“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16 NLT).
In our local fellowship, we have witnessed the blessing which results from earnest, fervent, persistent prayer. In January of 2013, an elderly, Portuguese grandmother named Filomena Da Silva became a part of the Langstaff Assembly. We did not realize it then, but God was blessing us in a marvelous way. Filomena spends her days praying for each of us and when she wakes up in the darkness at night, she continues praying. As she has prayed, God has shown Himself mighty among us. Jesus said that the one distinguishing mark of His followers should be their love for each other and in the past few years, our assembly has increasingly become a place of compassionate love and kindness (Joh 13:35). We have seen God work in salvation and in adding to our numbers.
When we meet on Sunday morning to worship, there is a rich diversity of ethnic backgrounds: Chinese, English, Indian, Irish, Italian, Jamaican, Korean, Mexican, Persian, Portuguese, Trinidadian, and Vincentian. It reminds me a little of how heaven will be—people redeemed from every tribe and nation, gathered together to worship our Lord Jesus. Our Lord is the One who sits at the right hand of God interceding for us and the Holy Spirit also intercedes for us “according to the will of God” with “groanings too deep for words” (Rom 8:34, 26, 27). So intercession is a work of God, but it’s one in which He wants us to partner with Him. He tells us, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Th 5:17). This is exactly what Filomena does; out of a heart of love for others and for her Lord, she prays to the God who has loved her all of her days.
Born in 1930, on the small Portuguese island of Sao Miguel in the Azores, Filomena was the youngest of Isabel Marie and Francesco Sousa’s two daughters. She admits to being slightly naughtier and more favored than her older sister, Ofelia. In their village many were illiterate and went barefoot because of poverty, but theirs was a privileged home. Not only did they possess many of the necessities of life—a house, land, food, and farm animals—the girls even had a special Sunday outfit and were able to go to school. Filomena’s childhood life was very simple. She was taught to be industrious at home—to cook, clean, wash clothes, and to look forward to the day when she would get married and have a family of her own.
One day, at the age of fifteen, she met a handsome, seventeen-year-old boy at one of their religious festivals and within two years, they were married.
Her husband had a knack for business and in a short time he had his own general store in their village, just two doors down from her mother's house. Times were very difficult; even when business was good, money was scarce. To try to make ends meet, her husband worked at an American Naval base on the neighboring island of Santa Maria, and then on another island, Terceira. They managed to save enough money to pay off their debts and buy their own home. By this time, they had four children: Jose (Joe), Gilliam (William), Eugenu (Eugene), and Joao (John). Portugal had gone to war, however, and imposed mandatory drafting. The fear of seeing their children taken off to war was heavy upon their hearts, so when her husband heard that the Canadian government was opening up opportunities for young, able men to immigrate, he was interested. He was able to meet all the criteria for going, except that his hands looked too soft from being a store keeper, so he roughed them up with steel wool and tin shavings from her father’s blacksmith shop. On April 17, 1957, he left for Canada and within six months requested that she join him. Leaving her four children with her parents and Ofelia, Filomena joined her husband and worked tirelessly to earn enough money so that their family could join them. She often cried herself to sleep at night thinking of her five-month-old baby boy and the other children back at home. Eventually, by September 1959, there was enough money for their children, her parents, and her sister to join them in Canada.
On March 1,1960, she gave birth to twin boys: Michael and Victor, who added to the chaos of a busy house already filled with four growing boys, parents, grandparents, and Aunt Ofelia. Life was not easy, but Filomena lived with a fear of God and did all she could to obey everything she knew about Him.
Listen to Filomena describe how she came to trust in Jesus:
Near the end of 1984, my son Mike got saved and I discovered that the Bible teaches that salvation is a free gift God gives to those who repent and believe in Christ as their Saviour; it does not depend upon our good deeds (Gal 2:16, Eph 2:8-9). The idea that Jesus is our Savior was not a total surprise to me because I had always believed that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for everyone. However, the idea that our good deeds cannot contribute towards our salvation was something I could not understand. Nevertheless, I could not argue that my son's life was drastically changed and daily transformed because of this truth. Later, more family members got saved and I started to read my Bible with more interest than ever before because I thought that I was a good person and that I was doing my best for God, but I could never say with confidence that I was saved. One day, as I was reading the gospel of John, it seemed that God’s Word was speaking to me personally: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Joh 3:16). It was the first time that I asked myself whether I was saved or whether I would perish. Well, that moment, I just believed what God said in His word, and I knew I was saved, not because of anything in me, but because of what Jesus did for me personally on the cross. I wanted to be baptized the way the Bible teaches but I didn't know if it would ever happen, especially in my older years. Well, praise God that I was able to be baptized and also to join a New Testament church (an assembly of believers) where I looked forward to every Sunday to remember Him in the breaking of bread and the drinking of His cup. My husband mocked me at first because he thought that I was not as educated as he, and that it was impossible for me to know something he didn't know, especially through a written word. He would constantly tell me that I didn’t understand verbs and nouns and pronouns, so how could I know something he didn’t. It was many years before my husband was saved. He would say how amazing and patient God was to knock at his heart and wait for so long to save a poor, stubborn sinner like him.
Filomena’s husband is now in heaven and she lives alone. Although it’s hard for her to get out and she is physically unable to do many of the things she used to do, one thing she can do is pray. So she prays for her family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. If you are in the Living Loved Facebook group, she prays for you by name, as well. According to the world’s standards Filomena Da Silva would not be considered powerful or influential, but “God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). This little grandmother may not be strong or powerful physically, but her earnest prayers have great power and are producing wonderful results.
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me’” (2 Cor 12:9).