Penelope and her two younger sisters live in a tiny house built above their grandparents’ home in El Ejido, Dominican Republic. From the busy street below, the girls climb a narrow spiral staircase that opens onto a small landing, which enters into a living space where their mother has a beauty shop. In the shop are carefully arranged towels, perfumes, shampoos and creams, and a reclining chair to wash hair. Behind the salon are their living quarters. But it is not a happy place.
Carmen, the local Community Health Evangelism (CHE) facilitator, became concerned about the condition of youth in the neighborhood. As she saw early pregnancies and exposure to drugs and alcohol, broken families and domestic violence, Carmen began a CHE program among teenagers. A group of about twenty-five boys and girls met weekly and learned about hygiene, sexuality, Bible studies and community development. Penelope with her two little sisters joined the group. When they were asked to share prayer concerns, the sisters asked prayer for their parents.
Their father, Moreno, had gone to church as a boy, but now he was drinking heavily and would come home very late each night. Their mother, Yocasta, on the other hand, played cards and spent all her money on the lottery. Whatever Yocasta earned in her little beauty shop, she would use gambling. Money was scarce in the house. Crying, screaming, verbal abuse and abandonment were constant in the life of this family. With the support of their grandmother who lives downstairs, the three daughters began to approach God, asking Him to help their family.
First, God dealt with their dad, Moreno. Mama Mecho, the president of the Community Health Evangelism committee in El Ejido, often invited Moreno to the evangelistic meetings at the church, but Moreno resisted attending. Meanwhile, his life continued to deteriorate. He recognized his family was completely out of control, living from crisis to crisis. Finally, Moreno agreed to go with Mama Mecho to the local church. When he heard the story of Jesus Christ and His love for mankind, he surrendered his life to the Savior. From that day on, the change in his life was dramatic. However, Yocasta did not believe this was a permanent change. She thought, “He will be back to normal after a few days.” Yet Moreno continued to change, and he prayed his wife would do the same.
Yocasta, the girls’ mother, kept going out with her friends until late at night, gambling, drinking and fighting with her husband. However, she began to notice that she was getting deeper into debt, and her household was in serious financial need. She was low on materials for her shop, but she had no money. She felt that God was asking her: “Yocasta, what are you doing with your life?”
She prayed and asked God for strength not to gamble anymore … and God answered! One day she tried to get some money to go gambling at the lottery bank before it closed, but nobody came to her shop until later. Then people started streaming in. When she earned the exact amount of money she needed, she realized this was a clear answer to her prayers. She was seized by a special fear for the things of God. She began to pay off her debts, and even more clients arrived at her small beauty salon. She refused when her old friends asked her to go drinking.
Early in the morning on December 31, God answered all of the girls’ prayers: their mom, supported by their dad, received Christ as her Savior when he brought his family to attend a CHE meeting.
Today their home reflects God’s love. The girls have drawn pictures on their cardboard walls next to Bible verses. Joy fills the faces of their parents. Money earned is now spent on the needs of the household. Yocasta leads a prayer group of mothers called “Wake Up Deborah” that has been integrated into the local CHE ministry to strengthen prayer for the community. Moreno and Yocasta are CHE leaders along with other couples in their neighborhood. Together, they tell their stories, visit homes, pray with others, and teach lessons on how to strengthen marriages. The Lord answered the prayers of Penelope and her sisters over and above what they could imagine.
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