15 Oct Day 7

Roberta: A New Creature


by Philip Smith

“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom unless they be born of water and of the spirit.”  John 3:5


“It’s okay,” consoled Roberta as she put her arm lovingly around Jorge.  “I was found in a garbage can too.” I was shocked.  She’s a peer in every regard, one of the most outstanding members of our administrative leadership team in Brazil. She’s warm, elegant, sophisticated, yet full of empathy and insight well beyond her 29 years.  It was easy to assume she’d grown up in a loving, middle-class Christian home like me.

Every day I talk with Roberta about pressing work issues, and I depend on her wise counsel and ability to make tough HR decisions in a loving, judicious way. But overhearing her conversation with Jorge that day, I realized we had never really talked.

That day I learned that Roberta didn’t discover the truth about her origins until later in life, but there were clues growing up.  She has memories of her father, who worked on an oil platform two weeks a month, bouncing her on his knee and saying, “My little princess from the trash heap.”  Both her parents drank, and fought violently. Her mother beat her and her siblings, burning her brother with hot spoons and once sticking his head in the oven. He ran away and became a crack dealer.

Every two weeks when her father left for work, her mom would take the remaining money and binge in neighborhood bars, bringing little Roberta along to help her get home safely. There was never money left over for food. One day, after being beaten by her mother, her cousin said “do you know why she treats you like that? It’s because you’re not her daughter.”

Reeling from those chilling words, Roberta started putting two and two together. Apparently, her father found her on a trash heap when she was a baby and brought her home. It was only a suspicion until five years later, when her mother left her adoption certificate on the table for her to find. They’ve never discussed it.

Roberta became a Christian when she was 15. It would be wonderful to say that her circumstances completely changed. No. She chose to live at home to be a stabilizing force for her non-believing family, and still lives there today. Her parents still drink and fight. And then there’s her sister, who at the age of 9 swallowed pills to try to end her life. She was intubated but did not die, and today she’s a widow, after her crack-dealer husband was assassinated. Both of her sister’s boys are involved with drugs. They all live under one roof.  Can you imagine coming to work each day from that? Yet Roberta comes in prim, composed, and radiant, bringing a sense of calm reassurance to our office each day. I walk in frazzled and upset after arguing about homework with my twelve-year-old.

Listening to Roberta’s conversation with Jorge, she concluded, “What’s important to me is that I am made in HIS image, and HE has a plan for my life.  That is where I find my joy. I don’t live in the past, I live focused on the future.”

I had never taken the time to really know my close confidant, or her story, and for that I am sorry. Most of our staff from the surrounding neighborhood have had someone in their extended family murdered.  And yet, they are here, selflessly serving others who have suffered loss. I’m not that strong.  But every day, I learn more about what strength and faith means from my colleagues. 


Today, pray for all those ministering to children, who despite challenges in their own lives, give from the abundance they have received through Christ. And offer a special prayer of thanksgiving for Roberta, who didn’t wait until her life circumstances were perfect, but accepted that she was a new creature in Christ, believed it, and lives confidently and joyfully in that beautiful truth.