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No Longer Afraid

Updated: Mar 22

After escaping a terrorist attack, then being forced into and abusive marriage, Gema's life seemed hopeless. She lived in constant fear of death, and struggled to survive. However, she met Dan and Edna Cadavos and they began to show her that she was precious in God's eyes. That changed everything. Below is an excerpt from my book All Nations* in which I tell her story.


No More Fear of Death


Gema, her mother, and her little brother walked through the market picking out their favorite foods. They picked up some bananas, mangoes, and macula - the red mountain apples they loved. On their way home, they left the main road and traveled up the trail to their village. All of a sudden, her mother jumped and screamed, “Snake!"


Gema also jumped and screamed. They all instinctively ran the last several hundred yards towards their house. They burst through the doorway and practically threw their bags down on the table. Gema’s mother went to the window and stared at the undergrowth near their home. “There it is Gema.” They both looked out the window and watched the poisonous mangrove snake slither back into the green overgrowth of the jungle plants behind their small home. The black and yellow bands that colored the reptile eventually disappeared.


“We need to get Papa to clear out those bushes. I don’t like knowing that thing is so close.”

Gema and her mother began emptying their food bags when they heard several quick popping sounds. Both looked at each other in terror. “Run, Children! Run and don’t look back,” her mother yelled.


Gema didn’t have to be told twice. They darted from the house. The gunfire became louder as the soldiers got closer. Gema’s mother grabbed each child’s hand and dragged them toward the back of the house. Everything was chaos. Several bullets whizzed past Gema’s head and her mother yanked her down to the ground. “Stay low, children.”


None of them worried about that old snake they had just seen. Its poison would hurt and make them sick, but it wouldn’t kill them. However, the bullets all around them would. Most of the villagers were fleeing into the jungle with them. The Abu Sayyaf terrorists were in a gun battle with Philippine soldiers and Gema’s village was caught in the middle. Gema and her family ran until they could not hear the gunfire anymore. They were out of breath and could barely breathe when they finally stopped. “Let’s work our way down to the market,” her mother said gasping for air. When they finally reached the road and turned toward the busier section of the city, they sighed with relief.


“You remember what I told you, right Gema? Never give them your real name. If you ever get caught by a terrorist tell them your name is Aabidah.”

“I remember, Mama,” Gema replied. “It means worshipper of Allah, and if I tell them that is my name, they will think I am muslim and won’t kill me.”


Gema, her brother, and her mother waited in the market along with many other villagers. Every one was talking about the terrorists and hoping no one they loved had been killed. They waited for several hours until one of their neighbors told them it was safe to return. When they walked back up the path, they noticed that some of the homes had been burned and ransacked. Gema even noticed what appeared to be blood pooled in the dirt not far from their door. Her father was home, and he was already preparing a bucket of water to wash away the blood. She also noticed bullet holes in the wall of their house. “Don’t you worry, Gema," he said. "We are safe now.”

Gema didn’t feel safe. It seemed like the terrorists in Mindanao were getting more bold. Gema was afraid to die. It felt like death was always a threat.


Things soon returned to normal for Gema. Each morning, she walked to school with her little brother. When she got home, she did her studies and helped her mother. One afternoon, Gema came home from school and her papa was home. She was very surprised to see him so early in the day. “Sit down, Gema,” he said. His tone was very serious and Gema was afraid. She sat at the table and noticed her mother had been crying.


Her father cleared his throat and said, “Gema, I have promised you in marriage to man from Malaybalay.”


Gema gasped in horror. “I don’t understand.” But deep inside, Gema did understand. The look on her mother’s face made it very clear that Gema’s life was about to change, and Gema began crying. “Please, Papa. Don’t do this.”


“It’s already been arranged,” he snapped. “Your mother will help you prepare.” Then, more tenderly, he put his hand on hers and said, “You don’t have to worry, Gema. You’ll be okay.”


But Gema was not okay. Her husband was not a good man. He was often cruel and he did not take good care of her. Eventually they had three children and he was cruel to them too. One day, her husband left her. Gema did not have any family in Malaybalay. She didn’t have any money. She and her children were so poor that they had to move to a little hut that didn’t even have a roof. Gema put a tarp over the top of the walls to try to give her children at least some protection. The sides of the little hut were all open too. Gema was in desperate and hopeless need.


One day, a man came to her house. His name was Dan. He told Gema that he was a pastor of a church in the city. He told her about Jesus and told her that their church wanted to help her. Gema did not trust him. But he kept coming. He kept telling her about Jesus. Sometimes when she saw him coming, she would hide from him because she did not want to see him.


Many times, Pastor Dan brought his wife, Edna. For more than a year, Pastor Dan and Edna Cadavos visited Gema and her children. They kept telling her about Jesus and inviting her to church. Edna was so loving and kind that Gema found herself looking forward to the visits. She finally decided to start attending the church. The people were so nice. They welcomed her with love and kindness.


Gema heard more about Jesus. She learned that He came to earth to die for the sins of all mankind. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. When Pastor Dan preached how Jesus had conquered death, she finally understood that He was the Messiah. He was the only one who could take away her sins and give her hope. That day, Gema put her faith and trust in Christ alone for her salvation. She no longer had to fear death because she knew she would live forever in heaven with God someday.

Gema was so happy. Edna began helping Gema finish her school studies. Gema was afraid that she could not pass the high school examination test, but Edna continued to encourage her. Edna lovingly tutored her and gave her the confidence to try. The day of the test came, and Gema was afraid. She prayed to God that she could finish high school. God answered her prayer and she passed the examination.

Dan and Edna were missionaries, and they had also started a Christian school. Gema’s children were able to attend and they loved learning about Jesus. Edna encouraged Gema to go to college. Gema never dreamed that she could go to college. But, with the love and support of her church family, and particularly of Edna, she enrolled. With God’s help, Gema graduated from college with a degree in education. She became a teacher in the mission school.


Gema is raising her children to love God and serve people. She has a great burden for the Filipino people. She has begun praying that God will allow her to someday go back to her own people to tell them about Jesus. She also prays that God will use her children to reach people with the Gospel.



Edna had poured her life into Gema and her children for more than eighteen years. In 2019, Edna passed away from illness. Edna did not fear death because she served the Savior who conquered death. Although Gema loved Edna dearly, she is comforted knowing that Edna is living in heaven in perfection. Gema knows that someday she will see her again. And while Gema grieves on this earth, she is comforted everyday by her living Savior. She's no longer afraid to die. She looks forward to the day when she can see her friend again - all because Jesus lives!


Pastor Dan Cadavos is still serving God in the Philippines. God continues to use Edna’s testimony to point people to Christ. If you'd like to know more about this ministry, you can read more about here, and watch a recent video update here. Pray for the Cadavos's ministry to reach many for Christ.

You can also watch Gema tell her story on video - but I suggest you have a box of tissues handy! Beautiful lady, beautiful story, and beautiful testimony to the power of God to change a life.









*The above excerpt is from my book All Nations which is a companion book for the Illuminate homeschool curriculum published by Union Gospel Press. It's release date has not yet been set, but stay tuned! I'll be sure and let you know when it is available.


Also, if you'd like to check out more missionary stories, one of our personal family favorite series is from YWAM (Youth With a Mission) Publishing. Click on image below to check out some of their great resources.



Looking for more gripping missionary stories? Check out some of my recommendations below.



Note that as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

 

PS: If you haven't checked out my little curiosity shop lately check out some of our bestsellers below.

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