Although happy with the many new friends she was making, Maria was constantly wondering how to better serve God in her life.
Published on: 06-30-2022
We spent most of the day collecting beans, rice, fruits, vegetables, and other gifts for the mothers and babies we would meet that afternoon in the Peruvian mountainside village of Huilloc. My wife and I were to lead out in a baby dedication and wanted to arrive with appropriate gifts.
Our guide was Maria Molleda, a Seventh-day Adventist tourist guide who seemed to know everything about Peru. She also knew where to find families who wanted to know more about God.
“Pastor, speak to them about how Jesus is calling their children to live for Him,” she advised me with a smile.
“Maria, how did you learn about Jesus?” It’s a question I love to ask.
Maria heard God calling her to become a nun, to be a sister in the Santa Catalina Convent on Cathedral Square in Cusco, Peru. It was a huge decision, one she and her mother had prayed about, a change that would impact the rest of Maria’s life.
“Please, Sister,” Maria told the mother superior, “I believe God wants me to become a nun.”
The mother superior was a very kind and wise woman. She quickly understood the eagerness in Maria’s eyes and was almost tempted to welcome her home. The convent, however, had one very strict rule that she could not break.
“Maria, it’s good that you have heard God calling you, but you are only 16 years old, and we cannot accept novitiates until they are 18. I’m very sorry, but you will have to wait and come back again in two years.”
Maria left quietly, tears streaking her face as she walked past the ancient cathedral and up the streets to her nearby home. As she walked, she called out to God. “Now what do You want me to do with my life? How can I be totally Yours?”
By the time she got home she and God had made a plan. She would become a tourist guide! She would take classes in Tourismo and learn exactly what to say so she could tell tourists about Jesus while showing them the ancient Inca ruins in her homeland.
Maria was soon helping people plan itineraries at one of the better hotels in Cusco. Although happy with the many new friends she was making, Maria was constantly wondering how to better serve God in her life.
* * *
One day at work Maria came across a radio station that was playing Christian music. After several songs a preacher came on, speaking clearly about God’s love and the hope we can have in Jesus. She was so excited about the message that she shared it with her family.
“I have been listening to some messages from a Pastor Bullón on the radio,” she told them. “He talks very well about Jesus. You must listen to him!”
The family listened, talking often about the truths they were learning. Then one day at work everything became even more exciting.
“Today I received a visit from some very serious gentlemen who were dressed in dark suits,” says Maria. “As we talked, they discovered that I had been listening to Pastor Bullón on the radio. “Are you an Adventist?” one of the men asked me. “No,” I told them. “But I don’t ever miss a sermon by Pastor Alejandro Bullón!”
The men were searching for a hotel where Pastor Bullón and his ministry team could stay while in Cusco for a speaking appointment the next month. It was high season for tourism, and they had not been able to find space at an affordable rate.
“I got so very excited,” Maria remembers. “I told them that Pastor Bullón could stay at the hotel where I worked. Although we didn’t have all of the necessary rooms available right then, I promised to fix that. And the rate? Since they would need several rooms and would be doing other visits while in Cusco, I was able to offer them a very special rate that fit their budget.”
The month flew by, and each day Maria planned how she would tell Pastor Bullón “Thank you” for his messages of hope.
On the day Pastor Bullón arrived, everything went wrong.
“There was a delay in their journey, so I called our hotel receptionists and asked them to notify me as soon as the men arrived,” says Maria.
Unfortunately, as often occurs when we are waiting on tiptoes for something very special to happen, the receptionists forgot to let Maria know when the team arrived.
“I heard many voices, so I left my office and dashed to the lobby. Pastor Bullón’s entire delegation was there, laughing and talking. Everyone except Pastor Bullón! One of our desk workers had already taken him upstairs to his room.”
Not quite sure what to do, Maria walked toward the reception desk to complain because they had forgotten to warn her. A pastor with a large black book in his hands intercepted her.
“Please,” the man said, “this must be taken immediately to room 301.”
Room 301 was the room Maria had selected for Pastor Bullón. Maria smiled and held out her hand.
“Thank you for taking this upstairs,” the man said. “It’s very important.”
“I looked down at the book and realized I was holding Pastor Bullón’s Bible!” Maria remembers. “I carried it carefully up to his room, more than a little afraid to meet such an important man and tell him he had lost his Bible. At his door I stood quietly for a long time and then knocked. He came right away, just a normal middle-aged man, but one with a very big welcoming smile. The smile grew even larger when he saw the Bible I was holding out to him.”
Pastor Bullón accepted his Bible, thanked Maria profusely, and closed the door. Maria stood there for a minute, smiled, and then went back downstairs to help a group of American tourists with their trip to Machu Picchu.
* * *
“I took my whole family to the Colosseum to hear Pastor Bullón preach that evening,” Maria smiled widely. “When he made a call for us to follow Jesus and let Him change our lives, I hurried forward. That day, after waiting so long, I knew for certain how God had called me to serve. I am a tourist guide for Him.”