This testimony is part of a summer testimony series, focused around readings from the book of Genesis, that we’re calling Ordinary Time, Extraordinary God. On Sunday, July 9th, the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, we heard the story of the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah, and Jossy Gelpi offered this testimony:
I have always felt God’s presence in difficult situations. For me, trusting God is obvious. It goes back to my childhood. When I think about going to church, my memory goes back to when I was a little girl. I cant tell what age, but I do remember standing at the “kneel rest” to be able to see what the “man with the colorful tunic” was doing. Every Sunday, my mother dressed me with a beautiful dress for going to church and I always entered holding my father’s hand.
My mother was evangelical and my father was Catholic; both had very clear that God loves us all. They always were very particular on teaching me that God is looking for souls and not any particular church. I guess that was their way to “comfort” me so I wouldn’t worry about having parents attending different churches. Saying that, I was daddy’s little girl, so I grew up Catholic.
For my father, being in church on Sundays was as important as going to school and having an education. “You need to focus on school and have a career, that way when your mother and me no longer exist, you will be able to take care of yourself. And you need to go to church every Sunday, because God always has been taking care and protecting us, so at least one hour a week you should dedicate to him. By praying to God and having faith in him, you will have your prayers answered. With God and faith, you will never be alone.” The only time we were not at church was during vacation, because we always traveled. Not even a late party on Saturday was a good justification for staying in bed on Sunday and not going to church.
My father was very knowledgeable in construction, although he was not an engineer. I remember every time he came across a construction area, he was evaluating the foundation of it and making comments such as, “That foundation is missing this, and if they don’t fix it, the rest of the structure during a natural disaster will not last.” Somehow, he used the same analogy to describe faith and how important it is to have faith in God, so that when hard moments come, your faith will hold you knowing that God will have control and you will be fine. And going to church, listening to God’s word, and praying will make the “strong foundation” for days to come.
My parents always encouraged me to talk to God as a daughter to a father. They also said that when I pray to God asking for something, I need it to literally leave it to God’s hand, because he will take care of it, not the way I want to, but the way it will be the best for me. And last but not least, God doesn’t need follow up. Every Sunday until 4 months before my 40th birthday, I went to church with my father and yes, holding his hand.
There is no way I can tell you how many times I felt that God had my back when I needed it or how many times my prayers were answered. But I can tell you for sure the first time I “tested” how strong my faith in God was, it was when my father died.
I prayed to God that if my father needed to die before me, to please let me be with him during that last moment and not allow him to suffer. February 8, 2007 Papi, 86, was at the hospital for a routine procedure but it had some complications. I was alone with him and, I started seeing in his eyes that he was ready “to go” but also he was worried about me. At that point I told him, “Papi I will be okay; you can go now.”
The strength I had from that moment up to his funeral had only one explanation: God heard my prayers and now he has my back and will be with me through this entire journey. After that, as hard as it was, I kept going to church every Sunday, now with my Guardian Angel.
One year after my father died, Rich came to my life. If you live in Puerto Rico and by the age of 30 you are not married, something is “wrong” with you. Actually, you get used to explaining why you are over 30 and you are single. My parents, especially my father, were more concerned about how I would survive when they were not around, and for my father it was very clear: get an education, find a good job so you don’t depend on any man to take care of you. So by 31 I was a total independent woman, nice job, new car and a brand new apartment. Who needs to get married?
I can’t remember exactly why, but I prepared a list of the requirements I wanted in a man, in order to consider changing my status. Funny me, I prepared the “impossible list”: single, with no small kids and doesn’t want more kids, a good son, a Christian that goes to church, likes to travel, dances and has a job. Just to be clear, I did not post the list. When the question was asked about what I was looking for in a man, I used to say, “I have a list and God knows what are my requirements. “
And one month before my 41st birthday, Ricardo Antonio Gelpi showed up to my life. He not only had all my requirements, he also came with some “added value”: he was handsome, a Retired U.S. Army Warrant Officer, and had the most beautiful green eyes that I had ever seen before.
After that, and for almost 6 years, Rich and I went to church every Sunday and holding hands. Previous experiences showed us that having God as a part of our lives was the answer for overcoming any situation. I was so sure that God put Rich in my life, that I “transformed” from the totally independent single woman to a total housewife that yes, cooked and set up the table for dinner every night.
Then, on February 10, 2013 when I was in Puerto Rico visiting my mother I received a phone call from a hospital in the Bronx letting me know that the love of my life, my soul mate, my Baby, my husband died due to a massive heart attack. What the person did not tell me was, that with Rich’s death I also lost the house, cars, motorcycles, and source of income.
Different than when my father died, this time I was not prepared at all, but God took control. The only way I can describe it is: it felt like my body and brain shut down, and at the same my “battery back-up,” God, took control. I never lost my faith, though, and at some point people closer to me thought that I was losing my mind when I said, “It is God’s promise that He will take care of the orphans and the widow. He made me both, so He will take care of me”.
On June 27, 2013, I rented a car and drove 12 hours from the Poconos to Chicago to try to find a job and “continue” with my life. That very next Sunday I was at St. Luke’s. My second job interview was in November; the reason I remember very well is because it was cold. On my walk to the train, I was crying and talking with Rich. “Baby, you know I am not built for this weather. I survived in the Poconos because I had a car and drove everywhere.”
“Papi, I am not afraid to work, and I am strong, but I can’t walk in this weather to go to work.”
“God, if this is the way you are letting me know that I don’t belong here and I need to move to Puerto Rico, I will do it and when I go back home for the holiday, I will stay.”
A couple of weeks after that, I got a notification for a job interview with the federal government. On January 2, 2014 I got the job offer. I guess God wants me here for a reason. Why, because most of the federal jobs are located at Chicago area in which case, I wouldn’t need a car. There are only 2 V.A. Hospitals in the area; Medical District and Hines (West Suburbs). But I got the job at Hines and for that, I needed a car. That is the reason the name of my car is “Gracie,” because I got it by the Grace of God.
Today, here I am, living an ordinary life, working, away from all my family, and having the opportunity to serve and help others. I AM CONTENT because I do believe that God always has my back, and guess what…. He also has yours.