Emily McCandless - Santa Ana, El Salvador

Emily McCandlessWhat is the purpose of life?  Do you ever ask yourself that question?

The alarm clock wakes you up far too early; when you finally scramble out of bed, calculating the remaining minutes to get ready for work or school, you run into the kitchen still fixing your hair, grab your lunch from the refrigerator, and maybe you have a chance to take a piece of toast with you. Then you rush out the door breathless.  Your mind is fully occupied throughout the day.  You come home and gobble down supper because you have an appointment in the evening, a meeting with the club you are affiliated with, or you have to study.  You are so exhausted by the time your body makes contact with the mattress that you don’t have the energy to reflect on the day.  And you are about to go through the same process again in a few short hours.  “So,” you ask yourself, “what is life all about?”  The Bible tells us, “For what is your life?  It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James chapter 4: verse 14).

My Childhood

I am the second of five children.  I grew up in a home where I felt protected and didn’t doubt that I was loved.  We lived out in the country, where we experienced the freedom to run and play.  Attending Sunday school and other weekly church services, as well as reading a few verses from the Bible as a family each night at the supper table, were routine in my childhood.  I enjoyed learning the Bible stories in Sunday school, but I didn’t necessarily look forward to the Sunday night gospel service because it made me feel uncomfortable. The speaker would show from the Bible that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans chapter 3: verse 23).  However, the love of God was always included in the message through verses similar to Romans chapter 5: verse 8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Often, I would try to share the message with my friends at school, but the problem was that I hadn’t accepted the message for myself.
We lived about 5 km from a small fishing village where we went to school.  In Grade 3, my parents decided with some friends to have a Kid’s Bible Hour once a week in the town hall.  Despite hearing about my sin and God’s cure for sin, I continued thinking that I was just a kid and my sins weren’t really that bad.  However, when I was about 8 years old, my great-grandfather died.  As I stood looking at him in the casket, I realized that he was in heaven but I was still not ready to meet God.  That bothered me briefly and then I forgot about it.  I “tried” on my own to stop sinning, but it didn’t work.

One Step from Death

The school bus was rolling to a stop to drop my two sisters and I off at the crossroads near our house one fall afternoon.  We were standing on the stairs, and the youngest of us three girls was about to step off, when the bus driver slammed the door shut on her legs, sending us all crashing backwards on top of each other.  The bus driver had seen in time what we hadn't; a neighbour farmer hadn't realized the bus was stopping, so to avoid crashing his pick-up into the back of the bus, he made a dash for the shoulder and the ditch, coming up at a good speed right along the side of the bus where we were stepping out.  The truck hit a culvert right beside the bus door. The shock was terrible as the man climbed out of his truck with blood running down his face, in his beard, and on his hands.  We went home in tears realizing what could have happened to us. God was reminding me that I was a step away from death.

Fear of Not Being Ready

Sunday night, September 11th, 1988, while coming home in the station wagon from the evening service, I managed to hear my parent’s conversation in the front seat.  Apparently in the local paper there were dates predicting the return of the Lord Jesus for the Christians (those who already had their sins forgiven).  My parents had always taught us that the Bible said that the Lord Jesus would come when least expected and that not even the angels know the date.  I was scared!  So, I asked them if it was true.  They assured me that the Son of Man (Jesus) is coming at an hour you do not expect (Luke chapter 12: verse 40).  However, it was enough to make me more serious about preparing to meet God.  I was 12 years-old and still thought that there were others that were worse sinners than me, but I didn’t want to be left on earth when Jesus returned for my parents and my older sister who had their sins forgiven and were ready to meet God.  That night I stayed up late reading verses in my Bible and pamphlets about God’s free gift of salvation, but I was still trying to do something so that God would say, “Good job!  You can come to heaven because you have earned it.”
I finally fell asleep, having tried many times to work to get to heaven.  I was usually an early-riser, but, strangely, the next day I slept in.  I found my mom brushing my sister Jeanette’s hair (the third child), who was three years younger than me.  Jeanette had a big smile and told me that the night before she had accepted God’s gift of the forgiveness of her sins.  My face lit up, and I said, “You did?”  Then I burst into tears; she had gotten what I had been trying to get.  She was ready and I wasn’t.  “What if the Lord Jesus were to come today?” I thought, “She would go too!”

Finally Finding Purpose in My Life

That day, I didn’t go to school but instead read my Bible.  Around 11 a.m. I read the last part of Romans chapter 5: verse 6 “Christ died for the ungodly”.  For the first time in my life I saw myself as the ungodly sinner, only good enough to suffer in the Lake of Fire forever for my own sins.  I got down on my knees and begged God to forgive me for my wicked sins and I thanked Him for sending Jesus to pay the bill for my sins with His blood.
It was amazing to no longer feel burdened about my sins.  The next day when I returned to school, my grade 7 teacher asked me if I felt better (He thought that I was sick the day before.).  He didn’t know how much better I really felt!  Jeanette and I spent weeks praising God, singing and writing new songs.  We both had a joy that we hadn’t had before.

Do You Want the Peace I Now Enjoy?

God is waiting for you too.  He wants to give you the peace and purpose that I have found.  Will you ask Him to forgive you for your sins from the past, present and the future, and enjoy a new life with purpose?
The Bible says, “And the one that comes to Me I will by no means cast out (John chapter 6: verse 37).

Emily McCandless
Apartado 91, Santa Ana, El Salvador
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