In Memorium

I have recently observed the one year anniversary of the death of a loved one.  You don’t know her – 99.9% of this world’s population had no occasion to know her or otherwise be affected by her death.  But I did know her and I was affected, and I want you to know about her, because she was a hero in my life.

We called her Dona Toya and she attended my little church on the hill in the back jungles of Guatemala, the place where I grew up.  She was hardly 5′ tall, wore typical Indian garb and plastic sandals, her gray hair in neat braids down her back.  Her teeth were either missing or crooked, and she lacked formal education.  When I was growing up, I could have sworn she was 172, but turns out it was just a hard life that aged her.  She didn’t own a car or a bicycle- her meager house let in the daylight and the wind, and the floor was dirt.  She cooked over an open fire and barely had two nickels to rub together, but she somehow always managed to make us tamales for Christmas as her gift to us – a gift which meant arising at 4 to cook them and then walk to our house (we lived several miles away) to deliver them by 7 a.m. so that we could have them for our traditional Guatemalan Christmas breakfast.

For all she lacked materially, she made it up spiritually.  This woman could pray.  When I would sit in church and the minister would ask for a volunteer to lead the prayer, she would always raise her hand.  I would silently plead with him not to pick her, because if he did, that automatically meant an extra half hour to church and lunch would be late.

I am embarrassed to admit that now.  As I have grown and matured in my own faith, and observed the lack of discipline in my prayer life, I have been drawn again to the picture of that diminutive, gray-haired Mayan woman – standing, rough hands covering a wrinkled, tear-stained face, praising God for His goodness, pleading with Him for His intervention.  There were no trite, polite “God bless us all” generalities – this was no show.  She was before her Audience of One and was as authentic in her public prayer as in her private communion.

She prayed for my disabled nephew, a boy a thousand miles away that she would never meet.  She prayed for me.  Had she known your need, she would have prayed for you.  Her faith was simple, uncomplex, and genuine.  She didn’t need a prayer journal, books on prayer, an accountability partner to make sure she was praying – she just prayed.  Daily.  Without ceasing.  And in so doing, touched the life of this fellow believer, and others as well.

She was a spiritual giant, a selfless giver, a prayer warrior whose external circumstances would not deter her from boldly approaching her heavenly Father.  And I am humbled when I observe all the wealth that I have, the comfortable roof over my head, the shoes on my feet, and consider the poverty of my prayer life in comparison with this noble woman.

In speaking with my mom the day she shared the news with me, we shed tears together, then smiled as she commented “Well, she can pray like she always wanted to, in heaven now.”  I can just imagine her – praising and praying  – not with tears, but with great joy and adoration.

And knowing her, she’ll never stop, even if it means she’ll be late to the table.

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9 responses to “In Memorium

  1. Wow! Susan, that is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this amazing woman with us. I have many thoughts swirling around in my head about this post and can’t seem to put any of them into adequate words. So I’ll just leave it at “Thank you for sharing her with us!”

  2. Reading this post brought to mind so many amazing men and women of faith that I had the pleasure to know and love when we were overseas. I took it so much for granted when I was growing up, but now I realize how amazing their faith really was. It is often that I think about the half-hearted nature of the majority of American Christians (me included most days) in comparison to the outstanding passion for Jesus that people in other countries (especially 3rd world) have. I wish everyone had the opportunity to meet at least one of these kinds of prayer warriors. Thanks for sharing about her! Love it! 🙂

  3. I’m sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing a taste of this marvelous woman with us. I can’t wait to meet her.

  4. Wow. that was powerful. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. I’m sorry. She sounds like an amazing woman, and I’m so thankful that your life is richer because she was a part of it.

  6. Bantiox for such a lovely post. May she indeed continue to pray for all of us!

  7. Beautiful…Convicting…Joyful…
    I can just imagine the smile on Jesus’ face as her told this faithful servant, “Well done!”
    (and can you imagine the jewels in THAT crown!)

  8. God’s family is amazing! The Kekchi have taught me much, and because of Jesus, I learned to know you and your family. Thanks for sharing, and may God continue to work thru His people to build His kingdom!!!

  9. I was reading some of your favorite old blogs, since I am a “new commer” to your blog. I didn’t know that Dona Toya had passed away. She was always such an encourager for me because of the Feminarios. She would want to quote all of the scripture passages that she had learned, and that was always a very long time. I praise God for people like her!

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