A Long Journey

Her father was from Spain, her mother from Caracas, Venezuela. When she was just a baby, they traveled by boat to Panama. My grandma, Gilberta, was the oldest of 15 living children.

Grandma was raised a devout Catholic. She married and came to the United States, where my dad grew up. When I was a baby, my parents became Adventists.

Grandma came to live with us in August 2002. One of our agreements was that we would never try to change her religion. She brought her statues and rosaries, and I arranged for someone to give communion to her.

On a trip to the Columbia River, I asked if she would like me to read the story of creation, and she said, “Yes.” She was fascinated.

During the winter, I asked if I could read the Bible stories, starting with the crucifixion, then the birth and childhood of Jesus. Grandma was so interested! She looked forward to the stories every evening. Afterwards I would pray.

Just before her 94th birthday, Grandma said she wanted to change her religion. I was stunned. “Grandma, are you sure?”

She said, “Yes.” We asked a pastor, Dan Knapp, to visit.

When Omar, the kind Catholic deacon, came for his usual communion visit, she told him she was changing her religion. He was stunned but said, “Wow! If God is speaking to your heart, it’s okay.”

I told Omar I had promised never to interfere with her religion. “So this decision has to be totally hers. And she wanted to tell you.” We asked him to visit again.

As he left he said, “I admire her. That was very hard for her to say. I respect her for that. Your grandma was brave.”

Grandma and I both cried, glad she was able to stand for her decision. We prayed that the Lord would help us be a witness to Omar when he visits. Grandma said she was at peace.

And so it was that my grandma, Gilberta Hopson, became an Adventist at the age of 94. It has been a long journey for the girl from Panama.

November 01, 2003 / Oregon Conference

Linda Ruud, as told to Nadine Messer