Bolivia and Paraguay, both landlocked in South America’s heartland, once fought a brutal war over the Chaco territories (1932-1935). It couldn’t prevent the unfolding of a love story between a Bolivian ex-priest and a Paraguayan country girl. The love that bound them together was anchored in far more than human romance – it was anchored in a personal relationship to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and dedicated to serving HIM together.

This is Gricélida’s story as she told it in 1999.

On November 13, 1916, I was born in a village of Paraguay, but at three years of age we moved to the town of San Ignacio, named after the founder of the Jesuit order. My mother, being a devout Catholic, had the house stuffed with “saints” to whom we had to say our prayers before we could have breakfast. However, reciting the “Lord’s Prayer” started a work of God in my heart, because, although I was so very young, I began to ask myself: “If Our Father is indeed in Heaven, then why do we have to say prayers to these images?”

At night I would lie on my back on the green grass, contemplating the dark sky, sprinkled with millions of stars. I was looking for God.

Whenever I asked my mother about having to pray to images on earth, while God is in Heaven, she would give me a scolding, but no proper answer.

My dad was the town’s postmaster and it was one of his responsibilities to look after the inspectors of the telegraph lines, whenever they were in the area. To my delight, one of these men, entertained in our home for a while, was an Evangelical Christian and a Bible colporteur. He would spend time talking to my dad about the Bible, about the book that spoke of the God I was looking for.

Whenever, in my household chores, I’d be near him, he would give me booklets and gospels, which I then rapidly put in my pockets. But in vain; Mom would get them out and I would never see them again. She forbade me strictly to accept anything else from him.

While he was with us, my elder sister got seriously sick and died. The visitor got blamed for her death. The following year God took a younger brother. This broke my mother. At last she recognized her sinfulness before God and called to him from the bottom of her heart: “Oh my God, do not take any more of my children!” Her attitude towards God’s messengers to her home changed completely.

Years later, I was fourteen then, workers of the NTMU started to arrive. One of the first was Benjamin Fay, who with great patience and love explained the salvation message to us.

In one of these home meetings I surrendered to the Lord and asked to be baptized. Both my parents followed with the same desire and decision. Baptisms in the local brook were something so completely unheard of that, when ours took place, a good crowd gathered to watch the ‘spectacle’. But the Gospel was preached to them.

In this way a work was started through the valiant testimony of hearts converted from idols to the only true and living God (1 Thes. 1:9-10). When Mom and I made a great bonfire of all the images, it caused a big stir among the neighbors, but the transformation, especially of mom’s life, was such that eventually the testimony brought many to the Savior’s feet.

From the beginning it was in my heart to do missionary work, but the door to leave home did not seem to open. There were continual visitors who came to help the group that was forming with Bible teaching. The meetings were held in our home. On one occasion there was an ex-priest among the visitors. This was Luis Forero, a Bolivian on his very first missionary itinerary. It later dawned on both of us that God had prepared us for each other.

And so, on July 14, 1951, we got married. God granted us the desire of our hearts to serve him full-time together as missionaries. We traveled the dirt roads on foot, on donkey back, by oxcart, by truck, to any number of farms and villages! We also traveled by river boat and even by small plane, or by anything else that could move us. Often we risked our lives. In our needs we learned to trust God, and to know that He never fails and always “arrives” on time.

God gave us four children, whom we consciously put into his hands as soon as they were born. They never were an obstacle in the Lord’s work, and He fulfilled his word in keeping them. I remember the occasion when we missed a train, only to learn later that a mob had been waiting to stone us at our destination. Luis had known the realities of persecution since his conversion because of his testimony as an ex-priest.

On another occasion, while Luis was preaching, the hall was set on fire. I was sitting among the listeners with all four children. We barely made it over the neighbor’s garden wall, yet suffered not a scratch!

When the time came for the children to go to school, we settled in the city of San Salvador de Jujuy in northwestern Argentina. The climate there was expected to help me in my asthmatic condition, and, indeed, I was cured. However, being a home-maker now, I could no longer accompany Luis on his travels. We opened our home for meetings though and the fruits of that work, which glorify God, are still visible today.

Now that I am old, I can look back on sad circumstances and happy ones, on times of need and times of abundance, but all of them fitted into the plans of our loving heavenly Father. He never makes a mistake and only wants the very best for his children.

In the course of a single year He took our eldest son of 25 and my dear husband. Luis suffered a heart attack when he was on one of his numerous journeys through Bolivia. Many years later God also took my other son after a protracted illness. I am still here and there is a purpose in that. Although I can’t leave the house anymore, I can spend time in prayer and share my faith with those who come to see me.

I have proved that a life of faith is the surest way to live, for we depend entirely on the God, who spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, and who will with him also freely give us all things (Rom. 8:32). And so we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man can do to me” (Heb. 13:6). I can look back with joy at all the things that He permitted, because they are the things that work together for good to those who love God (Rom. 8:28).

Through many experiences the Lord taught me that we are never alone. Our house may be taken from us, our children, our belongings, whatever we love most, but his presence, promised until the end of the world, is always with us (Rom. 8:38-39).

“To me to live is Christ and to die is gain!” Phil. 1:21

Gricélida went to meet her beloved Lord and Savior on April 27, 2003.