I've wanted to write this post for awhile now, but wasn't sure how to go about it. I have so many people that I could write about -- their influence in my life or a specific instance when they have ministered to me. And maybe in time I will get around to giving them a shout out. But today, It's Gaby Time.
Gabriela Balestrini is my Venezuelan teammate in Spain. I first met her in Venezuela and grew to know her and her family through the church I worked with. Her honesty about Christianity and her desire to understand God made for some really interesting conversations. Gaby had become a Christian as a teenager and began to pray daily for her unbelieving family. The Lord heard her prayers and eventually her parents became followers of Christ. It's a beautiful testimony of prayer and redemption.
Gaby is now a full-time worker in Spain. The transformation that has happened in her life over the last 4 years is visible. The Lord has broken her, changed her, molded her, and matured her. It has been beautiful to watch.
The Gabster has been my flatmate in Spain and a real blessing. I have learned from her and taken notice of her humility. If you walk into her bedroom, it is simple and enough. She doesn't have a need for extravagant decorations or extras in her room. Just a bed and a place to store her necessities. I admire her.
Gaby and I rarely speak english together. But her english is getting better and from time to time it just slips out. She is doing a great job. But whenever I think about the progress she's made, I have to laugh out loud. Not to make fun of her (my spanish mistakes were/are waaay worse), but because she makes THE BEST mistakes. For example, one time she was learning a Bible story in English and she said "And Jesus said 'Don't be scary'." Although that's still good advice from Jesus, it wasn't exactly what we were looking for. Or the time I asked her what she had to eat at a carry-in and she said "What's it called? Apple Creepy?" Close. Very close, Gabster. That would be Apple Crisp. And then the time when she was demonstrating what the police say to people -- "Freezing!" Again, so close, yet so far away. Gaby laughs about her mistakes, too; another trait of humility and goodness.
So what's the big deal about the Gabsterizer? I believe that she saved my life.
Last fall as I was preparing to come back to the states for my kidney transplant, there was a week in there when my health declined rapidly. So quickly that I hardly noticed. Sweet people offered to help me, but there wasn't much to be done. I could hardly eat, hardly drink, and I just entered this state of being where I slept, woke up, swallowed some food, took pills, slept, woke up, swallowed some food, took pills, etc. As you may recall from previous posts, Gaby arrived in Spain 7 days before I left. I barely remember that week. But there are a few things I remember:
I remember her taking a prayer scarf and placing it over my heart. She then took olive oil and prayed over me, her tears flowing and she cried out to God for my life.
I remember her feeding me food, because I had lost all desire to eat.
I remember her reminding me to take sips of water so that I wouldn't get dehydrated.
I remember her holding my hair as I threw up, both times while we were out in public.
I remember her helping me to the bathroom throughout the day and night, as I could hardly walk.
I remember one of those nights telling her that I couldn't go any further and she said, "Repite conmigo: 'que diga el debil: fuerte soy!'." "Repeat with me: 'Let the weak say: I am strong'!" And we repeated the verse from Joel over and over again until she put me back in my bed.
I remember the day before I left when she led my sister and I in a Bible study.
When my sister arrived she jumped on board with Gaby. They packed my suitcases. They ran errands. They made sure I was warm. They fed me. They dressed me.
Besides the obvious salvation that Christ offers, a lot of people don't get the opportunity to have their earthly lives saved. I have had(and will have) the experiences of having at least 4 life-savers. Susie, Scott, my second kidney donor, and now I am adding Gaby to that list.
Gaby, you kept me alive until God's appointed time for me to go back to the States. I am grateful for your friendship, your sistership, and your humble example of Christ's love. I trust that someday we will get to work together again. But if not, I want you and the world to know that I noticed. I noticed Christ in you. And when I was knocking on death's door, you were there to gently reflect salvation and a peace that passes all understanding.
I send you grateful love from the USA.