It was late at night after the Good Friday service. I had planned to stay through to the midnight candle-lighting, but I kept falling asleep so decided to head home early.
When I saw her standing along the busy street, I immediately started going over Romanian phrases in my head. “Isus te iubeşte, Jesus loves you” and “Nu e viaţa, this isn’t life” were the two that seemed easiest and most intelligible. But then selfishness crept in, so I decided to lower my head and just hurry past without making eye contact.
As I approached, though, her need for money made my selfish attempt to ignore her fall on its face. She stepped right in front of me and blocked my path.
I don’t know if I’ll ever know what she first said as she wasn’t looking directly at me and her words came out in mumbles, but her following hand motions made her proposition clear. There are some things you really don’t need any translation for. Trust me.
I hurriedly gave my standard line, “Nu inţeleg româneşte foarte bine. I don’t understand Romanian very well.” I hoped that would take care of the issue, but she merely accentuated the hand motions. So, thinking quickly, I added, “Nu… Nu… No… No…”, thinking that would settle things.
But instead she asked me, “De ce? Why?”
And I realized I had just walked into an ambush, a God ambush. I ended up getting to share a bit of the gospel with her in very broken Romanian. I don’t know how much sense I made, and even now I’m recalling better things I could have said, but I hope she got the heart of it anyhow.
Before our conversation ended, I asked her, “Cum te cheama? What’s your name?” After a pause, she replied, “Ileana” and then turned back to her street and the potential buyers that were rushing past in their expensive cars. When she said it, it sounded like “Illiana,” my niece’s name.
Afterwards, thinking about what I should have said, I remembered who was standing at the foot of the cross on that first “Good Friday” two thousand years ago. And I remembered who ran to his grave site two days later before the sun had yet even risen above the horizon to give light to the world. And I remembered who it was that first saw his resurrected body and reached desperately just to touch him once again.
Mary Magdalena, the prostitute forgiven of her past and desperate for Jesus.
Two thousand years ago on that first Good Friday–after the thousands had left him, after the seventy had left him, after even the twelve had left him–she remained there at the foot of the cross, awestruck by this man who loved like no other.
Please pray for Ileana. She is worth far more than the bits of paper she receives each night. Pray for Jesus to open her heart to him.