A Story from my Hope Chest
Psalm 85:10-11 Love and loyalty will come together; goodness and peace will unite, loyalty will sprout from the ground; justice will look down from the sky above.
There is a cedar chest in my father’s house. It was my grandmother´s “hope chest” where throughout her youth she collected and kept those special items that used to be considered essential upon marriage and the establishment of a new home: linen tablecloths, embroidered napkins, handmade quilts and afghans, fine sheets and towels.
In my mind, I too, have a hope chest. It is full of the stories I have been given over the years, precious treasures that bear witness to the steadfast love of God and the faithfulness of God’s children. After the earthquake in Chile, we had several events at the Shalom Center where I had the opportunity to hear many unique stories. At the STAR training (Seminar in Trauma Awareness and Resilience) and the two “Challenge of Resilience” retreats (for emergency personnel and long term care providers), the participants were able to take a step back from the daily challenges arising from the chaos following the catastrophe, and share their testimonies about God´s miraculous provision of courage and persistence in the face of overwhelming circumstances and the personal cost of leadership and compassion. In many cases, the stories about the current situation had roots in past experiences that occurred long before this disaster. We all agreed that the trauma of the earthquake and tsunami provided an unprecedented opportunity to heal from wounds buried in our personal and collective histories. To seek wholeness in the present and build a new future, we had to dare to work through the past. I have asked permission from Lorena, a pre-school teacher and STAR participant who also helped lead a Challenge of Resilience retreat, to share with you her story of healing and reconciliation.
“Many years ago in a poor neighborhood in Curicó, a woman named Paula kidnapped a four year old child with the intention of selling her. She walked with the child from Curicó to Molina, about ten miles, without giving her any food or telling her where they were going. That little girl was very frightened, and even though she was young, she suspected that she would never see her family again. She had reached out her hand and trusted the wrong person, and now she had no choice but to follow and keep walking.
But not all was lost. Her six year old brother was praying, asking God for help to find his little sister. The prayer was heard and a miracle happened. The child was found and returned to her family.
The kidnapping, however, marked her life. Her personality changed from bubbly and friendly to timid and reserved. She had many fears and anxieties, but also a growing faith and trust in Jesus. She never forgot the experience, but learned to be happy in spite of it.”
“I am that little girl,” Lorena told us at the STAR training. Then she continued.
“Life has strange twists and turns. A few weeks ago, I participated in the graduation of my beautiful pre-school students. There were lots of people there: parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, older and younger brothers and sisters. Two large groups of children were graduating, and so I did not know most of the people mingling around the school. Moments after the ceremony, I spotted a little girl by herself crying. I could tell she was afraid and apprehensive, but no one seemed to notice her in the crowded courtyard. I drew close, held out my hand to her, and knelt to look into her eyes without saying a word, my heart filling with tenderness. She did not doubt, but took my hand. I stayed at her side first whispering words of consolation and then introducing myself and inviting her to tell me her name and age. She was only four years old, a sweet little brunette with laugh crinkles around her eyes.
I didn´t expect it when she threw her arms around my neck and kissed my cheek. At that same moment, with the child’s trust firmly and freely given to me, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I looked up to see a women staring at me, her startled look exposing her shock and alarm. We recognized each other. It was her. Yes, precisely, her. This child lost in the crowd and whom I comforted until her mother found us, was none other than the daughter of Paula, the woman who had kidnapped me long ago! The story replicated in my mind. Now I was a twenty three year old woman extending her hand to a little four year old, exactly the way that so long ago this woman of the same age had held out her hand to me. The difference was that I gave back without hesitation the well-being and safety which I had been denied. I do not doubt that it was God who gave me the opportunity to live, in the space of the heaven-touching-earth instant the place of healing where truth, justice, mercy and peace come together and embrace.
Elena Huegel is a missionary with the Pentecostal Church of Chile (IPC). She serves as an environmental and Christian education specialist.