As she walked down the village road in the midst of a group of young teens, her naturally blonde hair and height caught my eye. In this part of our adopted country, the only tall blonde I ever saw was my own daughter.
“Pray for her.” An almost audible voice seemed to echo in me as our car moved past.
A month or so later she showed up on our ministry land. That area had little to offer, so this place to meet other kids and play volleyball or soccer on a real field, not the street, was a draw. She stayed off to the side, surrounded by others we had rarely seen. Their snickers seemed to drown out the rest of the playground noise.
That echo to pray? It returned.
Eventually Maria* sat in youth group and took the English classes we offered.
“What do you mean Jesus rose from the dead? That’s impossible.” Her comments shocked the mostly churched kids sitting in plastic chairs around her. Our prayers continued.
In and out through the years, Maria appeared. At times she seemed to dabble with His Truth, and occasionally her hard exterior cracked. I learned to not be surprised, however, when the next time I saw her on the road she’d act like my hello was directed towards someone else.
She grew into an outward beauty. Per norm, she left the village, and even the country, in her early twenties. She, like many her age, believed a future of death was all her native land held.
Now, years later, I see her rarely through my Facebook feed. My heart aches when her poses reflect the life she probably lives.
“What was the point?” I think I hear the tempter hissing, as a cold wind seems to rustle my heart. “The hours of interactions, the sharing of His word, the prayer…useless!”
I counteract the accusations by pulling His Truth closer. I remember that I was not the one who started this work; the impetus to first pray was from Him (1 John 5:14). I recall that God is responsible for salvation (Hebrews 12:2); while my responsibility is to shine His light (Mathew 5:15-16). I focus my thoughts on the fact that I cannot see what God has done, or is doing, in Maria’s heart (1 Samuel 16:7). I continue to wrestle, but then settle into the knowledge that His love held Jesus on the cross for Maria’s sins, too (John 3).
His word, like a thick blanket on a stark brisk night, returns my warmth.
My accuser lays silent, and God seems to lean closer with one last snuggle. I look back at the woman I once was, much like Maria, walking down a busy road, desperately trying to keep filthy rags in place. I seem to visualize the many prayers and scriptures that, for years, had surrounded me. That echo returns: “pray for her.”
What doubts enter your mind when you don’t see your prayers answered, and what helps to battle those doubts?