Beyond the Loss

But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Philippians 3:7

But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Philippians 3:7

 

I first met Hermenia Sánchez when I accompanied a delegation from the United States on a visit to the village of San Gerardo where she lives.  The pastor of the local church asked us if we would go to pray for Hermana Hermita, as she is known, for she had not been feeling well. 

The plants and flowers filling the front patio spilled over the low wall and the gate, a wild array of colors and shapes glorious in the summer sunlight.  The shadowy coolness of the thick walls of the adobe house invited us in out of the heat.  Hermana Hermita sat on a rattan and wooden chair by the table waiting for us, patient yet expectant.  San Gerardo, the exuberant flower garden, and the adobe house reminded me of people and places I grew up knowing in rural Mexico.  Even the old wood burning stove in the corner, with a potted plant decorating the top, (probably used in the cold winter months) and the curled corners of the paper wall calendar, welcome me and make me feel at home.

But it is Hermana Hermita herself that stirs up the richest memories and feelings.  She greets me warmly by taking my hand between her garlic smelling palms and kisses me lightly on the cheek.  Her eyes dance with good humor, even though her legs are painfully swollen, and her wrinkles are patterns of joy and grace even in her old age.  Her long wispy gray hair is tied back in a bun, and her apron is worn and faded.  When she speaks, I remember the rural women in central Mexico, and I feel like I could sit at her feet drinking in the wisdom of her words.  She testifies to faith and hope in the midst of life´s trials, she encourages us to seek God’s kingdom in the least expected places, she cajoles us to never give up on God because God will keep his promises.    She lays her hands on our heads and prays for us, our families, our wholeness.

We have come to pray for Hermana Hermita, but it is she who has blessed us!  The Pastor tells us that she is not able to walk far but crosses the patio to a little chapel which she opens every day.  People from all over the area, believers and non-believers, Catholic and Protestant, rich and poor, come to ask her to pray for them.  She is known throughout the community as a healer.

I returned to San Gerardo with another delegation almost exactly one year later, a year of pain, heart ache and tragedy.  Ever since I have lived in Chile, I have heard the elderly folk reminding the younger, “if you are in an adobe house in an earthquake, get out.”  Many people were saved in Chile on Feb. 27th 2010, including Hermana Hermita, because they heeded these words.  Beyond the gate and the garden, all that is left of the adobe house are the tiles from the kitchen floor, but I find her sitting on a plastic chair in a makeshift house, just as I remember her.   She prays for us, thanking God that we have graced her with our visit.  She tells how she and her grandchildren barely escaped from the caving walls and the crushing roof. She asks us to bless the new prefabricated house that the municipal government has just finished for her, but she has not yet moved into.  She is still full of joy and peace as she speaks of God´s faithfulness. Then she breaks down and weeps when she explains that the chapel also fell in the earthquake.

Hermana Hermita lost her home and place of prayer, but she did not lose hope.  The church is finishing the construction of a new chapel on the site of the old one, and soon she will be taking those few painstaking steps across the flowering patio to open the doors of the chapel, listen to the needs of those in her community, and pray, now more fervently than ever, for healing.   

Elena Huegel

Elena Huegel is a missionary with the Pentecostal Church of Chile (IPC).  She serves as an environmental and Christian education specialist.