Now when I talk to her, she mostly says the same things. Delivered in a beautiful Spanish accent, it is accompanied with a big smile and hug. When I ask how she and her kids are, she says “Good, really good”.Quite different than the first time I met her. I pulled into the Aurora Motel, wanting to meet the manager, get a sense of who lived there, and see if we could help.I was let into the locked office by a shy teenage girl.  She pointed to her mother, coming in behind me, when I asked for the manager. I introduced myself.  Her name was Maria and I explained who I was and asked about those living in her motel. As she talked, it was clear that she cared about those she called ‘my people.’ She seemed stressed and was touched that I and some friends would come to love and serve ‘her people.’ 

When I asked how I could could pray for them, she became emotional as she shared their needs.When I asked how I could pray for her, she began crying openly. She felt enormous stress in running the motel. But there was more. She pointed to Colfax and told me her husband had been killed there 5 years earlier; when he did not return from an evening errand, she went looking and found his body. That left her alone to run the motel and raise their 3 small children; all her extended family was in Mexico. Not only emotional, she seemed desperate.

I prayed for her, and gave her a big hug, this tall gringo hugging a petite Hispanic lady. I promised to return. That began a remarkable journey of a group of us spending part of Tuesday evenings at the Aurora, something we have done for nearly a year. We have gotten to know Maria’s people, have come to love them and consider them friends, have listened and prayed the presence of Jesus into many situations.In doing that, I believe we have a made a difference in the lives of many people there, but also for Maria.The very next time I saw Maria she looked so different I wasn’t sure it was her. Her face was glowing and when I asked how she was doing, she said: “I’m doing really good!” I was surprised at the change. When I asked her why she was doing so much better, she looked at me a little puzzled and just said, “Because you prayed for me!”Apparently, the prayer WORKED!The other thing Maria always says: “This place is so different and so much better since all of you have come.”Progress is slow here, but her words encourage us to be faithful. And, we see other signs of growth:

  • I think of an older couple who we helped move into a small house out in a prairie town, something that rarely happens. We are still blessed by their friendships and prayers.
  • There is a young couple with three small children who made sure to come find me at a barbecue we held there this week, to have me pray for their sweet family, a weekly ritual.
  • Another good friend and Jesus-follower has made the hard decision to go into rehab. He told me that we were the only people who were willing to love him when he was at his worst.
  • One day, Maria’s teenage daughter was waiting for the team to show up because she wanted us to pray with her for some challenges she faced.

I could share more, but in the middle of hard stuff, we see beautiful signs of Jesus at work.I am learning to not hold tightly onto the need for change; if I did, it would kill me. Many burn out in this environment, frustrated with the lack of change. You hear it, “Why don’t these people change?”Our focus is loving people; we leave changing them to Jesus. Interestingly, the less we worry about change and the more we simply love, the more change we see.I have shared a lot of hard stories with you because hard stories are aplenty here. But today, I want you to also celebrate the good things Jesus is doing.Here is a good lesson: Show up and love people; Jesus will take care of changing them.