A Changed Heart, A Life Transformed
Yedenia Lemes never expected to find God during a quick browse on social media. With a family history in Cuban Santería, a religion rooted in spiritualism and polytheistic worship, Lemes knew nothing about God or Christianity. It was the last thing on her mind when she opened Facebook that fateful day. Yet, she stumbled upon a video that would transform her life in just ten days.
An evangelical preacher pointed her finger at the camera in a direct manner. The preacher spoke candidly, imploring viewers to give up all wrongdoing and to turn to God. It grabbed Lemes' attention immediately. “I like it when people talk to me directly,” said Lemes. “When they say, ‘This is wrong. This is right.’ I think that’s why God used her.”
For the next ten days, Lemes watched a video sermon at every free moment, including during her 200-mile daily commute in New Mexico. Not only did the messages deeply impact Lemes on a spiritual level, but Lemes also felt convicted to make immediate life changes. For example, she decided to give up idolatry and to leave a relationship that did not honor God. Most importantly, she gave her heart to Christ. “What made me make that decision, always, was God,” she said. “For me, I do not think I would do it on my own. It was God’s mercy.”
This all took place before Lemes had ever met a Christian. Now, Lemes just needed to find a church. This was no easy task, as Lemes knew almost no one in Albuquerque. Most of her friends and family lived in Cuba and practiced Santería. “I used to be considered a good person by my friends,” said Lemes. “But, there were many things, including idolatry and more, that I followed.”
An Inherited Tradition
From birth, Lemes' life revolved around spiritualism. All of the women in her family spoke with spirits. One day, a spirit sent a warning to Lemes' mother, then pregnant. The warning said that Lemes would be born with severe disability—unable to speak or even function. If the family worshiped this spirit, it promised to protect the baby.
Because of this, Lemes had to carry a small idol of that spirit—a figure of a man in black clothes. The spirit cast a dark shadow over her life. At Christmas, they dressed in black and sacrificed a specifically cared for pig. Also, the spirit did not allow Lemes to celebrate a quinceañera. Instead, the family planned a party in the spirit’s honor.
“My family comes from really bad idolatry,” said Lemes. “Satanic stuff. I was afraid. I knew that many things could happen to me, so I needed support at that time.” In desperate need of a church family, Lemes tried to recall anyone who might help her find a congregation. Only one person came to mind: an old friend from Cuba. This person had also abandoned a life of idol worship. As it happens, the friend now worshiped at a Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“My friend told me that I had to buy a Bible and she recommended that I buy the book Steps to Christ,” said Lemes. “I asked her, ‘Why are you in this congregation?’ She explained it to me like this, ‘I have studied and this is the one religion that has the truth from the Bible.’ So I went online and searched for a Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
A Church Home
One week after accepting Jesus, Lemes walked into the lobby of the Albuquerque North Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church for the first time. The greeter wrapped Lemes into a big hug and helped her find a seat in Sabbath School. They were talking about the Sabbath that morning.
“I had just come from work,” said Lemes. “I said to myself, ‘Why is that guy talking about the Sabbath? Is it bad to work on the Sabbath? Well, God, let’s see how we can fix this.’” From then on, Lemes no longer worked on Sabbath. She wanted to be baptized as soon as possible, but the pastor encouraged her to take Bible studies first. That day, they studied one lesson. That week, Lemes finished the entire set of Bible-study lessons on her own.
On March 7, 2020, Lemes was baptized. “I would never have the words to describe what Jesus did for me,” she said. “It’s something that I can feel, but there are no words I can say that will cover all of those feelings.”
Now, Lemes wants to help others learn about God’s transforming power. First, she reached out to her mother, who also lives in Albuquerque. With much prayer and study, Lemes' mother also accepted Jesus. She was baptized five months after Lemes.
In addition, Lemes recently visited Cuba to witness to her extended family. “I have to do something for my family,” she said. “I cry for my family every single day. I know God will take care of it, but He won’t force anyone.”
Upon her return from Cuba, the North Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church nominated Lemes to lead out in the evangelistic department at church. “I decided, God, if you are calling me, then I will do it,” she said. “God doesn’t care what you know, or if you know how to speak well. He chooses people who really want to work for Him. That’s what I’m learning to understand.”
As Lemes continues to grow in her spiritual journey, she hopes to follow God’s call to be a missionary, both inside and outside of the church.
“Matthew 28:19-20 really tells us what we need to be doing as Christians,” said Lemes. “But, you must always remember what Jesus did for you. If we really appreciate that, we don’t care if we are tired. We just go ahead and do what Matthew 28 tells us to do.”
Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
By Makala James, freelance writer based in Granbury, Texas. Photos by Sam Covarrubias, freelance photographer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Yudenia Lemes is a member of Albuquerque North Valley Spanish Church in the Texico Conference.