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When I first met Celsa, she was full of joy and peace. She became our companion in learning the language and culture of the Mixtec of Magdalena Peñasco. The process involved playing games, and a lot of laughter. At the beginning I stayed silent and allowed her to ask me questions. Then I began to ask her questions in turn. 

Naua ku cha’a?” I asked over and over, pointing to various objects. “What is this?” Celsa would laugh at my pronunciation, but over time I progressed until one day I was able to do more than just point at objects and ask for names. We began to understand each other, to have deeper conversations. We began to ask, “Naua ku cha’a?” about one another’s stories, hearts and dreams. We became friends. 

Then I learned that Celsa’s joy and peace were a freshly-lived gift, one she had never imagined possible for herself. Celsa had grown up poor and uneducated. Like many indigenous women, she dropped out of school, got pregnant and was abandoned by the father of her child. Then she married an abusive alcoholic. What choice did she have? In the Mixtec villages of Oaxaca, a single mother needed a husband. Any husband.

The years of her marriage were full of sorrow and loss. Baby after baby died, and surviving children became victims at the hand of their own father. In the end, Celsa’s children begged her to leave their father. Doing this caused her to suffer acute anxiety, guilt and depression. Then she met Jesus.

“It was my daughter Rachel who told me about him,” Celsa explained. “At first I wondered, ‘What is this?’ But when I surrendered my life to Jesus, he helped me to forgive the man who caused us such pain, and to receive forgiveness for myself.” 

Naua ku cha’a? What is Celsa? Celsa is a spiritual giant. A jewel. My heroine. An example of what God can do in people’s lives when they trust him. And the kind of servant-hearted friend that we all long for.

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