses to ever go to church again. "There is just one God for all of us" no matter our religion is her belief, but she faithfully reads her Bible and talks to God and loves "Jesus' family," as she put it.
Sra. Alicia laughed when she told me the local priest has threatened her with ex-communication because she informed him that nowhere in the Bible does it teach that priests must only be married to God; and she was proud of the fact that at the La Tirana church and shrine she chastised the merchant and priest inside the church for selling holy water and graven images inside God's house. "Jesus would throw them out like He did the money changers in His day!" she insisted.
She was such a chatterbox, it was hard to get a word in edgewise. It wasn't just any word that I wanted to say; I wanted to share THE Word. As I often do, I felt inadequate to know how to break into her dialogue with the beautiful truth of the gospel. At one point she mentioned marriage and I was able to interject the picture it is of Christ and His Church, those who have asked forgiveness of sins and accepted Him as Savior. At another point I handed her an invitation to our church, explaining that although I know she doesn't go to church anymore this had some Scripture printed on it and she does read her Bible and can look it up at home.
Our conversation ended as the doors to the store opened, and I did not see her again. I will pray that God speaks to her heart through His Word and that maybe she will even consider visiting our church after all. It was a reminder to me of 1 Peter 3:15, to "be ready always to give an answer" - in this case, to any woman "who asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you."