I don’t even remember her name, but I’ll never forget what she said. It happened at the conclusion of a Nazarene church service. People were streaming out of the house church in a city southeast of Havana, Cuba. The crowd seemed to be everywhere. The people had filled the house, and there were probably as many outside, looking in the windows and doors at the fortunate ones who had arrived early enough to occupy a chair inside. It was hot! As soon as the benediction had been prayed, I had made my way out the back of the house and around to the front of the building. Standing in the dark street, where there was a slight breeze, I could watch the excited crowd. My thoughts were producing a multitude of emotions.
Suddenly, I heard her. “Where’s the big Señor?” she cried out. Pushing her way along, an older lady kept yelling: “Where’s the big Señor?”
I soon realized she was making her way to me, and I began hoping that “big Señor” referred to my height. She stopped calling out as she stood in front of me. She was very small. She looked like someone’s sweet little grandmother. And she had a smile that covered her entire face.
“You,” she said. “I want to tell you something.”
“Of course. What is it that puts that smile on your face and gives you such determination to see me?” I asked.
“I just wanted to tell you that I’ve been a Nazarene for more than 45 years!”
“What?” My mind raced across the time span. Could she be right? Forty-five years? During that time there had been a political revolution, difficult years, silent years, while North Americans had no idea what was actually happening in Cuba—the largest island of the Caribbean. Now she was saying that through all of that, she had been a Nazarene. Could she really be right?
I simply replied: “For 45 years?”
“Yes!” she nearly shouted.
Then she explained. She had been a young mother in her 30s, living in a city some distance from where we now stood.
“A Nazarene missionary lady stopped by my yard and invited me to church. I politely told her no; I wasn’t interested. Yet, every time she passed my house, she called my name, we talked, and we became friends. She always invited me to church services. She was so kind. Her smile was contagious. Eventually I told her I’d go to her church. To my surprise, that very lady was preaching the first service I attended. Soon I became a Christian. Within a few weeks, that same Nazarene missionary prayed with me, and I was sanctified. I became a Nazarene. That was 45 years ago, and I’ve never turned back!” she said with a smile. “Still a Christian and a Nazarene after all these years.” And she laughed with her hands upraised until we all stood there in the darkened street—that now somehow seemed brighter—and laughed and praised God with her.
Before she left, she went and got her daughter and grandson and their families.
She said, “They’re all Nazarenes, saved and sanctified right in my house.”
As only Nazarene Cubans can, we laughed. We embraced. The street had become the center of attention.
Then they were off. On their way to their homes. Off through the dark night. Still laughing. Some singing. As they walked into the night, you could still hear them praising God. How could you ever forget a moment like that? I was not expecting it, but I should have known. It’s right there in the Scripture. “A man [or woman] reaps what he [or she] sows” (Galatians 6:7).
Nearly half a century ago, the seed was sown. Even when some of us knew nothing about it. Even when that Nazarene missionary had to leave this beautiful island and continue the remainder of her ministry in South America. Through all of the changes of those years, God’s Word remains true. When the “seed of His Word” is planted, it grows! And it produces “new seeds,” and they grow. This is His Church. This is the Church of which the Scripture says, even the “gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
It took a couple of hours to drive back to our hotel. While others in the car were talking, I kept thinking. What am I sowing? In 45 years, what will the seeds of my life have produced?
That night had been a surprise to me. Yet it was really just a beautiful reminder of “His Truth.”
John M. Smee
Herald of Holiness, October 1998
Please note: This article was originally published in 1998. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.