Jesus & Ileana.
I love these two names so much.
One name means ‘Son of God’… and the other ‘God answers’.
They’re also more than names to me. They’re the two most powerful stories in my life.
I never knew Jesus, but thankfully a handful of people who did – and loved Jesus like family – wrote many things down about him.
I’m so thankful. I feel like I get to know him now because of others’ ink and love shared.
And then somehow His story became mine? I don’t really know how or when, but the more I considered Jesus and all that people wrote about him, the more he became real and fully alive to me. And the more I reflected on who he was the more I wanted to actually be more like him and less like myself?
But after several years, somewhere in that process the words of those stories about Jesus started to become too familiar. And I heard a lot of other versions of the same stories told from lots of different peoples’ mouths, and they just didn’t sound the same. They sounded religious. So I started wearing Jesus like clothes, and he became more of a moral style for me and less a King, savior, friend, and protector. I started falling back into my own story, and thought well maybe this Jesus isn’t so fully alive, but I am. So I will just focus on becoming the best version of me that I can.
And then I met her. Ileana. A little girl from a trash dump in Central America. Like a little white rose growing in a war zone. There was just something so fiery, hopeful and alive in her that I could not get her out of my head or heart. She wrecked and derailed me the way she lived with such courage and love despite the living hell that she called home. I don’t really know how or when, but the more I walked with Ileana the more her story became mine. Her pain was my pain. Her joy was my joy. Her laughter, my laughter.
She often needed food for herself and family, clean water, and sometimes medicine. And the heartbeat of Jesus grew louder and louder in me each time I was able to serve her. I learned about horrible things that she faced and could feel a righteous Godly anger beginning to burn in my chest. But, whenever she would laugh the peace of Jesus would cover my mind and wash all anxiety away.
Ileana’s lightning smile and courage in the face of drug addiction, forced prostitution, and violence awakened something divine in me and called out the stories of Jesus written on my heart. Ileana loved me as purely and unconditionally as I had ever experienced in my life. Through Ileana I was touching the face of God. Through Ileana Jesus was taking hold of my life again from the inside out.
And then she quietly passed away.
So now I have her story to tell.
To learn more about Ileana’s story and lightning smile please CLICK HERE.