This week we are sharing the powerful testimony of Maria Luna, one of our seminary students, who has two children: 12-year-old Antony and 11-year-old Maria.
My name is María and I was born in the suburbs of Guayaquil, Ecuador. My parents were Catholic but didn’t know Jesus. They were satisfied with their lives even though they lived together without being married. After 8 children, they separated when I was 5 years old. Life became very hard for me. My mother worked so we could eat and wasn’t ever home. My older siblings cared for us but they were not very mature. We moved a lot without having a specific place to live. I frequently asked myself why I had to suffer so much.
When I was 12 years old I went to live with my father because I thought this would give me a better life. However, he actually lived with another woman, so I lived alone in his own home. When I was 15 years old my boyfriend moved in with me. With him, I had two beautiful children. The first birth was dangerous, and I almost died trying to save the life of my son. Thanks be to God, He saved me and my baby. After one year, I was pregnant with my daughter. At this time I was living with another man who wanted me to abort the baby. After many nights of crying, my older sister took me to her doctor to get an abortion. However, the doctor couldn’t perform an abortion because I was already 4 months pregnant and the baby was very big.
When I returned home, my boyfriend verbally and physically abused me. I suffered a great deal and my daughter was born premature. Because I didn’t have medical attention during this pregnancy, my daughter had a lot of problems when she was born. She had a problem with her heart; her lungs were premature and she couldn’t breathe on her own; and she had water on the brain. I began praying to God, to the Virgin Mary, and all of the Saints. Now I know that the all-powerful God heard my prayers even though I was wrong in my beliefs.
As time passed and my boyfriend’s behavior didn’t improve, I separated from him. I tried to finish high school, and I worked part-time. I was with my children in the afternoon and studied at night. I had no help from my family. I began to go out with young men because I wanted to feel loved and to fill the void in me. I began to drink a lot of alcohol and go to parties.
At 22 years old, I heard the message of salvation from a professor of English in my high school. If we listened to his lectures we received points for our notes on the material. He introduced me to a God of truth, of love, and of reconciliation. However, I didn’t want to accept this message because I was in love with another man at this time, and I had bigger problems. I was without work and the father of my children would not help me feed my children. This situation confirmed what I had believed since I was a child: that I was born to be unhappy. I was ready to commit suicide with my children. But the night I had planned to kill myself, I cried out in a loud voice: “If God exists, if He is real, then I don’t have to do this and I will be happy one day.” After this I slept profoundly. When I woke up, all the bad feelings had left me. I began to search for God everywhere I knew to look: the Catholic church, the Jehovah Witnesses, and the Mormons. Finally I talked with a minister named Moisés and he made me understand that I needed the forgiveness of God and to change my lifestyle. In this moment I wanted to know this God. Also, I began listening to Christian radio. As I listened, I understood that I was separated from God. I accepted the Lord in my heart during a radio program by Pastor Adrian Rodgers.
Soon I met a sister in Christ and we began to chat. She lived close to my house and invited me to attend church with her. That Sunday was the first time I felt peace in my life. I continued to go to church and to take my children to Sunday School. It was a beautiful time for me. After a while I shared the gospel with my mother and my sister, Monica. My mom saw the change that God had done in my life, and she also accepted Christ and forgave my father for all the suffering he had caused. After I was baptized, I became a youth leader. Then I went to a camp to teach children how to read. Through these ministries God was giving me an opportunity to express my thankfulness for my new life.
Now, as a student at the Seminary, God is giving me the opportunity to develop as a church leader in knowledge, character and practice. I feel the call to teach and work with children and adolescents. I can use my past to help abused women who feel incapable of leaving a bad situation. Now my prayer to God is that I will follow His will and continue working for His glory.