Friday, July 9, 2010

Standing Together

In the summer of 2008, I had the incredible opportunity to teach Bridges for Women to a small group of Kenyan ladies in Western Kenya. Bridges for Women is a curriculum put together by a non-profit organization called Scriptures in Use, and we, being Unite 4 Africa, use the curriculum as part of the trainings for church planting movements. It trains women to use their relationships and natural storytelling abilities in telling Bible stories, verbatim. It focuses on addressing the issues that women face on a day-to-day basis, by telling Scriptural stories about women in the Bible. So the course trains women to memorize stories, word for word from the Bible, and become storytellers to those around them, choosing to tell a story that will address the specific need of women.

We have received incredible feedback from the women who were trained 2 years ago, and several of them have gone on to train many other women across Kenya and even into Sudan. Two incredible women from that first batch of ladies are part of the Unite 4 Africa Women's Leadership Team in Kenya. They have been very busy, training groups of ladies in community after community. While we were in the communities of Noosikitok and Molo, I had the incredible opportunity of following up with the ladies who had been trained there. What an awesome time of fellowship and learning!

These ladies shared with us their challenges and struggles, what it means to be a woman in their tribe. They tend to the goats, sheep and chicken, and they tend to the children and maintenance of the home. The women of the Maasai tribe are responsible for actually building the home (hut). They fetch the water, cook the meals, and wash the clothes. And before you start thinking that it sounds like your list of chores as well, they walk a great distance for the water source, wash all clothes by hand at that far away water source, and cook the meals over a wood fire. Very labor intensive work.

Most of the women talked about the lack of support from their husbands or the men in their village to be a part of a church. We had noticed as well, the previous Sunday at the local church, the men were glaringly absent from the service, but the women were there just praising. We were told that their men actually accuse them of committing prostitution at the church, because they only ever see women and children go there, so they have reasoned that the church must be a house of prostitution. Talk about a disheartening view of the church.

But the men of these communities have historically been beaten down and judged by the church, condemned for their traditional tribal practices and looked down upon by missionaries who had gone before. The men truly want nothing to do with the church. So some of the women face great persecution for going to church, facing beatings from their husbands when they return home for not being in the house to take care of things there.

And yet they persist.

We learned that virtually all of the women of these regions are illiterate. They are hoping for more for the upcoming generation, but the threats and challenges to participating in an education system are very real (such as lions in the bush). The women who were trained in this storytelling method are the few among their tribe who are able to read, and now they feel such great empowerment to teach others the stories of Scripture. To see their hearts rejoice over the ability to tell other ladies about the Word of God was so encouraging!

And there were a few ladies in the groups that I met with who are not able to read. For me, their testimony was more powerful than any other, like a new world of hope had been opened up to them and they could not find the strength to contain their overwhelming gratitude. Suddenly they too could learn about Jesus. And not only be fed, but they could write the Word up on their hearts and turn around to feed others. You could see such pride and empowerment in them, like their hearts were just going to swell right out of their chests.

One lady, so stoic and beautiful, said with great poise and dignity, "Before we knew God, He loved us. And then He sent someone to tell us. Now we tell others."

That touched my heart so profoundly. Tears welled up in my eyes. She just nailed it. I mean really, isn't that the case for every single one of us? At some point, we did not know the incredible love and favor of God, but someone came and told us, and then we discovered that He loved us all along. Isn't that Scripture?
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves

We love because he first loved us.
So one by one, the ladies went around the room and shared something of who they are, what challenges they are facing, how the storytelling is impacting (or not) themselves and the community around them. It was so exciting and humbling and overwhelming and grieving, and so many emotions all mixed up in one big beautiful ball of love for my sisters. I sat listening to them, amazed that I had the privilege of calling them sisters. Truly.

After listening to each of the ladies present talk about their experiences after having been taught the storytelling principles, the chairlady of the group turned to me, very matter-of-fact, and said, "Now you have heard our challenges and problems. How will you fix them?"


Didn't see that one coming. Oh Jesus, give me words.

When communities are open and vulnerable to talk about the issues that they face, the reality is that it has taken generations upon generations to get them where they are now. Whether good or challenging. It did not happen overnight, and reparations do not happen overnight. Nothing is instant, no matter how hard we wish it. But there was one thing that I could assure my sisters of, right then and there. We had heard their hearts. We had heard their cries. And so now the burden is no longer solely their to carry. Now we bear the responsibility as well. That's what family does.
Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?
Proverbs 24:11-12
And now you know too.
When we let these ladies know that there were teams of brothers and sisters in the West who were praying for them, who were standing in the gap for them, who were lifting up their names to the King of the Universe, you would have though we just fixed their problems. They were not forgotten, but were being lifted up, cheered on, and encouraged. This was the word of exhortation that they needed to hear that day, giving them strength and courage to carry on. The other problems can be sorted through time as we continue to build relationships, and in fact are being addressed by the leadership council that was formed with Unite 4 Africa. But for now, these ladies were able to go back into battle, knowing that they were not standing alone.
What about you? Will you stand in the gap for them? Will you lift them up as they are working tirelessly to finish the task of being sure everyone has heard the incredible story of Jesus? Will you lift them up as well?
I praise You, Jesus, for what You have done in these ladies. I thank you that I may call them sister. It is I who am blessed for that. May we stand together for Your glory.

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1 comment:

  1. I don't even know what to say about this post. I want to say I will pray and I will. But it feels like so little. Even so, I recognize the irony (perhaps the blatant lie of Satan) that we often say "all we can do is pray" and feel like it's a church-y style cop-out. Yet it is, Biblically speaking, one of the most (maybe THE most) powerful things we can do.
    And you have now provided some faces and some specific needs over which to pray. That helps me a lot. And I am also working through Ruth, so I'll be on the look out for scripture to pray for these women. I'm sure I won't be disappointed!


Thoughts? Feel welcome to share...