Marco A. Valenca writes from New England where he works as the stewardship director of the Southern New England Conference. Reprinted from the Atlantic Union Gleaner, December 1997.

In 1975 my wife and I went to work on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. The district in which we were assigned to work had two churches: Aguada and Mamey. We arrived in April, and within a few months my wife became ill and had to be admitted to Bella Vista Hospital with an unidentified intestinal problem.

Her health deteriorated so much that I was afraid she was not going to live. Several of our members donated blood for her─transfusions she received while in the hospital. Thanks to our good and faithful church members we never lacked moral and spiritual support.

After more than a month of medical and hospital care she was diagnosed as having a case of ameba, which, if it had been known earlier, could have been easily treated. Unfortunately, the long and expensive hospital hospital and medical treatment took its toll on us, and her health deteriorated further. She developed ulcerative colitis, which affected her health for several years. And, for a minister who had been in the ministry for only three years, this situation placed us in a financial crisis.

As a young minister I could not see myself opening up to my members and sharing the seriousness of our financial situation. My wife and I knew that our income was not enough to pay for rent, food, gasoline, insurance, as well as the medical bills that had accumulated.

We discussed the possibility of a bank loan, but upon investigating it we found out that the only way we could get a loan was to have someone sign the application as a collateral. I just could not ask a church member to do it.

It was not long until we found ourselves counting the days until the next paycheck. Getting advances from the conference just was not an option for us. In fact, we felt that because we were in the conference for such a short time, it was not advisable to request an advance. So we brought our dilemma to the Lord. We really didn't know what to do. We prayed, and in our prayers we repeated many promises including, "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" (Psalms 27:14, NIV).

Our financial situation was going from bad to worse, to the point that on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, while welcoming the Sabbath, we realized that by Sunday we would have nothing to eat. My mother-in-law \ was visiting with us to help my wife as she recuperated, and I felt that we had a challenge that weekend. I had to face the fact that there was no money to buy food and that what was in the house would last only one more day. I didn't even have money for gasoline.

I could not share any of that with the members in the church. I didn't feel it was proper for me to do so, especially when I preached on so many occasions that God takes care of us. So I prayed like I never did before. I said to the Lord, "Lord, you have never failed me in the past. You have always provided food, clothing, and housing for my family and me, but now I don't know what is in store for us. Lord, we are depending totally on your intervention. We are claiming your promises, and we have been faithful in returning our tithes and offerings. Please, Lord, help us and teach us to trust in you at all times."

We closed our sunset service that Friday evening wondering how the Lord was going to resolve our problem. We couldn't see a solution, especially when we were aware that nobody else knew what was happening.

Sabbath was spent as usual. I preached in one of the churches, went for missionary activities and visitation in the afternoon, and by sunset time was back at home to thank the Lord for another Sabbath day. My wife, my mother-in-law, and I sang a few songs and repeated together the promise, "This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing" (Psalms 34:6, 9- 10, NIV). Then we knelt down to pray.

Again I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. I said, "Lord, we have come to a point where we don't know what to do. My next paycheck is still two weeks away. I have no money in the bank to draw from, and I have no cash. There is no food in the house and only some gasoline in the car. What are we going to do, Lord? Please come to our rescue. Please fulfill your promise Lord."

Knock! Knock! Knock! I had to quickly conclude my prayer, for there was no doubt that somebody was knocking at our door. I wished my wife and mother-inlaw a happy week and proceeded to open the door.

What a surprise!

There in front of me I saw a small delegation from the largest church in our district: the head elder, his wife, the community services director, and the secretary. They brought with them several bags of groceries. I stood there wondering what was going on. Brother Noboa, the head elder, turned to me and said, "Pastor Valenca, we hope you will not be offended. We decided to bring to you and your family the groceries that we give to the poor during the Thanksgiving season. We really don't know why we should give it to you, but it seems to us that this is the will of the Lord. We were going through our list of possible families and we just couldn't agree on anyone. Our sister (the Community Services secretary) said that she felt impressed that the groceries should be given to you and your family. We argued with her in opposition, for we felt that you didn't need it. She said, T don't know why but I feel strongly that we should take it to Pastor Valenca!' We prayed and the Community Services director said, T believe our sister is right. Let's take the groceries for the poor to Pastor Valenca.' This discussion went on for a while, but little by little we all came to the same conclusion. Here we are and we still feel that we are doing it because it is the will of the Lord. Please accept this gift from your church family."

My wife and I stood there with tears in our eyes. There was more food in those bags than we had bought for a long time. It was enough to last us for more than two weeks, and it had come to us by the will of God. We were more than thankful to these brethren for following the impression of the Lord. We had no doubts that the Lord had provided for us according to His promises. We rejoiced together that night because we had seen how He was so good and merciful to us.

We spent Sunday rejoicing that the Lord heard our prayer and provided so quickly for our material needs. However, the story wasn't finished. On Monday I went to the church post office box to get the church mail. I noticed that one envelope was specifically addressed to me. I opened it to see what it contained. There was a little note and a check for $25.00. The note said, "Pastor Valenca, the Lord has been good to us. This Thanksgiving the Lord impressed us that we should send you a gift. This is just a token of our appreciation to Him. He impressed us to tell you to use it for any need you may have now. God bless." The note had the signatures of the church treasurer and his wife. The money was enough to buy gasoline and help with transportation for the rest of the month.

Several years have passed already, and my wife and I realize that we are not free from challenges as we continue to serve the Lord in this world. However, He has never failed us in the past and we are confident He will not forget us in the present or the future. We know we can trust in His promises.

Marco A. Valenca writes from New England where he works as the stewardship director of the Southern New England Conference. Reprinted from the Atlantic Union Gleaner, December 1997.

Marco A. Valenca writes from New England where he works as the stewardship director of the Southern New England Conference. Reprinted from the Atlantic Union Gleaner, December 1997.