The Woman in Purple


Every time I think of quitting I will see her face.


We were in the hills of Costa Rica, about five miles north of the border with Panama in a little village called Shiroles.  It’s a place where plantain trees with huge droopy leaves line bumpy roads and where horses are as common as bicycles. A walk in the woods can fill your arms with fresh coconut, cocoa, guava, papaya, and a local treat called mamones that look like sea urchins but taste like awesome.

Pastor Indalecio, earlier in the week tending to some plantain trees.

Our team spent the week doing construction, working with kids, and supporting two local churches in their ministries. On the next to last day it was announced that we would spend the afternoon on a prayer walk. Pastor Indalecio, one of the pastors we were working with, gathered us in a circle and through a translator said these words: “We are about to go into the battlefield.” He then shared four stops we would make and the needs we would be praying for.

It was the second of those four stops that has stuck with me. We had been told the story before we arrived: A couple had been pastoring a church when the husband had decided to leave his wife for two other women.  She was left to provide and care for her family and try to shepherd the people at the same time.

It had been raining off and on that day and the sun was just starting push through the clouds, giving off that musty smell that sometimes accompanies rain on a hot day. We walked down a dirt road to where Pastor Indalecio was leading us. The church building was a structure made entirely of bamboo. The poles tipped precariously in places, giving the impression that a strong wind could knock it over. A sheet of black plastic was pulled across the bamboo rafters to form a barrier from the sun and rain. Three bare light bulbs hung from the ceiling strung together by thin wires and four rows of pews faced a simple pulpit. The floor of uneven dirt had rocks protruding from it surface so often that you had to be careful to lift your feet when you walked.

The pastor sat with dignity as we approached, her purple shirt shimmered in the sun and she was pulling her hair back. It was obvious she knew we were coming and wanted to look her best. We never did learn her name, and somehow it felt rude to ask.

As we prayed, I was struck by her faithfulness. You could tell that she felt thrown under the bus. She had been. But there she was allowing us to pray for her. She hadn’t quit. Ministry on its own is hard. Not (usually) physical hard, but mentally and spiritually hard. It can be long and lonely, and often the rewards are unseen. I have gone through periods in my own ministry where I have quit weekly (at least in my head).

I suspect that from now on when I am tempted to quit, I will see the image of that dignified woman sitting in the simplest of church buildings and I will have no justification for quitting if she didn’t.

You can join me in prayer for her. I don’t know her name, but God does. Pray for the woman in purple who needs God’s touch.