“And the master said to the servant, ‘go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled’” (Luke 14:23, ESV).
The clock’s hands were almost reaching 5:30 p.m. when the last call of the day came straight to my queue.
Why me? I thought, a little bit annoyed.
It had been a long, busy day. Feeling exhausted and ready to call it quits, I wondered why some people wait to the very end of the day to get things accomplished.
I imagined myself standing somewhere. The background music that had been playing all day long stopped and, over a speaker that sounded 30 percent louder than normal, I recognized my own voice saying:
“Attention shoppers, our store will be closing in 5 minutes. Please take the time to make your final selections and proceed to the registers so our associates can enjoy the evening with their families. Thank you for shopping here.”
But of course, I was not a clerk in a store. I was a customer service representative for a Seventh-day Adventist publishing house, and I needed to jump back into reality.
Modulating my voice to sound professional, I picked up the phone and answered: “Good afternoon, Pacific Press, how may I help you?”
A woman’s voice on the other end of the line immediately said: “Buenas tardes, ¿me escucha?”
I opened my mouth to say “yes, I can hear you,” but before I could even take my next breath, the woman was already pouring out her soul on my left ear.
Not for a moment did she ever ask if I spoke her language or understood what she was saying. She just assumed I did. And I followed along.
“I’m not a Seventh-day Adventist, but I know we are living in dire times and I worry something very bad is about to happen,” she said.
My heart stopped. I could hear real fear in this woman’s voice and something told me this wasn’t going to be a typical customer call.
Indeed, questions kept coming. The need for a personal Savior was on the tip of this woman’s tongue.
“What can I do?” she asked. “What’s going to happen in our world?”
The conversation immediately became more personal, the rapport turned genuine, and a sense of bonding formed between this woman and me, as we felt more open to talking in-depth about the subject.
“Are my children going to be saved”? she asked at one point during our conversation. There was great concern in her voice and it felt as if all of a sudden her worries were my own worries ,and her cry my own cry before the Lord.
Bringing others to Christ is like learning a whole new language and the culture that goes along with it. And I understood her: completely and deeply.
She told me her name was Maria, that she and her family had recently moved to Nampa from Arizona, and that the transition had been challenging for them.
Violence, natural disasters, and the heavy impact of a global pandemic—all of these fed her uncertainty and her fears. But someone had been sending her El Centinela, and she desperately wanted to know more about that awe-inspiring God the magazine talked about.
As she was sharing these things with me, my mind suddenly lit up, and in total astonishment I remembered having prayed for this woman before — just a few months prior, while renewing her subscription to El Centinela, sponsored by a church in Arizona.
I knew right there and then that the Lord had planned for me to answer Maria’s call that evening for a very special reason. His beautiful Presence was felt all around me in strong waves of empathy and understanding.
If Maria felt comfortable telling me her heartfelt story, I would not stop shedding light on why I’m passionate about Christ’s second return.
After our conversation ended, I autographed one of my books, Friends of Jesus, and placed a little note inside its covers with the name and address of our Spanish church in Nampa. I mailed the book to Maria, and left everything in God’s hands.
Discipleship Takes a Village
I had already forgotten all about the incident with Maria when one morning, a few months later, my husband received a call from one of the elders of the Nampa Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church. He shared the good news. Maria and some other members of her family had been baptized that previous Sabbath.
I only played a part in Maria’s journey as a disciple of Christ. Discipleship takes a village — a dedicated church in Arizona, a magazine and the people who share the gospel through its pages, and a publishing house employee.
God does not call the equipped; He equips the called and we all have a message to share with the world. The Bible makes it clear that God has called every believer to share the Good News. “Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ” (Ephesians 1:4 GNT).
What a privilege it is to be an ambassador for Christ and represent the King of kings to those we come in contact with. Let us not build walls with our words, but instead build bridges with a language the heart can understand.
— Olga Valdivia is a customer service representative for the Pacific Press Publishing Association.
What Is El Centinela?
El Centinela magazine is one of the longest-running Christian magazines in the world, reaching millions of people with a message of positive living in the areas of family, health and faith. Two precursors to the El Centinela of today were started: in Mexico in 1896; and in 1903, under the name El Centinela de la Verdad by Brenton E. Connerly in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. In July 1919 Pacific Press took over its publication; in 1920 Pacific Press began to print the magazine monthly. Today, El Centinela, continues to be printed monthly. It is carefully crafted to address the life challenges of North American Hispanics with authoritative Bible-based content, including columns and articles on mental health, prophecy, healthy living, women’s issues, Bible doctrine, cooking recipes, and Bible study information.