A phone call changed my life. It was a normal day with the typical everyday activities when the phone rang. My cousin from Texas called to ask me to join her family on a mission trip to Honduras. My heart leapt at the thought of going with them on my first mission trip. I felt an inner witness of God’s approval but I needed my husband’s agreement since I would be gone 8 days and there would be expenses for airfare, lodging and food. He didn’t hesitate saying yes and I immediately began preparing to go.
A Spanish teacher began teaching a class at our church within a week after I signed up to go to Honduras. I learned the basics of proper pronunciation of the language and received a Spanish/English New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs. The Bible enabled me to locate a scripture in English and read it to someone in Spanish. It was a huge blessing for me since I did not fluently speak the language. Our missionary guide provided translation for those of us who did not speak Spanish when we needed to give a testimony or speak to a group.
Having been a soloist for many years, I prepared some songs in Spanish which I sang during several of the services we held. Being able to pronounce the words properly made it possible for me to minister to the people even in song. Many of our meetings were in open air venues because our worship and music would draw in people that were curious and just happened to be in the area.
I was able to give my testimony in the schools and talked with people on the streets but by far, my most exciting opportunity came at a Honduran maximum security prison. We rode in a van at least an hour outside of San Pedro Sula through a pineapple field, to the base of a mountain. The dirt road created clouds of dust as we pulled up to the gate of the prison. Several guards were standing near the gate, shirts unbuttoned because of the extreme heat. They carried long rifles and watched our every move. They had on dark green military style shirts and pants and wore black lace up boots that were covered in dust and worn by time. It was intimidating to say the least. Our leader, fluent in Spanish, explained our visit and soon the gate was opened so that we could enter in. I was deep in thought about what I might say to these men to encourage them.
Guards stayed with us as we made our way to the meeting room. We passed cubicles of small rooms jammed full with bunk beds. There were no doors on the rooms. Open latrine trenches flowed through the entire complex leaving us visitors holding our breath as long as possible as we meandered through the maze of dwellings. The prisoners were free to walk around in designated areas. All were thin and many gaunt in their appearance. Their hair and teeth looked unkept and their clothing was dingy and worn. Looking at the faces of the men, I could see hopelessness in their eyes. It was easy to understand why. They were prisoners and the government wanted them to know they would not enjoy any privileges while serving their sentences. I could hardly bear to be there for the time of our ministry and I could not imagine a life sentence in such a place. The heat and humidity were oppressive and nothing but dirt and cement surrounded their existence.
I wondered what I might be able to say to the inmates to encourage them. I was a 40 year old middle-class mother from the U.S. and nothing in my life could connect with these men in this Central American prison. At that moment, the Lord spoke to my heart, “give them hope”. Excitement filled my heart as I began thinking of my testimony of hope and sharing the love of Christ with the men. Instantly my mind journeyed back to a year when I felt hopeless and thought there was no way out. I was 15 at the time, having been sexually abused by an extended family member as a young child. I felt broken, isolated, unloved and abandoned. The teen years brought more rejection and one night I decided that the best thing I could do was to end my life. I thought I was a “problem” for everyone and it would be better for me to just disappear. I took multiple pills from my mother’s prescription bottle and added some over-the-counter meds and went to bed. Although I was violently ill through the night I woke up in the morning and pretended nothing had happened. My head was still reeling from the night’s trauma, but I arose and went to church with my family. After two attempts in a six month period, I realized God must have intervened because I did not die. I believed He must have a plan for my life. I vowed to never attempt to take my life again.
As I shared my story, I sensed a connection with these hopeless souls and I was able to explain that our hope is in God. Leaving them with a few scriptures, I gave the microphone to our pastor who preached a powerful message of God’s love and deliverance. At the end of the meeting he gave an altar call and approximately 50 men came forward to receive salvation. We were also able to pray with them to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. The room was electric with the power of God and in Christ, there were no differences among us. We celebrated the entire way back to our hotel for what the Lord had done that day.
Hopelessness isn’t limited by economics, gender, race or any other measures by which we might judge. It is able to erect a stronghold in the lives of those who have come to the place that appears to have no rescue or remedy. It is that place where one may be surrounded by people but still feel utterly alone. It is a place that feels like the tiny prison cells I saw. It has walls that seem to be continually creeping in, making the space tighter and tighter until there’s no room at all. It is a black hole that appears to offer no possible escape. Hopelessness drives its victims to a place of giving up. Had God not intervened in my life, I would not be writing what you are reading today!
David, in a similar state of mind wrote in Psalm 27:13-14, “[What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living! Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.”
David knew what I have learned: with God, all things are possible! The love of God is our remedy for hopelessness. No matter what we have done; no matter who we have become, the Lord loves us. The love of God will sustain us, heal our brokenness, and make us new. His love transcends our failures and supersedes our destructions restoring life and light. Our perspective changes, our joy arises and hope fulfills what we could not accomplish on our own.
Hope, according to the New Webster’s Dictionary means: “A desire of some good, accompanied with a belief that it is attainable; trust; one in who trust or confidence is placed; the object of hope.”
Although Abraham was 89, far past fertile years and with no offspring, God promised him descendants that would be as the stars in the heavens or the sands on the seashore. That seemed impossible, except Abraham believed God at His Word! Romans 4:18-22 encourages, “[For Abraham, human reason for] hope being gone, hoped in faith that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been promised. So [numberless] shall your descendants be. (See Genesis 15:5). He did not weaken in faith when he considered the [utter] impotence of his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or [when he considered] the barrenness of Sarah’s [deadened] womb. (See Genesis 17:17 and 18:11-15). No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God, Fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised.” (Emphasis mine).
God’s love for Abraham empowered him to believe in the impossible. “Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails…And so faith, hope, love abide [faith—conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things; hope—joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love—true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a, 13) (Emphasis mine).
Hope is not a denial of our circumstances. It is established on God’s love for us and His promises to us as His children. It does not matter whether our prison cell is in a desolate place in Honduras or in a mansion in a large city suburb. God’s hope inspires our soul to believe in God. It fuels our faith in His power and His promises to intervene on our behalf. Hope changes our perspective and opens our heart to God possibilities! Hope is alive and creates life. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1.
As we celebrate the Christmas Season, may we never forget the miracle of hope God placed in Mary’s womb. He is the God of miracles and no situation is too difficult for the hope of God to fulfill. When we hope in Him, our joy will be complete. When we rejoice in Him, our faith becomes substance which produces life in our heart and situation.
Hope in God, Who is good. Trust in God, Who is faithful. Believe in God, Who is able and you will discover your reason for living.