Isabel held the phone tightly against her ear. The call came from Isabel’s former boss, a bank manager on a tiny island off the western coast of Africa. “This woman, Cleria [KLER-ee-ah], is quite sick. She needs a place to stay while she receives medical care in Portugal,” her former boss said. “Can you help her?”
“I’ll do what I can,” Isabel answered. She agreed to meet Cleria at the airport.
Isabel set down the phone and looked around her small living room. The tiny house that she and her husband and five children lived in was already bursting at the seams, but her children were willing to share their beds with others. She began clearing her boys’ room to make space for their new houseguest.
A few days later Isabel met Cleria and drove her to the hospital. Cleria’s labored breathing urged Isabel through the midday traffic. “We’ll be at the hospital soon,” Isabel said. Cleria nodded wearily.
Hours later Isabel paid for Cleria’s treatment and drove her home. She showed her to the bedroom so she could rest until dinner.
While Isabel set about preparing dinner, her daughters set the table. They worked quietly so as not to disturb Clearia.
After dinner Isabel invited Cleria to join the family for evening worship. Isabel explained that the family reads the Bible and prays morning and evening, and they attend church on Sabbath. Cleria was grateful for a home to stay in and willingly joined the family for worship.
Cleria remained with Isabel’s family for six weeks. Then she told Isabel that she had relatives in Portugal who wanted her to stay with them and try a traditional healer. “They don’t think the medicines the doctors are giving me are working,” she said softly. “They insist that I stay with them a week so that they can explore other treatments.”
“Other treatments?” Isabel asked uncomfortably. She knew she couldn’t force Cleria to stay with her, but she knew that the traditional healers back home in Africa were witch doctors. Sadly Isabel said goodbye to Cleria.
A week later Cleria returned. “How did your treatments go?” Isabel asked uncertainly.
“Your home doesn’t have the right spirits to allow the healers to make me well,” Cleria answered.
A shiver traced Isabel’s spine. So, Isabel thought, a witch doctor has been treating Cleria. “The spirit in my house is the Holy Spirit,” Isabel said firmly. “He doesn’t allow evil spirits to dwell where His Spirit lives.”
“I must return to my relative’s home,” Cleria said, “I can’t feel comfortable with the spirits here.”
Isabel sighed and helped her friend pack. “We will pray for you while you’re gone,” Isabel said. Isabel and her family placed Cleria in God’s hands and asked Him to shelter her from evil spirits and accept healing from Jesus, the Great Physician.
A few weeks later Cleria returned to Isabel’s home. She continued treatments at the hospital and joined the family in worship until her visa expired and she returned home. Cleria accepted the Bible and some books about God that Isabel offered. She promised to read them.
A few months later Cleria wrote that she had accepted Jesus as her Savior and was preparing for baptism. She was using the books Isabel had given her in a small study group that she hosted in her home. Later she said that her son had become an Adventist.
A year later Isabel learned that Cleria had died. “Her last words to her family were ‘Be faithful to God,’ ” Isabel says.
“I’m happy that we shared our home with her, that we could teach her God’s love and pray for her. Our prayers for her have been answered. We can look forward to seeing her again in heaven.”
Isabel uses her gift of hospitality to lead others to Jesus. Other members in her little congregation outside Lisbon, Portugal, share their gifts of teaching, evangelism, and languages to introduce others to the Savior. Their gifts are growing a congregation that overflows their rented hall.
Their ministry to the community is growing as well, and they need space to organize that ministry to more effectively serve the community.
Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help provide the community center and worship hall so that this congregation can have a permanent home and minister more effectively in their community. Thank you for giving.