A Special Encounter

by Rita Westphal

I was back in my homeland visiting family, many years after moving to the United States. As was my custom, on Sabbath I attended the church where I was baptized, and where I still had many friends. They always gave me a few minutes to share with them, and had asked me to sing for the service.

Afterwards, as I hugged my brothers and sisters in the Lord, I noticed a young couple waiting patiently to see me.

“When I heard the name Rita Daniela, I knew I had to talk to you,” he said. “You were the one who brought the gospel to my family! My Aunt Maria converted her whole family,” he added, “and you were the Bible worker who gave her and my mother Bible studies.”

I was delighted to meet this young man, now working for the Lord as a successful colporteur. I vaguely remember him as a child. As he talked, old memories came to mind and I was amazed how the Lord had worked in such marvelous ways.

Chance Encounter?

I had met his aunt, Maria, while both of us were waiting for a bus in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. I still remember her face. She looked so sick, tired, and weak. My heart went out to her. I started a conversation and soon discovered she lived in northern Portugal, but had come to Lisbon to go to the Institute of Oncology for special tests because her doctor suspected she might have cancer. We talked for a while until one of us had to take our bus.

Two years later I was asked to be a Bible worker for the northern city of Porto, Portugal’s second largest city. One Sabbath, as I participated up front, I noticed a lady shyly entering the church. I thought I recognized her from somewhere, and soon I remembered. She was the lady I’d met in Lisbon while waiting for my bus!

After worship Maria was waiting at the door and there was an immediate bond. She told me that many years ago she’d visited our church with a neighbor, but that morning she’d felt an urge to come to our church again, even though it was very far from her home. She also told me she was feeling sick and discouraged.

When I offered to study the Bible with her she eagerly accepted. I visited her regularly, and soon she put me in touch with her sister-in-law, who also started studying with me.

Soon Maria was baptized and  became a radiant Christian! We grew very close, but soon I had to return to Lisbon, and then I came to America.

The Lord Knows His Own

Sadly, we lost touch with each other, but now, twenty years later, I stood in church talking to her nephew. He told me Maria had immigrated to Angola, and that she’d brought her whole family to the Lord and into the church before she passed away.

The words of the psalmist came to mind: “Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” Psalm 126:6 (NIV). For, as in the days of Pentecost, the Lord is adding to the church those who are being saved.

My heart was full of joy, amazed at how the Lord knows His own and provided a special encounter in a city of millions to bring His other children to His fold!

In a Perfect World