Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Something I read today...from Author Donna Partow

Is the Proverbs 31 Woman a Mythological Creature?*I’ve been following God and studying His Word for nearly thirty years, yet I somehow thought the Proverbs 31 woman was a mythological creature or worse. I thought she was a weapon used by spiritual leaders to make all of us ordinary Christian women feel bad about ourselves.But then I met her in person.They say the wife of noble character is hard to find and it’s true. But I finally found her, tucked away in the mountains north of Bogota, Colombia. And having met her, I became convinced that becoming the woman God wants me to be, the woman he described in Proverbs 31 is not an impossible dream. It’s the only goal worth devoting my life to. I had been invited to Colombia to speak at a conference for Christian leaders from throughout Latin America. Afterwards my host, Hector Torres of Hispanic International Ministries, invited me to spend a few days with his family at his aunt’s home at the base of the Andes Mountains. I didn’t know quite what to expect. The bookstore didn’t have a travel guide on Colombia. The book on Latin America didn’t even devote a chapter to the country that’s been torn by civil war and drug trafficking for the last three decades. It simply said: it’s too dangerous, don’t go there. The mountains, in particular, are known for guerilla activity. I was somewhat apprehensive, to say the least.Imagine my surprise when I arrived at his aunt’s home and stepped into the most peaceful paradise I’d ever experienced anywhere in the world. Our hostess was the picture of beauty, elegance and ease as she welcomed us, showed us to our rooms and then gave us a tour of the breathtaking grounds. We walked and talked amid trees bursting with avocado, bananas, blackberries, guava, oranges, papaya, plantain and tangerines. She showed us her chicken coops, trout pond, coffee crop and even her worm farm. Every inch of her property is productive; it’s a reflection of a woman who embodies energy, creativity and productivity.Breakfast the next morning featured a variety of fresh-squeezed juices and eggs scrambled with tomatoes, peppers and onions, along with freshly grown coffee—and every item on the menu was produced right on the property. Our morning walk took us to her favorite place: a small stone and wrought-iron chapel with wooden benches that looked centuries old. Beatriz exuded quiet God-confidence as she explained that she has spent many hours praying, reading and meditating in this open-air sanctuary. I knew I was standing on holy ground. In the early afternoon, following our three-hour horseback ride through lightly-tamed jungle featuring every conceivable shade of green, we sat by an open fire woodstove, eating steak from a nearby cattle ranch, along with freshly-grown and grilled vegetables. I marveled at the self-sufficiency of this beautiful place and the beautiful woman who oversaw it all. But Beatriz’ story doesn’t begin in this beautiful paradise. Later that night, her story unfolded. In 1950, at the age of 16, Beatriz married a handsome 19-year old, Jose, whom she had met at a relative’s wedding two years earlier. A year later, she had her first child and three more daughters followed in fairly quick succession. She worked side-by-side with her husband in an auto parts store they began together with borrowed money. Although still a teenager, Beatriz had a knack for business. The couple began to prosper. Soon they had a successful corporation, complete with employees and multiple store locations. They were business partners and best friends. They were inseparable.Then on January 23, 1984 at 6:30 pm, Jose was driving home from work when his car was surrounded by six kidnappers who seized him and, four months later, demanded the outrageous sum of $30 million for his release. On March 19, she paid her husband’s captors $1million.She never saw her beloved husband again. Through the pain of that ordeal, Beatriz began seeking God and learned to walk by faith. She started attending a little church where she found Christians who comforted, encouraged and sustained her. The believers gave her the strength she needed to make one of the most difficult decisions of her life: to remain in the mountain home her husband loved so much and to continue tending the gardens that brought him such joy. Slowly, she began planting money-producing fruit trees using funds that came in from rental properties her husband had wisely invested in. She was learning to make it on her own.Her first major business venture was building four massive chicken coups which now house 48,000 chickens. She has no regrets about taking out a second mortgage on the house to start that business, because it now generates a very steady income for her and will continue doing so for many years to come. Then Beatriz began taking classes to learn how the coffee industry operated. Today her coffee harvest fills in the income gap when fruit is out of season and there are no chickens ready to send to market. Somewhere along the line, she started a worm farm—she’s quite proud of it, although I bypassed that part of the tour! About six years ago, she added a grouper pond. “It hasn’t succeeded yet,” she admits, “but time will tell.” Given her track record, it’s bound to become another success. At age 73, Beatriz still works three to four days per week, energetically managing her business affairs. But what I will always remember about Beatriz is not her thriving enterprises and the wisdom God gave her to develop multiple streams of income. What I will always remember is the overwhelming peace that permeated her countenance, her home and her entire surroundings. I’ll always remember her as one of the most capable, dignified women I’ve ever met. In a word, she was altogether lovely. There was not an ounce of bitterness or self-pity in her voice as she recounted her losses. There was only gratitude for the goodness of God. I asked her for her secret. Forgiveness, she answered immediately. “It took me a long time to completely forgive the people who kidnapped my husband and robbed me of all that could have been. But the moment I did, the peace of God overcame me and it has never left.” Beatriz Duenas personifies the peace that passes understanding. It’s a peace that’s returning to these mountains. “The guerillas used to be active in this area, raiding farms and cattle ranches, destroying people’s livelihoods and trying to intimidate everyone,” she recalls. “But I refused to live controlled by fear. I refused to be intimidated and driven out of my own home. Now there are cattle on the hills again.” There were tears of both pride and joy in her eyes as she spoke that last miraculous sentence. She knew she had outlasted the guerillas. Even the developer who decided to build a discotheque in her peaceful mountain town didn’t stand a chance against her prayers. Day after day, she sat in her small chapel, praying for God to intervene. And he did. The disco never opened. The developer did all the work then sold it to a group of Christians who turned it into a church instead. Beatriz can laugh at the days to come, not because the days before were so easy but because she knows her God. Her parting words to me were, “Tell the women they must come to full confidence and assurance that what God has done for me, he can do for them also.” Just two short days in the presence of a genuine Proverbs 31 woman gave me that assurance. It’s the assurance I pray you’ll find on the pages of my latest book, Becoming the Woman God Wants Me To Be: A 90-Day Guide to Living the Proverbs 31 Life (Revell, 2008) The above is an excerpt from Becoming the Woman God Wants Me To Be: A 90-Day Guide to Living the Proverbs 31 Life by Donna Partow

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