“What do I have to say?” Vicky thought.
She was preparing to speak at the Central America Missions Door Women’s Conference in Masaya, Nicaragua. This conference was the first to be held specifically for women involved with the Central American ministries of Missions Door. While intended for women, many men also attended the conference and held some separate meetings. Participants gathered in Nicaragua in early January and fellowshipped together for one week.
Vicky traveled from Missions Door headquarters in Denver, along with President Rick Miller and Vice President of Personnel, Mike Fleischmann. While Vicky had attended multiple conferences in the past, this was the first conference at which she had been asked to share.
“These women face danger everyday… ministering in the streets with lots of gang violence.” Vicky said. And it’s true. Many of these women and their husbands work in hostile areas in their individual countries. Vicky Cortez, who is the accounts payable coordinator at Missions Door, has formed relationships with many of these individuals over the years. She knew the reality of their situations. “I’m not a pastor or missionary. I work in an office. What can I teach them?”
Vicky wrestled with these questions for weeks leading up to the conference. She prayed, asking God what He could possibly want her to share with these women. His response seemed a bit on the nose, but Vicky was obedient to share.
As God so often does, He began to speak challenging truth into Vicky’s life. He asked her to be brave and share her own story. For while she did not have the experiences of a missionary, neither had they experienced the circumstances of her life.
So what did Vicky talk about? “I shared my testimony and how being intimate with God has helped me to be encouraged, be brave, and be an instrument of change in His hands.”
And Vicky’s testimony is one of those that leaves you with your heart pounding and your jaw on the floor.
As a young woman, Vicky fell in love with a man, they moved in together, and had two daughters. Vicky did not know that this man, the father of her children, was a part of the drug cartel and a drug trafficker. After years of emotional and physical abuse, and a warning that the FBI was following this man’s every move, Vicky realized the truth of who he was. He was arrested shortly after and imprisoned on charges of conspiracy, possession and distribution of illegal drugs. His family sent money for bail, but upon his release, he decided to flee the country to Mexico, and failed to appear in court.
Vicky and her two daughters were left alone in Denver, and one day soon after, dozens of police stormed their home. They were pointing guns at each of them and screaming, “Where is he? Where is he? Where are you hiding him?” The police entered their home on multiple occasions at varied times to try to catch him at the house. Vicky describes this time as the worst nightmare she had ever experienced. He had abandoned them, she did not know where he was, and the police continued to push for answers.
After one such invasion, a police officer threatened Vicky with charging her as an accomplice if she did not help them find him. He said, “If you don’t help us, we will charge you, you will spend ten years in prison and they will take your daughters from you.” So she agreed. The plan was that when he called Vicky next, she would tell him that she and the girls were going to move and join him in Mexico. They would then set up a place to meet, and the police would be ready to arrest him at the meeting point.
The day came, and Vicky and the girls, who were pretending to be moving to Mexico, arrived with no suitcases. Plans changed, the police could not execute the plan outside of U.S. soil, and so they left Vicky and the girls with her children’s father. Vicky had to quickly convince him that the reason they did not have any bags packed was because they wanted him to find a job and a place to live before they moved to Mexico with him. Thankfully, he agreed, and Vicky and the girls went back to Denver.
After not hearing from him for six months, Vicky received a phone call that left her on her knees.
He was dead. The cartel he worked for had killed him. And they had never said goodbye.
Vicky fell into a deep, dark depression. In that time, the pain and confusion were so deep that she completely forgot about her daughters. Instead, her mother took care of them during the months when Vicky did not want to live. Vicky says her mother used to come into her room and on her knees implored her to get up. She literally begged, “Look at your daughters, they need you, for the love of God, get up! You must do it for them!” But Vicky could not process what had happened to her life. She said, “I literally felt like a dry, broken tree branch, lifeless and hollow inside.”
Throughout this entire time, Vicky’s brother, Ray, was the only Christian in their family. He would visit her home every Wednesday afternoon and every Sunday morning, knock on her door, and say, “We are praying for you. God has a plan and a purpose for your life.” Vicky would scoff. She rejected any God who could be so cruel and vile, a God who took her love and made her and her little ones suffer.
But one Sunday morning, while sitting on the edge of her bed crying bitterly, her daughters entered the room. Alekz, the eldest, took Alondra, the younger, by the hand and approaching Vicky, took her face between her hands and said, “Mommy, don’t cry anymore.” In that moment, Vicky saw Alekz’ little face shine with an intense light—a light that she had never seen before! Vicky turned to the window thinking that the light reflecting on her face was sunlight, but it was not. Then, there was this inexplicable change in Vicky’s heart, so uplifting that she stood up. Wiping the tears from her face, she told her girls, “You will not see me cry anymore; come, we are going to church.” And the three got ready and went to Vicky’s brother’s church, the one he had prayed they would attend for so long.
Since that day, Vicky has served the God she once thought was so cruel. But now, she sees Him as a God who took her out of the obscure and lonely pit of darkness and into His marvelous Light. In all of her life, Vicky praises Him, “to Him who has given me new life, a new hope and a wonderful future; to Him be all the honor and glory forever and ever, amen!”
Vicky is not technically a missionary or a pastor. She did not attend seminary, nor was she trained in the mission field. But God has used her story to touch so many and to be an instrument of change in so many lives!
Through her message, and the messages shared by others, God reminded all who attended how valuable they are in His plan. Vicky said, “God encouraged all of us women to start seeing ourselves as real pearls in His ministry, to know how valuable we are, not only for our families, but for the ministry.”
It is so easy to compare ourselves to others who are “doing more” for the Kingdom of God. It is so easy to forget the pearl, the treasure we are in God’s eyes. Only through intimacy and relationship with Him, will we remember the importance and value of our own stories. Only through seeking Him, may we experience His incredible love and the plans He has for our lives. As it says in Ephesians, God hand-picked us, for a story He planned for us.
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.