TOMAS and MARIA
"EAT THE FAT, AND DRINK THE SWEET, AND SEND PORTIONS UNTO THEM FOR WHOM NOTHING IS PREPARED...". So says the prophet Nehemiah.
Time: about Christmas time 1989.
Place: a dirt floored room in an agricultural camp near Culiacan, Sinaloa -about four days travel from her home in the northern mountains of Oaxaca state, Old Mexico:
(the following story is fictionalized only to the extent needed to fill in the blanks left because of communication gaps.)
Maria, 23 years old, and three months pregnant for the 6th time, is too dizzy and weak to stand-up, let alone prepare a meal for her drunken husband, and three living children. So she lies on the floor. It was to be the start of better things for them when they left home two months before to work in the harvest fields of Sinaloa. Perhaps at last the children could have warmer clothes for the cold rainy season, and money to supplement their diet of corn & tortillas. maybe they could even manage to buy a transistor radio with a cassette player.
Tomas loved Maria, and the children. He could not bear to see them suffer so. At last with the $3.50 a day that he could earn in the fields, perhaps he could alleviate some of their problems. Maybe even save enough to build a house of 'material' (cement block) rather than the airy stucture of sticks they had lived in for so many years.
But it looks pretty hopeless from the bottom of society. How long can a man struggle against such odds, and still watch his family suffering, on the mere hope that some day, by his own seemingly inconsequential efforts things might get better? It's easier to just shut out the world - just for awhile - just one bottle - just one more... For a short time Tomas can sing. Until he enters his abode! Maria is no better! The children are not home! Anger! Not at Maria or the children - at life - at fate - at God! But you can't hit God - there's nothing to hit but poor Maria!
Oh, how sorry Tomas feels! Especialy in the morning. And ashamed. He will not go to work today, and he will not drink! He will do what he can for Maria. She is not hungry, and can not be persuaded to eat. If he helps her she can stand leaning upon him, but not alone. What do do! Tomas is a brujo (witch) of sorts. He had studied it from childhood, until he met Maria. Earth, and the Spirit realm hold many gifts for he who knows how to obtain them. Perhaps the serpent will recieve an egg for Maria's health! He still has money for the egg, and he can look for Serpent in the field!
The 'work' takes several hours, but at last it is done. But Maria is no better. She will not eat. She cannot stand. An occasional drink of water, and a painful groan, or a few faint words are all that pass her lips. She speaks only her native indian toungue, and so can communicate only with Tomas, or her children. Some of her neighbors in this place speak her toungue also, but they seldom if ever visit. They have trouble of their own. She lies on the dirt floor - three days. a wwek - . Perhaps a saint will answer, or the serpent/egg magic will work after awhile. But no. There are no tears - if life is hard, she must be hard, too.
Tomas has been a nuisance at every meeting we have held in his camp. His drunken questions in badly broken Spanish have been defiant, and he has been neither willing nor able to understand when an answer was given him. But this time, he is sober. - Will we please drop what ever we are doing, and come immediately to pray for his wife! She is desparately ill! The Serpent/egg trick did not work, and though he is a brujo, he does not know what to do next.
On the way to their windowless room, I explain to Tomas that Jesus does not work with witchcraft. If we are to ask for the help of the Lord Jesus we must turn away from any confidence in or practice of witchcraft. I hope that he understands. I ask Tomas to interpret while I instruct Maria concerning Jesus, His salvation, and His healing power, but most of all His love. He nods, and as I talk I pause for him to interpret, but it is plain that he is not interpreting very much of what I say. Either he doesn't understand, or he doesn't expect her to be able to - probably both. We pray, as both my wife and I lay hands upon the frail child-woman.
A few days later we return to this camp on other business, and I ask about Tomas and Maria. Tomas is working, Maria is still sick. We go to her room, and find her lying just as she was when we were here before. A neighbor lady who speaks the same language is at home tending her own children, and watching Maria's. She speaks a little Spanish, and I ask her to interpret for me. Going very slowly, we go over the plan of salvation, with an emphasis on the need to believe that Jesus loves her, and wants to bring her health, and hope, and happiness. When she seems to understand, we have prayer together again. We leave her a couple of bottles of vitamins, taking advantage of the interpreter to explain how to use them, emphasizing that they are like concentrated food, but that it is only God in the person of Jesus that heals.
We leave, but we continue to pray. When we return after about a week, Maria is up and about, and can attend to see the movie that we have brought. Tomas is drunk again, but he is not a nuisance as before. He seems thoughtful. Has Maria recieved Christ as savior? The language barrier makes it hard to be sure, but we think so.
We could tell you many such stories. We are ready to go back to this area in mid December. There will be no tinsel, and trees in these camps. For them Christmas is marked by dirt and drunkeness. It is a celebration they hardly notice, It is not theirs. Many of them have not yet heard that God gave the unspeakable gift of his own Son. For them, "nothing is prepared..."
Oh, please do rejoice, and thank you for sending us with this precious Gift of the good news of Jesus - to those for whom nothing is prepared. And do not fail to pray for this ministry through these coming months.Dave & Ella McMullen
4 Strong Row,
© Dave & Ella McMullen, 2001