My first visit in Colombia six years ago a man in the church invited me and Christian out to lunch. How sweet, I thought. We sat eating crepes when the man starting telling us his testimony. At this time, I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, so everything was being translated by Christian. The man says something, I smile awaiting Christian’s translation. Christians face doesn’t budget as he says, “He was in prison for murder…” My thoughts froze in panic, “This is it… This is how I go…” (a bit dramatic, I know). All the while I smiled and tried to act cool, even though I was low-key freaking out on the inside.
He shared the rest of his story like so.
Times were rough when Pablo Escobar reigned in Medellin, Colombia. People did things they never thought they would, murder included. For safety purposes we will call this man, Juan. Many years ago Juan made a bad decision and killed a man. He was sentenced to life in prison in Medellin, Colombia. Trust me, no one wants to visit a Colombian prison. Rough doesn’t even begin to describe it. He didn’t know the Lord at this point.
A few years into his prison sentence he had a heart attack and almost died. He was diagnosed with heart failure and the government labeled him a dead man. A pace maker was put in, but wasn’t making the cut. He was weak and dying. The government didn’t want to waste resources to keep a dying man around for the last few weeks of his life, so they ended his sentence for good and sent him home. The only purpose of his release was so he die… Or so they thought.
Juan was put on a transplant list, but he had no chances. His name was last on a never-ending list of more deserving people. He knew no one would want to save his life since he was guilty of taking someones else’s. While at home, he was invited to church at Comunidad Cristian de Fe. He reluctantly accepted the invitation. After the sermon, he went down for prayer at the altar. And was met by a handsome fellow (author’s words, not Juan’s) named Christian McMillan. Christian prayed for Juan’s healing. Not sure if Juan felt anything at all in the moment, but things were stirring in the spirit.
The next morning Juan received a call from the transplant board, “Juan, we have a heart ready for you now.” WHAT?! He was in disbelief, but knew that God had given him this heart to have a second chance at life.
Juan now has a new heart physically and spiritually. He was so touched by Christian’s prayer for him at the altar and what God had done that he couldn’t wait to take us out to lunch and share his story. At lunch that day my fears melted away as he shared his wild testimony. Our faith was ignited just listening to him speak. Juan said something I will never forget, “I am so thankful for my healing. I just want to serve the church for the rest of my days. How can I help? I will be the janitor and scrub toilets if you need me to! I just want to show my gratitude for what has happened.” This man was overjoyed at the thought of cleaning a stinky toilet if it meant helping the church. Wow. I think we can all learn something from that.
Juan love the Lord, and is happily home now with his wife and kids.
I hope you hear this story, and focus on God’s grace, and mercy. Not all do. I told this story to a random women in a pool once and she got angry. I was shocked. I told the story with fierce excitement for what God had done only to be met with a scowl, ” But where is the JUSTICE?! This man is guilty of murder! What about the family of the man he killed!” To be honest I can’t remember exactly my response in the moment, because I was so taken aback. I just want to encourage you to see the good. See the grace, and the unconditional love. Yes, what he did was wrong. He was prepared to serve life for it, but God had other plans. Kind of like ourselves. We are all sinners, punishable by fire, but yet Jesus did something that didn’t make sense. He died for us. Where is the justice in that? Why did an innocent man die to save us? It’s simple, Love.
Love you all,
– Sarah McMillan