She didn’t have a hallway. She had a one room clay house, with a tin roof to cover her head and cover her family for shelter. There were rust holes in the tin that allowed the rain to pour in, making mud in the middle of her dirt floor during the rainy season. A PVC pipe collected the rain outside into a cement wash sink. She was able to use the rain water on the days that she was unable to make the long walk to the river for water. A clay stove sitting in the corner of her home, with the one pot she owned sitting on top, ready to boil beans and rice for her family.
I’ll never forget the day I met her. Our mission team had arrived in Honduras, ready to serve. Ready to pour out love to others. That is what we always think we are there for. To pour out love. And we are. But the truth is, I have received so much more love on those mission trips then I am ever able to pour out. Somehow God fills my cup in such a way by the people that I meet, that I am able to pour his love back out to others in unbelievable ways— an overflowing cup.
There she was. This beautiful, hard working woman. She stood by the outdoor cement wash sink she had, washing her children’s clothes with the dirty rain water she had collected. It was all she had. That was why our team was there— to drill a well. But I knew in that moment that we were there for her. We were there for so much more than just to drill a well and provide clean water for this community in need. We were there to introduce her to the love of Jesus in a way that she had never felt or experienced before.
We sat down- ready to share the gospel and ready to share our own stories of hurt, abuse, and loss of hope. I wasn’t sure what to say. I didn’t speak a single word of Spanish, and I knew she didn’t speak a single word of English. The translator would have to be the bridge between us somehow. I opened my bible to a story I love. The woman at the well. I began to read the bible verses to the group of women who had all gathered around us under the big tree that provided shade for us from the bewildering heat of the afternoon sun.
“Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
I looked up from my bible. The translator had gotten the message across to the women, as so it seemed. I went on to read the rest of the chapter, where it talks about how Jesus knows the sins of this woman. He knows everything about her life, and in amazement she runs into town to proclaim who he is. He has given her a chance at the Living Water. Given her a chance to no longer need to search out something else to quench her thirst. He gave her eternal life. Because of this she went in to town, sharing the good news of Jesus and proclaiming him as the messiah.
What I so badly needed the women sitting in front of me to know, is that they had an opportunity, just like this Samaritan woman, to accept Jesus into their lives. As we looked into their eyes, we could see that so many of them badly wanted that. They desperately wanted to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. To know this man who takes away the sins of the world and offers springs of water, welling up to eternal life.
And as I looked up from my bible, there she sat. Not much older than I. The woman I had met, who had been washing her children’s clothes with the rain water. Her eyes looked down at the ground, as tears began to form in them. I knew that look. It was the look of shame. It was the same look I had had before as I came before Jesus— a sinner who felt unworthy of his love. I knew that feeling deep within my own soul all too well.
Our mission team of women sat by her, using the translator to help bridge us together. She explained to us that she didn’t feel worthy of the love of Jesus. She had gotten married at the age of 14, to a man who was 42 (common in many developing countries). A gang had recently come into her community and burned the one room home that she had. It fell to a pile of ashes on the ground. And as this gang burned her home— as she watched every item she owned go up in flames— the gang members repeatedly raped her. Over and over they violated her. Once her husband found out, he told her that she was trash. He told her she was nothing. Instead of being mad at the gang members who had done that to her, her husband was mad at her for allowing it to happen. Her punishment was that he raped her every day. Over and over. Day after day he abused her and used her in ways that made me sick to my stomach to think about.
The group of women— both missionaries and the women in the community, sat around her and just cried with her. We asked her why she didn’t leave. With her eyes filled with tears, and shame covering her face, she looked at us and said, “I dropped out of school at an early age. I don’t know how to read. I don’t know how to write my name. How can I leave? I can’t get a job. I can’t even find the nearest bus stop. How can I leave? Where would I go?”
It took everything in all of us women to not want to find a way to bring her back to the States with us. Everything in me so badly wanted to bring her home with me.
