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Going to Heaven, one way or another

Maria Rodriguez stood leaning against her mother. World War II was in full swing. Maria’s father was about to be killed. Right there. On Christmas Eve. In front of his own daughter and wife.

Maria’s father had been playing as a double agent between the Nazis and the Allies, so the Nazis wanted to get rid of him forever, by shooting him in front of the two people who loved him most—his daughter and wife.

Maria’s heart was racing. She wanted to stop the Germans, to jump in front and stop them somehow. Her father was set before the great wooden doors of an ancient church. Maria’s tear-filled eyes followed his feet to his face, then upward higher to the great bell tower lurching above.

Suddenly, the gun went off. Tears ran down Maria’s cheeks. Her mother was trying to calm her by repeating over and over in a soft whisper, “It’s okay. He’s with Jesus now. His death is part of God’s plan.”

“Why does God’s plan have to involve sorrow and death?” Maria screamed between sobs. "What possible purpose could God have?"

Maria ran into their house and did what she always did when she doubted: she read her Bible. The Bible was stained and bent. Maria looked up. Through the window she could see the Germans now carrying a silhouette of a person away. It was dusk, but the image was clear: her mother being carried away by the Nazis to be deported, and to die.

Maria’s face filled with vengeance and grief, sorrow and anger, as she planned her ultimate escape—to heaven, and she did not care whether she was killed by Nazis or by herself. No matter what everyone else said, she was going to see God’s face and she was going to see Him tomorrow morning.

Right then, the church’s bells rang, “Hark the herald … Born that men no more may die.”

Maria’s mind seemed so clear: the Nazis might kill her parents' bodies, but not their spirits.

A timid rising sun peeked through the dark distance. In the far distance, Maria’s mother looked back, her face full of peace. Beside her walked two figures, also gazing back at Maria. They were her father...and Jesus.

All three seemed to speak with their eyes, as if to say, “Stay. Live.”

And the bells rang out again, “Glory to the newborn King!”

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