It Felt Like a Thank You

I’ve struggled to put words to this story for months. I remember stumbling through it on the phone to one of my best friends one night after my return from the trip, and though we were miles apart, we both cried and had chills as I recounted the story to her. But still, the idea of sharing this in written word was hard to grasp. It’s hard to find the words to explain something that you don’t quite fully understand; it’s hard to find the words to explain something that most people in your world haven’t experienced firsthand. Sometimes it’s just hard to find the words. Now as I sit with my journal open and my heart in constant prayer, I think I have the words I need.

She caught my attention as soon as we arrived to the park.

M was a dark-haired girl in a long red skirt, and she was hard to miss. Her approach was loud and quick- her cries a contrast to the smile she wore- and many of the children expressed their fear of her. I looked at her, and something inside of me was unsettled by her movements and manner. I watched as she wailed, throwing herself down onto our blue tarp before trying to wrap it all around her, our attempts to set up for our presentation delayed. Two words, distinct and clear echoed in my heart: not right.

We sat on the tarp a short time later, the presentation of the Gospel message in full swing, and I felt a quick but hard pinch of fingers against my side. When I turned, there she was, eyes dark and smile wide. By this time, I had been considering her- seriously feeling that it was possible that something demonic was possessing or oppressing this girl. We’d heard plenty on the subject since arriving in Romania and I recalled the bus-ride where Calin explained the very real possibility of us witnessing such darkness. With M beside me, touching my hair and tilting her head to grin at me, I knew I had to pray over her. I didn’t know what exactly was happening with this girl, but I knew whether possessed, oppressed or just in need of Christ, I was meant to be there with her and pray over her.

I took her hands as she reached out to hit me, a peace and sense of calm that was not my own enveloping me.

My legs crossed beneath me, I sat and looked into her eyes for a long moment. Her hands held in my own, I prayed the boldest prayer I’ve ever uttered. I prayed for her healing, for the light and love of Jesus to be revealed to her; I demanded whatever was within her or at work against her leave in the name of Jesus; I prayed that she would experience the peace of God- a peace I knew she didn’t currently have. I prayed for a few minutes, her hands in mine, until she left to play with one of our translators.

I didn’t see her again that day.

On the bus, teammates who had been to this same park the year before told us that M was there last year. She had been possessed and they had prayed over her to cast out the demon. What I saw of this girl and her behavior was said to have been better than what she had acted the year prior. And as I heard the story, I knew that I had just experienced something beyond what I’d ever been confronted with in my days of faith. And I knew that if I saw this girl again, I had to pray over her once more.

Our last day of ministry I found myself back at the same park. I spotted M right away, swinging on the playground. Remembering the call I felt to pray with her, I accepted that I’d be making a point of finding her later that day, and turned to pay attention to the debrief my team was having.

We were in the middle of the short meeting when I felt someone run to my side and wrap their arms around me tightly. It was M, and she was smiling- not the grin of that first day when she pinched my side, but a genuine smile that reached her eyes. Her entire manner was brighter. As she held her arms around me and looked up at my face, two words echoed clear as day in my heart; two words that encompassed all I could feel when her arms found my waist. Two words: thank you.

Overwhelmed, I wrapped my arms around her, smiling myself despite not fully understanding what had happened. It didn’t matter; I understood enough, and my heart full of awe at what God had done in this girl. The rest of the day, M was calm. She didn’t try to hurt or scare. She sat and heard our presentation; she played with us amongst the other children. And I thanked the Lord for letting me play such a small part in her story; thanked Him that she was different.

She was changed by Jesus.
And I will never forget.

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember Your wonders of old. I will ponder all Your work, and meditate on Your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your might among the peoples. You with Your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.   [ Psalm 77:11-15, ESV ]