In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells many parables about lost people who are reconciled to God. In verse 15:10 (ESV) Jesus says, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” This verse stuck in my head when I heard about the story of Antonio.
Pastor Krey, while relating the joy that he felt while watching young and old “approach the Lord’s Table, hear the words, ‘given for you and shed for you’ and know that these God given words breathe oneness and new life in the lives of people who are tired and perhaps struggling to serve Christ and Him Crucified.” He then went on to illustrate this point with Antonio’s story. Rev. Krey says, “By God’s grace, [Antonio] will be confirmed tomorrow. He is the father of six children with his present wife. With his previous [wife], he had another several. He is pushing 70 years old and has an infant of 1 year old. When they came to our church, they were known as the town beggars. Members urged us not to give them anything nor include them. Well, one year later, Antonio who is one of the poorest men in our town of 8000 has become rich towards God because of our dear Lord Jesus Christ.”
Antonio lived on the mountainside without any running water or electricity. All eight family members lived in a shack made out of metal siding and slept on one mattress. When a neighbor attempted to help out by running electricity to a single light bulb in the home, the shack burned down. His health continues to deteriorate as is evidenced by the fact that he is falling frequently and becoming emaciated.
While this may sound hopeless to you and I, there is one difference. In the midst of all his trouble, Antonio has the peace and joy that can only be found through Jesus Christ. Rev. Krey writes, “He comes to church service before anyone else and sits there with his eyes closed and a smile on his face. Four of his children have studied a full year in school. His youngest, who almost died, was healed and baptized. All of his children have since been baptized. When his house burned down, the people of the church sent a truck around the neighborhood and filled it with new clothes. The church had them live with us for 4 weeks. The Mayor and the baseball league gave them a piece of property and built them a new home. Yes, the Lord cares for his own, in body and in spirit.”
Further, Rev Krey writes, “Yet, isn’t it so true that we live under the cross? Sometimes we groan under the burdens, forgetting to see the multitude of blessings that the Lord has given us, chief of which are sins forgiven and an eternal life confirmed by faith in Jesus Christ. Give thanks together with us for Antonio and his wife Marisela, who tomorrow, by God’s grace will speak their baptismal vows once again. Now old, but made new through baptism and renewed yet again by that forgiveness of sins which they will hear with their ears, receive in their mouths and by His grace, believe in their hearts so that in their poverty they might believe together with Paul, all that is of Christ is yours. Rich in Christ yet poor through human eyes.”