Delores Cuadrado had just moved into our six-story brownstone building. We met because my brothers and I were bored inside our apartment, and we decided to play stickball in the long hallway outside her door. Delores had beautiful, long white hair that was always tied up in a bun on the top of her head. Her smile showed straight, pearly-white teeth. How and why we became friends is still a mystery to me, but she was a child evangelist as you will see.
One day after school, as I exited the elevator and walked by her apartment I noticed her door was slightly open. Delores did it on purpose because she wanted to start a conversation with me. But as a ten-year-old, I just wanted to run home and change, so I could run back out and play on the monkey bars right outside our building. Finally one day, she was outside her door and seemed to be waiting for someone, I politely greeted her. She asked, “Would you like a snack?” I thought to myself, “What kid doesn’t want a snack right after school?”
Delores led me into her small, tidy apartment which was nicely decorated with all sorts of ceramic figures. The dining room table had a beautiful, white, flowery tablecloth set with an empty dessert plate, a drinking glass and colorful felt board with people, animal felt figures, and a flip-chart. The colors mesmerized me, so I pulled out the chair and sat down without being asked. She started telling me a story about a pretty lady, with long brown hair, who was walking through a lovely garden with tall, majestic trees, colorful flowers and lions that allowed her to pet them. A snake in a tree started talking to the lady, and the lady stopped walking and talked back. Of course, I interrupted and reminded her that snakes don’t talk. Thank God, Delores patiently let me interrupt, and answered my questions.
As she continued her story, Delores filled my empty drinking glass with soy milk — which I had never heard of before, and placed three shortbread cookies on my dessert plate. She told me to eat the cookies very slowly as she told the story. Those Bible stories came alive enough that I yearned to hear more. With every story she would ask me to lower my head, close my eyes, and fold my hands so we could ask Jesus to be present in our visit. That first story, of Adam, Eve, a snake and a sacrifice, captivated me enough that I needed to learn more.
Our daily after school routine was reading, memorizing and learning about the Bible together, while I slowly ate three shortbread cookies and drank a glass of soy milk. She introduced me to Jesus and taught me that he is my Brother, Friend and Savior. Delores taught me how to pray, keep the Sabbath and eat healthy foods. Christ became so precious to me that I wanted to please him and be like him. I fell head over heels in love with him, and accepted Him as my personal Friend and Savior.
Delores began preparing me for baptism for when I became older, but I couldn’t wait. Baptism was my testimony and commitment to my Savior, and I wanted everybody to know. One cold December Sabbath, a week after my 11th birthday, I stood in a warm baptismal tank with my older brother. His eyes were closed tight, but my eyes were wide open as the pastor prayed over me. I had to keep my eyes open because I was sure Jesus was somewhere in the crowd, and I wanted to make sure not to miss him. Jesus, the man on the wooden cross above my bed, was no longer a stranger of whom I should be scared. He died, was buried in a tomb, but he lives — and I can’t wait to see him again.
Whenever I am asked about how I became a Christian, I tell whomever will listen that it simply happened with three shortbread cookies, a glass of soy milk, and a loving neighbor who chose to share her best friend with a ten-year-old girl.
A mother of three, Debbie experienced the Lord sustain her through a difficult divorce. God has been her constant companion as she raised three teenagers. She is now married to Mario Perez, her college sweetheart. Her greatest joy is in the blessing of her children, her husband and her God. She works at the Human Resources Department at the Illinois Conference of Seventh-Day Adventist.