By Mike and Rebekah Boettcher-Zosel, Ministry Partners at Tierra Nueva
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
We had spent an entire month preparing for situations like this one. One month suff ocating in the tropical humidity of
southern Mexico; hiding from the heat during the day, hiding from the mosquitoes at night. We had studied hours each day,
strengthening these mental muscles, for situations exactly like this.
This was my fi rst time in the jail, and Manuel, one of the five men in our jail bible study, could only speak Spanish. While
Chris, my mission partner for the day, was bringing the men into worship with a song, it was my job to go around the circle
and lay hands on each inmate, praying for them as the Spirit led. The words fl owed freely in English as I prayed for the
first four. I felt a growing confidence and excitement as I approached our last man, Manuel, ready to fl ex and show off the
newly-defined muscles of my second language.
But as I laid hands on Manuel, it was as if all my practice had been for nothing. I choked! Stutt ering, embarrassed, I searched
frantically for any remnants of Spanish that might help me communicate. My tongue twisted and fl exed, trying to summon
the words—any words.
Finally, one came.
“Dios—“ I plunged in, pressing a litt le into his shoulder. That was something, at least. “Gracias por . . .”
A long pause, but nothing more surfaced. I pressed harder—was this all the Spanish I had?
“Gracias por . . . tu presencia,” I nodded. It was freshman year Spanish—not something I had learned during our immersion
trip—but Spanish nonetheless. Thank you for your presence.
Realizing that that was all I was going to get today, I released Manuel. “Amen.”
I hung my head, frustrated that all my hard work hadn’t paid off in my first attempt. A month of immersion in Mexico and
that was all I could remember? I retreated to my seat next to Chris, eager to move past this awkward encounter. I felt . . .
As Chris opened his Bible and began to speak, he was interrupted by a sobbing voice from his right.
“Permétame.” Forgive me, came the voice, through tears. It was Manuel.
“Es sólo que yo siempre he sentido la presencia de Dios conmigo”—It’s just that I’ve always felt God’s presence with
me—“Cuando pasé la frontera”—When I crossed the border—“Cuando estoy trabajando en los campos”—When I am
working in the fi elds—“Y hasta durante mis problemas con las mujeres”—and even during my problems with women. “Y
siempe he creído en Él.” And I have always believed in Him.
The other inmates responded beautifully to Manuel’s testimony. “We like you, bro!” they smiled. “You’re cool! You always
make us laugh with your jokes!” Manuel grinned sheepishly, still crying.
I smiled and sighed, all my performance anxiety dissipating into the faithfulness of God. Wasn’t this just like the Lord? With
a word, God had humbled me, drawn Manuel to the center of our group, spoken across a language barrier, and made a
dwelling place for himself among migrants, missionaries, and inmates. God had graced us with his presencia, and all I had
to do was enjoy Him.
With a single word, He said, I can reach Manuel in a way that all the Spanish in the world never could.
My power works best in weakness.