We knew that we couldn’t save her from this place, but we knew the love of Jesus could SAVE her.
She was in such a dark hallway of emotional, sexual and physical trauma. A hallway she had walked alone in for a long time. If only we could share the love of Jesus with her. Help her have a glimmer of light in her hallway of despair and hopelessness. We asked her if she had ever accepted Jesus into her life. She said no, because she felt too ashamed to. We reminded her about all of the women in the bible who Jesus cared for. Who Jesus took time for.
She looked up, and with a half-smile on her face, she asked us to pray over her. She wanted to accept Jesus into her life. There were eight women from her own community, 4 of us women from the States on the mission team, and our beautiful translator. We placed her in a circle and laid our hands on her, and we began to pray.
I can’t explain to you with words what happened in that moment. I can’t. All of a sudden 8 voices in Spanish started praising Jesus out loud around her, mixed with our 4 voices shouting out in English, and a translator repeating “Gracias Jesus” as loud as she could. Then, something even more incredible happened. This woman— this woman who felt too much shame to allow Jesus in to her life began to shout out to the Lord. The most beautiful praises of worship I have ever heard in my entire life. Shouts of praise over and over and over. Her hallway was dark, but she was praising God with all of her might in that dark hallway between abuse and escaping it. [I am shaking and have chills as I write this.] I have never seen anything like it again. I had never felt God the way I felt him in that moment under the beautiful shade tree in Honduras. I knew he was there and with everything in my body I could feel his presence. An overwhelming sense of light shining into the dark places of all of our lives. 13 women gathered around this one woman fully praising and worshipping God in ways none of us ever had before. It was real and raw and powerful.
As the days went on that followed, joy began to return to this woman’s eyes. Her hugs were real, and sincere. She had hope for the future. As we left, I gave her a small card that I had in my bible with a picture of Jesus on it. I realized it was the only picture of Jesus she had ever had access to. She kissed his face on the picture and held it close to her heart. As we hugged goodbye, I told her that the next time I would see her, would be in heaven someday. And we all cried.
Every so often, I get that question asked about mission work—- “Why don’t you just send money to the people there?” People ask me why I need to go drill a well, or sew menstrual pads and distribute them through our Nonprofit Pink Box Purpose. But a true missionary knows at heart, that it isn’t all about the new well or the pads. That is only part of it. The true mission is meeting others, like this woman, who do not know the love of Jesus.
Look back to the story of the woman at the well. Jesus didn’t usually take that route. He usually didn’t travel along that road. He usually didn’t find himself in Samaria— and especially not sitting at a well next to a Samaritan woman when he became thirsty. But he knew he HAD to go. There was a woman there who needed him. There was a woman, sitting at that well, who thirsted for eternal life.
I go because there are others that are thirsting for something more. Thirsting for the word of God. Thirsting for eternal life. As disciples, we travel to where God calls us to go. For some of us, it is in our own neighborhood, for others discipleship is at our workplace with a co-worker. Sometimes we are called to ask someone to coffee or breakfast who might not be someone in our group that we normally associate with. We are all called to do something and to go somewhere, even if that somewhere is 2 blocks away, 2 miles away or 2,000 miles away.
Don’t miss the opportunities God provides you with every single day to help others through their hallways of darkness. Don’t miss the opportunities to be a shining light for others. Don’t miss the opportunities to help someone learn how to “Praise Him In The Hallway.”
* So – I wrote a book called “PRAISE HIM IN THE HALLWAY”. This is Chapter 8 of that book! I am at the FIRST DRAFT stages looking for BETA READERS and an EDITOR. If you would like to be one of the first to read my FIRST DRAFT BOOK as a BETA READER, please reach out and I will send you a PDF File of the book. I will warn you – it is a ROUGH DRAFT because it is a little rough and in need of editing. ALSO – if you know an editor that I can work with, please send them my way too. Thanks!!
* Learn more about our work in Honduras at www.pinkboxpurpose.org