19 October 2010
Things that Don't Have Answers...yet...
A few weeks ago I went to the wedding of the daughter of on of our church elders. I'd never met the bride or the groom before, but in order to honor the mother of the bride, Leah and I went. I was really unhappy to be there for a number of reasons: late notice of the event, feeling unwell, and a bunch of drunk female relatives. Unfortunately my discomfort at the reception was nothing compared to the discomfort of the bride. Within one week we received word that she had returned to her mother's house because her husband had beaten her quite badly for questioning him on a food-related matter, and the poor girl was so humiliated about being chased from her husband's home only a few days into the marriage that she attempted suicide. Praise God she was not successful. She is now living with her mother again, and at age 19, she is looking at her future, as she will probably never remarry (at least not officially).
A little over one week ago I was invited to a "kitchen party", kind of like a Tanzanian bridal shower, where married women come together to give practical advice to the bride to be. I was honored to be invited and asked to speak, even though I am unmarried. I stuck to what I knew, and advised the bride-to-be to remember that even though she is becoming Mama Charles (wife to Charles) and will one day be Mama Mtoto (mother of her child), that to God she is herself alone. I reminded her that she alone is responsible for seeking God and following Jesus, setting that example in the life of her husband and children, and as she seeks the Holy Spirit to be her Source of every good thing, she will be strengthened in her relationship with her husband and, one day, with her children. I was the first woman to speak, and as I sat back to desperately try to understand the advice of the other women in the room, I was struck by something: there were seven women, all leaders in the church, all respected and wise, but many of them had really suffered in their marriages. One mama, widowed before age 40, is raising four children alone. Another mama, the mother of the bride mentioned before, was also widowed by age 50, and is caring for both children and grandchildren. An evangelist is raising her teenage daughter alone because her husband left her when she didn't have a son after their daughter was born. The wife of a pastor is recently separated from her husband after he was caught in an affair, and is caring for their 2-year-old daughter while she works and goes to school. Two of the three women still living with their husbands have been married for less than five years.
These experiences back-to-back were a sobering reminder that we live in a world where marriage is difficult and often under attack, especially the marriages of our Christian leaders.
#2 - Prayer is Powerful
Six months ago two women prophesied over me that "rivers of healing" would flow from my hands. I have been ruminating on what that means ever since. Yesterday I went to the prayer service to do some video work for Pastor Manase, but as soon as people started arriving, I knew that I was not at that service just to observe. Several times when I have seen people suffering from physical disability, I've had a serious pull on my heart, like the Holy Spirit whispering in my ear "That is not God's intention for that person." Last night I had that so strongly that tears sprang to my eyes. As we were singing "How Great Thou Art" a woman came in leaning on her niece. A stroke had virtually paralyzed her left side, and I felt overwhelmed by God's compassion for that woman. I got a chance to pray with her and pray for many other people (approximately 40 people present), and Pastor Manase encouraged me that when she first started coming she had to be carried everywhere, but now she is able to walk a bit unassisted and is getting stronger each week.
I was recently reading a novel that talked about how understanding and skills that come immediately and easily are not filled with the same grace as skills that come with work. I suspect that healing, like Swahili, might be a gift that needs investment and work from me before I see a lot of fruit, but it fills me with righteous anger to see people suffering and if God would grant me the ability to be a vessel of healing, there's not much I wouldn't do to reach "fluency" in that language.
#3 - I Miss My House
So Leah and I decided to delay the house search until we return from the States, especially since there are some people coming to Dodoma next year from Lahash and MCC who may go in with us on housing. So I have settled into Baba and Mama's house for the time being, and, overall, it's wonderful...but...
When I decided to move to Africa, my first step was to leave my lovely studio apartment in NW Portland to move back in with my parents. This current living situation feels similar. I love living in an environment which allows the maximum amount of independence (very American of me), and living with a family in their home does not equal independence. Even though I am discovering all that I have missed in children's television, like iCarly, