September 29, 2017

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Oh the places you’ll go! Oh, the things you’ll learn there in your life!

Debra TomaselliDuring a dreaded hospital stay, I found myself watching news about a boisterous mom driving drunk with a helpless toddler in the car. I cringed, wondering how a child raised in a faithless, unloving environment could succeed. How would they find a better life? How would they find God?

Later that night, Ali, a thin, dark-skinned nurse with a gentle disposition, responded to the incessant beeping of my monitor. Soft light spilled from the hallway into my room, making her gentle presence a mere silhouette. I asked how she got into nursing, and her story kept me spellbound. Unbeknownst to her, it addressed my unspoken concerns.

Ali was born in the islands, but her father brought her and two brothers to the U.S. when she was 10 years old, abandoning her mother and two other children.

“My grandmother didn’t want him to take me,” Ali said. “She tried to get him to leave me and just take the boys, but he refused.”

Ali’s father was combative and violent to her. He was insulting, unpredictable and cruel. Worlds apart from her mother, Ali often cried herself to sleep.

“As a teen, I got involved in an abusive relationship,” Ali said. “Then I had a dream. I saw my grandmother. She didn’t talk. She didn’t say a word. She stared at me. It was so real. I knew she was saying, ‘Don’t do this.’ “

The vision shook Ali. She ended the destructive relationship.

At the time, Ali was working at an electronics store. “Some people kept inviting me to go to church with them,” she said.

Finally, she did … and she kept going.

A gentle smile spread across her face.

“It changed my life,” she said. “I came to know Jesus Christ.”

Goose bumps ran through me.

Ali began working at the hospital delivering meals to patients. She worked her way through nursing school, and became a registered nurse. Now in her 30s, she’s married to a faith-filled man and they have two young sons. She aspires to be a neonatal intensive care unit nurse someday.

“My brothers are still filled with bitterness and hate for my father,” she said. “But I’m not. I ask them to come to church. I want them to know Jesus. I tell them there is a better way, but they won’t listen.”

I nodded, smiled, and wiped away tears.

Oh, the places God will take us. Oh, the things he wants to show us there. I’m not the same person I was when I entered that hospital. The healing that took place was beyond physical.

God is so big. God is so awesome. God is all-knowing and all-powerful. He showed me how he could reach into the heart of a helpless child, speak to her through a vision, lead her to himself with the invitation of others, and set her on a path for holiness.

Amazing, isn’t it? Here she was, the one caring for me.

Surely, there’s hope for that toddler in the car.

Keep the fire burning. Keep praying. Keep inviting.

God uses us. God saves us. God speaks to us.

His work isn’t done.

(Debra Tomaselli writes from Altamonte Springs, Florida. She can be reached at

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