“Before the plane touched down, Lilia had invited Christ into her life.”
For Maureen Scraba, ministry doesn’t end when she walks out the door of her church.
On an ordinary day in the fall of 2006, Maureen was on a flight from Toronto to Edmonton. She had ended up in the worst spot on the plane¾back row, middle seat. Always one to look for the extra in the ordinary, Maureen often prays before boarding a flight that God will lead her to touch someone’s life. Since faith requires action, Maureen introduced herself to the woman seated next to her and learned that her name was Lilia. Small talk soon deepened to Lilia’s reason for travelling to Alberta. Born in Colombia, she was married to a Dutch man and was living in Holland with their two children. Desperately unhappy in her marriage, Lilia was hoping to secure work in Alberta so she could begin a new life in Canada with her son and daughter.
Their conversation continued throughout the four-hour flight. At one point, Maureen explained that while Lilia knew about God, God really wanted her to know Him in a personal way. Maureen encouraged Lilia to believe that her difficulties were not hopeless and that God was willing and able to help her. Before the plane touched down, Lilia had invited Christ into her life. The ladies parted ways upon landing, but not before exchanging contact information.
Still intent on carrying through with her own plans, Lilia landed a job in Alberta. It seemed like her hope had been realized. She would soon be starting a new life in Canada.
Upon her return to Holland to await her work visa, Lilia took Maureen’s advice and found a Pentecostal church, and then joined a ladies Bible study. With the Holy Spirit quietly working in her life, Lilia accepted that any visa denial would be a sign of God’s will for her to stay in Holland.
Incredibly, even though Lilia met all the governmental requirements, her application was rejected. Despite her initial disappointment, Lilia experienced an extraordinary peace when she accepted this as a sign that she should remain in her marriage.
Lilia continued to grow in her faith. In the beginning, only her daughter attended church with her. A few months later, Lilia got her teenage son to come with her by offering to buy him the video game he had been asking for. He came, and he got the game. When he asked if he could attend church with her again, Lilia told him there would be no video game this time. However, her son had enjoyed church so much the first time, he wanted to go back. He gave his heart to Christ, and now there were three.
Six years passed. In December 2012, on what started out like an ordinary Sunday, Lilia and the children were about to leave for a Christmas service when Lilia’s husband came out of the bedroom dressed and ready to go with them. Shortly after, Lilia’s husband became a Christian as well!
On the plane, Maureen had told Lilia about the landscaping business that she and her husband, Dennis, operate. Due to the seasonal nature of their work, they have time for some rest and recreation during the off-season. But Maureen and Dennis use most of their off-season time to lead their volunteer ministry, Amigo Relief Missions. They work primarily in Mexico, but also in Ukraine and, more recently, in Cuba. They assist in building churches, orphanages, feeding stations, drug and alcohol rehab centres, and dental clinics for the poor.
Although Lilia had misplaced Maureen’s email address, she found the Amigo Relief Missions website through an online link to Maureen’s home church in Sherwood Park, Alberta. On January 8, 2013, this email arrived at the mission’s office: “Dear brothers and sisters: It was seven years ago, but I cannot forget it. On a flight from Toronto to Edmonton, a very special lady sat at my side. We talked for four hours. I was in a very difficult moment, and she prayed so beautifully. She was Maureen Scraba. When I came back to Holland, where I live, I became a Christian, and now my whole family is Christian. Praise the Lord! I was looking for her name on the Internet and I decided to write you.”
Maureen was surprised and delighted. Plans were made to reunite while Maureen and Dennis would be in Europe volunteering their help at a PAOC Missions Eurasia Retreat. So, in October 2016, after the retreat in Spain, Maureen and Dennis took a quick flight over to Holland to meet with Lilia and her family.
Thanks to the help of Google’s search engine and the unique name of Amigo Ministries that had lodged in Lilia’s memory, Maureen learned what her small step of faith on the plane that day had led to. Her sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading had resulted in saving a marriage as well as an entire family.
And the narrative isn’t over. Who knows how many more lives will be made new, all tracking back to that one extra-ordinary plane trip?
Susan Wells and her husband, David, have been in ministry for over 40 years. Through House and Home Ministries, she shares her story of faith at women’s and outreach events. Susan is the mother of three and the grandmother of six perfect grandchildren. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image ©istockphoto.com. This article appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.