As Rocío left work, the divorced mother of three was wondering how she would make ends meet, especially then at the beginning of the school year when there were more expenses than normal —registration costs, uniforms, books.
But she was thankful for her new job that would at least allow her to get the basics. She had been paid that day, so she headed toward the store where she planned to purchase textbooks for her kids and pay the water and electric bills.
Then it happened. There was a tug at her purse, then a yank. Rocío held on to her purse, knowing it contained all the money she had. The man had a knife, but somehow the danger didn’t register. She couldn’t lose that purse. Rocío clung to it, while the man dragged her down the street. She was scraped and bruised. He waved the knife at her, hit her, and kicked her where she lay. She couldn’t hold on. The purse was gone. And so was everything Rocío had — money, identification cards for herself and her three children, her cell phone, her keys.
Somehow Rocío made it the rest of the way home, banged, bruised, scraped, and terrified. What would become of her and her children? Why had this happened?
Two weeks later, Rocío and I were talking at our church in Arequipa, Peru.
“How are you doing?” I asked her.
“I’m still a little sore, but most of the scrapes are healing,” she answered.
“I know the physical injuries will heal. But how are you doing inside, emotionally?” I asked.
“Sue, I’ve been thinking about what happened, and I’ve learned something about myself. I’m not as well as I thought I was. Spiritually, I mean,” Rocío said. “I thought I was doing okay. I’ve been doing my devotions, praying, and I’m getting more involved in the kids’ ministry. But when the assault happened, do you know what my first thought was?”
“No. What?” I said.
“My first thought wasn’t, ‘God, please help me,’ or, ‘God, protect my children.’ Sue, I didn’t think of God at all,” Rocío said. “The only thing I thought of was the money in my purse and what would happen if I lost it. I wasn’t trusting in God; I was trusting in the money. When I realized that, I was devastated. How can I teach small children to trust God when I don’t trust him myself?”
Rocío held back tears as I waited for her to continue, unsure of how to respond.
“Sue, I realize now that God allowed that assault to make me see what I was doing. I’ve been reading the Psalms in my devotions, but in all honesty, I was finding most of them pretty boring. But since the assault, I’ve found new meaning in them,” Rocío said. “For example, Psalm 18. What happened made me feel fear, the terror of the threat of losing my life. But here the psalmist expresses very clearly what God is like. If I feared that man, I should fear God even more since he is so much bigger and more powerful.”
“After the day of the assault, I was filled with panic when I thought about going out and walking along the same route. That sensation of terrifying loneliness echoed in my ears. I was alone and there was no one to defend me,” Rocío said. “Reading Psalm 27 made me feel and understand what David must have been going through, and I made his declaration of faith mine: God is my light and my salvation. No matter what is going on around me, I am safe, standing on a rock, and I can see his goodness. This is the hope that gets me up every morning and gives me the courage I need to face each day.”
-Written by Susan Querfeld, TEAM missionary serving at El Camino Church in Arequipa, Peru
-Photo provided by Susan Querfeld