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When life hurts

María del Carmen Rodríguez suffered the death of her husband and her only son, but God's comfort restored her work and ministry life. She is an Assemblies of God pastor and also a civil servant in the Ministry of Justice.

FUENTES Protestante Digital AUTOR 5/Evangelical_Focus A CORUÑA 15 DE MAYO DE 2024 15:33 h
María del Carmen Rodríguez and her son Tony. / Courtesy of the author.

María del Carmen Rodríguez García is a pastor of the Assemblies of God church of Noia, in northern Spain, and the only woman in that denomination who leads a congregation without a partner in the Spanish region of Galicia.

She also works as a civil servant in the Ministry of Justice, two highly responsible roles which, she says, can only be fulfilled by making them compatible. “In the Law degree, we study the subject Roman Law, based on biblical principles of the Old Testament”, she says.


Without warning

Mari Carmen was raised in a Roman Catholic family. They went to church for tradition and her parents never forced her to attend. Her rejection of the institution came from seeing as a child how a priest was not empathetic to her mother when her grandfather died.

“There were always doubts in my heart because what I experienced there just didn't represent the God that I felt in my heart could exist, a forgiving God, full of love and mercy”, she told Spanish news website Protestante Digital.

Mari Carmen studied law and got married. Four years later she had her only son, Tony. Everything was fine until it came what she called “her first great sorrow".

“My husband died in an accident when our son was just 15 months old. We were so happy and so young, enjoying our much-desired child, and suddenly an accident comes along and, without warning, falls like a sledgehammer on your head”.

The pastor explains that, from then on, her life was focused on Tony, always watching over him so that he would have a normal childhood despite the absence of his father.


Converting to Christ through her son

Rodríguez has always lived in Santiago de Compostela and recounted that, at the age of 12, Tony began to play the guitar. One day, a group of university students who lived on her doorstep asked her if she would let her son practice music with them, and she agreed.

[destacate]“Suddenly an accident comes along and, without warning, falls like a sledgehammer on your head” [/destacate] “At that time you could do those things. I let him because he was excited and knew the students. When he came home, he sang to me the songs he learned, they were worship songs and that gave me peace”.

In addition to singing songs of praise, Tony spoke to his mother about Jesus in a very original way.

“On his bedside table, Tony had a figure of the baby Jesus. When I went to wake him up one morning, the figure was shattered on the floor, I asked him what had happened and he answered: Mummy, you do not have Jesus in a figure, you have Jesus in your heart”.

“Those words broke all the traditional ideas that I had had about Jesus up to that moment, and above all how I could have him in my heart as my son had told me, that was like a two-edged sword that had penetrated to the depths of my heart”, pointed out Rodríguez.

One day, Mari Carmen met Segundo Navaza, now a pastor at the Good News church in the city of Ferrol (north-west of Spain), who was one of the students with whom Tony played the guitar. She asked him about what kind o things they were teaching Tony.

Segundo replied that they had a meeting the next day and they could talk about it there. “I went and they were waiting for me; I heard a short talk on John 3:16 that touched my heart. When I got home, Tony told me that he had been praying for me for three months for this moment to come”.

“My conversion was through my son. God set the stage for me to receive him into my heart”.

Rodriguez grew in faith and gradually became involved in church activities. Her son was a reference in evangelism for her.

“Tony preached in public places, to drug addicts, to vulnerable people. He visited me at work wearing a T-shirt with the verse: 'I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes', and he also wore it to school, where he preached the Gospel to his classmates through that verse. He always told me: 'A day not spent in the work of God is a day lost'”.

[photo_footer] Photographs of Tony and his mother, Mari Carmen. / Courtesy of the author. [/photo_footer] 


“The biggest trial”

Mari Carmen recalled that Tony was working on his final year project in her office. There was a power strip with many plugs that had an electrical overload and began to melt a carpet taped with glue, which led to an “incomplete combustion”.

That caused smoke that slowly intoxicated the young man without him noticing, and a few hours later he died of carbon monoxide inhalation.

“Tony died of brain death lying on his office desk on 4 January 1996. It was like having my heart ripped out without anaesthetic, the biggest trial, there is nothing like it. I asked God many questions, but he did not answer me, every day I desperately waited for an answer, to ease the pain that consumed me, my sensation was as if balls of fire were burning my entrails”.

The anguish continued and it seemed that it would never go away, “but time passed and God did not answer me, and that made me realise that God did not have to give me any answer because by his will, I had the privilege of enjoying a treasure by my side for 24 years, and that was enough. God did not answer me as I thought he should, but he comforted me”.

Grieving is not easy, it is a long process, when I realised that I had to face my pain, my loneliness, and worst of all, that I would never hear the words mummy I love you again, it broke my heart and felt like a fire burning inside me. Sometimes it can be hard to understand that pain turns into fire, but that is how I felt the pain at that time”.

[destacate]“God did not answer me as I thought He should, but He comforted me”[/destacate] Returning to work was also a part of the process. She was on leave for a year, a time she spent reading the Bible more, as well as Christian literature. “God was delivering me from depression, but I knew I had to get my life back on track”.

“The first days at work were very hard, I could not concentrate and I had to work twice as hard to be able to do my job. Thank God my colleagues understood my pain”, she said.


Moving forward

Mari Carmen continued to work hard and eventually she was offered the opportunity to move to Noia to work. As she had a house in the area, she agreed to take part in the process and was selected.

She began to congregate in a Assemblies of God local church and also became involved in the area of service. “I always remembered the phrase Tony used to say to her: 'A day without working in God's work is a day lost”.

“That gave me a heart that was more sensitive to the needs of others. God created in me a discernment to know when someone is going through a difficult time”, pointed out Mari Carmen.

Part of her service was spent in Tony's social work, helping drug addicts and people with family problems “to go to rehabilitation centres. I worked with that people for 12 years after Tony left”.

[destacate]“The trials I passed gave me a heart that was more sensitive to the needs of others”[/destacate] One day, the pastor of her church, a missionary from the United States, informed her that he returned to his country, and after talking to the Executive Council of Assemblies, he offered Mari Carmen to become a pastor in the congregation. After a long period of consideration, she accepted.

For Mari Carmen, “it is a life of many sacrifices, but it is worth it to consecrate yourself to God and his work”.

[photo_footer] Mari Carmen is now a pastor in an evangelical church in Galicia. / Courtesy of the author. [/photo_footer] 


Final advice

As a professional, “I have not been diminished in my secular role. I have had the freedom to express who I believe in. I thank God for that”, she said.

“In times of change, do not get caught up in the rush. Let's not cheapen the gospel, the times of change should be used to spread the Gospel, but being wise and asking the Holy Spirit to give us the coordinates to have that pure gospel. The church that Christ founded is the same, the one that frees, saves and transforms”.

This article was written for the Líderes Empresariales section of Protestante Digital, an initiative of the Gospel, Economy and Business (Tres-E) group in Spain.


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