42 | Dave Kelley: A God-orchestrated Encounter with Maria from Bolivia

It was obvious she needed help.

My wife, Taye, and I were visiting the Centreville small group for the first time. When we arrived, our host, Brian Billman, was speaking with a woman on the front porch.

We learned she had been wandering the neighborhood, a suitcase in hand, until she found herself in front of the Billman’s house. After hearing some of her story, Brian invited her in, and thus began one of the most amazing nights I have been a part of in a long time.

Maria was from Bolivia and had been in the United States less than two days visiting with family in the neighborhood. Due to a dispute, she had been forced to leave. She had no money, no place to stay, and was trying to return home.

As the night progressed, it became obvious God had orchestrated this event. As Brian and his wife, Kay, gave her food, she told us her flight was scheduled to leave in three weeks, but she needed to leave the next day. We began discussing how we might be able to help change her ticket, but in the meantime God provided an opportunity for us to share the gospel with her.

We told her how God loved her and valued her. We explained that she didn't need to repay us, just like God’s gift of salvation is a gift of grace, not earned or repaid through works. We talked of finding her identity in Christ, instead of her family or achievements.

Taye and I were grateful to share the Good News with Maria, but we also felt privileged serving as a witness to Christ’s work in and through the people of Harvest. Eventually, a return flight back to Bolivia was secured for the following morning, and the small group covered the cost of the ticket. Taye and I welcomed her into our home for the night.

There’s a boarder who lives in our home who speaks Spanish and whose grandmother is from Bolivia. Conversing with Maria in her first language made her feel even more at ease. In the morning, Maria met our children. Overwhelmed, she expressed her desire to repay us. Again, we shared how our kindness was a gift, just as God gives us the gift of eternal life through Christ's atonement.

Taye drove her to the airport, hugged her, and said goodbye.

Seeing how God used our small group to serve and care for Maria gave us such satisfying joy. Every one of us in the group left amazed by God, desiring more of Him and more opportunities to serve Him, and strengthened in our faith to see how He had brought this together.

We pray God's pursuit of Maria will change her story forever.