When the speaker for our annual Western District Conference women’s luncheon, in Dallas, Texas, walked to the podium with a mask covering her face, I wondered who this mysterious woman was and how her story might relate to my life. Her Spanish words were translated into English as she shared about a childhood of sexual abuse that carried over into an abusive marriage. Troubled relationships with a son and daughter only multiplied her feelings of failure and low self-esteem. However, she continued to go to church and act as if all were well. She saw her mask as a powerful protection from her painful life experiences, keeping her secrets safe.
But God saw beyond that mask and looked into her heart. God saw a woman crying out for help. God’s love broke into her life, and she experienced a great release when she became free of her secrets. God’s love for her had more power than that mask. Relationships with her children mended, and she can now accept them and love them for whom they have become. Because she claimed the love of God for her, she also is experiencing a loving marital relationship.
All eyes were on our speaker when she removed her mask. Even the hotel wait staff seemed captivated by her story. Under that mask, we discovered a lovely woman with a strong faith, a pastor and church planter with her husband, Alberto. This woman is Aurora Parchmont, from Pasadena, Texas. She leads many women’s groups and is a tutor for students in IBA, Instituto Biblico Anabautista, (Anabaptist Biblical Institute).
Aurora concluded her story by claiming God had put it on her heart to pray with us because there could be others in the room wearing masks, women who were holding onto secrets that kept them from experiencing God’s love. While she prayed I could sense the Spirit moving through the room.
Tears flowed freely when she embraced one of the hotel’s wait staff and prayed with her. I looked at my table mate and saw her eyes glistening too. “Holy ground,” I whispered. She nodded, and we smiled at each other. When the staff woman walked by our table to resume her duties, I embraced her and told her she was beautiful just the way she was and that God loved her. I remembered the broken pieces in my own life, thanked God for offering endless love and asked God to continue to heal me.
Both of the wait staff responded to God’s call on their lives that day. Each heard God’s call in her own language—Spanish and English. Aurora Parchmont’s story gave them the courage to take off their masks. The power of God’s Spirit broke through barriers of language, economic class, and education. Fear, mistrust, and self doubt lost their power when the face of God was revealed through the faithful witness of this sister in Christ.
Yes, indeed we were on “holy ground.”
Elizabeth Raid, Newton, Kansas enjoys writing as ministry after retiring from work with a number of church-related organizations, most recently as co-pastor at Mennonite Friendship Communities, So. Hutchinson with her husband, Lou Gomez. She is active at Bethel College Mennonite Church.
Another version of this story appeared in the The Garden, a Western District Conference Newsletter, Fall, 2017.