As a child, I grew up Catholic and would go to mass every Sunday with my family. I would hear a Gospel reading and two readings from the epistles (Paul’s letters to the churches). The stories I heard about Jesus fascinated me. I was always so intrigued by Him and the way he interacted with people and the miracles he did.
I remember as a little girl asking my mom, “Does Jesus still heal people the way He did in the Bible story?” She looked at me and said, “Yes, He still does that.” I think part of her just wanted to answer my questions so I wouldn’t ask as many, but I believed her. As I heard more stories of His miraculous power, the questioning ensued. “Does Jesus still ____ (fill the blank)? “ And always the same reply, “Yes, Jesus still does those things.” So I believed.
Around that time I heard my uncle got in a car accident. I didn’t know how bad it was, but over the coming weeks I could see the stress it was putting on my family. One day I walked in to my parents speaking in hushed tones. I asked my mom what was wrong, and she told me to pray for my aunt because she had some really hard decisions to make. My mom told me my uncle was on life-support, which she explained was keeping him alive. She told me he was in a coma, and they don’t know when or if he would ever recover.
I remember going into my room and thinking, “My mom said Jesus still heals, so maybe if I ask Him, he’ll heal my uncle.” The least I could do was ask. So I went into my room and started praying the way I was taught. All of the sudden I began crying, overwhelmed with the magnitude of what my family and aunt was facing. My prayers began to sound something like, “Jesus, my mom told me that you can still heal people. Since you still heal people, I was wondering if you could heal my uncle. I know you can do it because I heard the story of you doing something like it at church.”
And that’s when it happened… my little heart heard God for the first time. This indescribable peace enveloped me and I sensed God saying, “He’s going to be okay.” That’s when I opened my eyes and thought, “Whoa, I knew we could talk to you, but I never knew you could talk back.” I began to understand that Jesus wanted a relationship with me. He wasn’t some far-off, distant God I had to appease, but He wanted to talk to me, help me and be involved in my life. I was blown away by this! No one had ever told me this. I spent a good portion of the day outside talking to Him under a tree, thinking about God and all the stories I had heard about Him.
The next day my uncle was out of the coma and off every machine. That sparked a journey in my heart to find someone who really knew this Jesus who spoke to me. I wanted someone to help me in my journey, for someone not to just give me cliché answers, but to show me how to walk with Him.
I am now the director of STARS, Antioch’s after-school mentoring program for inner-city kids in Waco. As I play with the kids and interact with them every day, I wonder, “Which of these kids is waiting for someone to show him or her how to walk with Jesus?” I know in this journey we all need encouragement, someone to show us how to navigate the complexities of life; the joys and the sorrows, however small or big they may be.
We all need people to stand beside us, fellow sojourners who may not know all the answers, but who are able to share God’s love.
I spend time with the kids and wonder, “How many of these little hearts are longing for something more?” I know my heart is still longing to know Him more, and I encounter Him every day. My life is forever impacted by the simple words my mom said; “Jesus still does those things.” I am excited to see how simple words spoken by the people in our church body will change the trajectory of many more kids’ lives.
By Stephanie Ybarra, Director of STARS