Cancer, Quarantine, and God’s Word
You Helped Andrea Meet Jesus in Her Grief.
First came the distant reports: disease is spreading. Then the guidelines: stay 6 feet apart, wear masks, wash your hands. Then the shutdown: stay home, close your businesses, limit travel.
As in most of the world, COVID-19 put Andrea Salamanca’s country of Colombia in lockdown from March through the end of August 2020. Andrea jokes that she’s spent the last five years of her life in quarantine. That’s because she lives in the countryside outside of rural Viotá, where the animals outnumber the people and where thousands of insects buzz from dusk to dawn. For her, it’s a treat to visit family in her hometown—the not-so-nearby city of Bogotá.
Her last trip to Bogotá, however, was not so welcome. In February 2020, Andrea’s mother had been diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma—a rare and lethal cancer of the bile ducts. Just one month later in March 2020, Andrea’s mother went to be with the Lord.
Andrea made the long trip to Bogotá to organize her mother’s affairs. When she arrived at her mother’s home, it still smelled like simmering ajiaco, a traditional chicken and potato soup—remnants of her mother’s rich cooking. Everything was how she remembered it, only nothing felt the same.
Andrea mourned her mother’s loss in a COVID- 19-style funeral. Five people were allowed to attend. Andrea had to keep a distance from her relatives. They all hid their grief behind masks. There was no sense of closure.
Growing up, Andrea’s mother had been her rock. “She was a woman of God and a woman of much prayer,” says Andrea. “She decided to not develop her career so she could stay home and care for us and raise us.” Her mother took Andrea to church and taught her to love God. When Andrea’s father abandoned the family, her mother took on the full burden of caring for Andrea and her two sisters. So with her mother gone, Andrea felt unmoored.
In her isolation, Andrea turned to God’s Word. “The pandemic has changed my way of reading the Bible,” she says. “Now it’s much more constant throughout the day.”
Still, Andrea felt alone in her pain. She was seeking God, but she was struggling to feel the release of the promise of Scripture. When a friend at the local Bible Society told her about a Bible-based group study she was going to lead called “Healing the Wounds of the Heart,” Andrea immediately signed up to participate. “I knew my heart had been wounded,” she says. “I knew I needed this.”
Our Pain Gets Smaller
Through the group, week by week, God pulled Andrea closer. In His Word and through His people, God met Andrea in her grief. One message in particular spoke to her about taking her sorrow to Jesus. She says, “The lesson ‘If God Loves Us, Why Do We Suffer?’ helped me understand that there’s a meaning to our suffering. It leads to the Cross, and when we’re there, our pain gets smaller.”
For many like Andrea, simply acknowledging grief is an important part of loosening its chokehold. “Before I went through the healing group, I didn’t have a sense of how to walk through grief. I didn’t understand it,” explains Andrea. “Now I understand the grief journey is a long journey. It can’t be rushed. There are various stages in it, and it’s helpful to know about them to be able to advance to the next one.”
Through Bible-based trauma healing groups, participants learn that lament is a biblical response to suffering. Leaders trained through the local Bible Society help people apply the truths of Scripture to their own grief journeys.
One exercise involves writing out a lament— coming to God with honest words about the hurt they’ve experienced. When Andrea put pen to paper to tell God all she was carrying, He met her right where she was. He comforted her. She says, “When I wrote my lament, that enabled me to open my heart to God, and I was able to rest in Him.”
Having received the blessing of rest and relief from God, Andrea was eager to share the blessing of Bible-based trauma healing. She had found healing through the ministry, so she signed up to train through the Bible Society to become a leader who could bring others along the same healing journey.
Sharing the Healing
Andrea didn’t want to waste any time in sharing what she’d experienced. She made posters. She called friends. “I’ve felt like I’m not alone and God hasn’t left me,” she says. “If he’s done this for me, he can do it for others.”
In the first group she led, God surprised her. She knew people would respond, but she didn’t know how fully they’d open up. On one occasion, during the healing group conversation about childhood experiences, a gentleman shared about how his father had abused him—something Andrea understood too well. Andrea was moved by this man’s journey to resting in God. She says, “I saw how in the end, through God’s Word, through the healing group activities, the man was able to rest. To pray. To cry and cry. And to feel that God was saying that He was there, that He was with him. So, for me, this was one of the ways I saw God healing a wound.”
For Andrea, stories like these reflect the beauty of Christian community. When she needed it most, her friend invited her to this powerful group where she could receive biblical truth and meet Christ in her pain. Then, when others needed it most, Andrea was there to share the same hope for healing with them. She says that as she presses forward, she clings to the promise of Isaiah 26:3: “You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.”
Although Andrea still experiences the sorrow of life without her mother, she also experiences the blessing of being comforted by Jesus. She says she’s been listening to hear how others express their pain so she can tell them, “Wait. Listen. Let God enter your heart.” She’s starting more Bible-based trauma healing groups soon and is grateful for Bible Society supporters like you who made this whole healing process possible.
Now, Andrea is back home in Viotá—back to the quiet and the wide-open spaces. She’s praying, however, that her rural location won’t keep her from reaching many for Jesus. She asks you to pray: “God, open up space for us to see who are the people who need to have their wounds healed. Help us point them to You.”
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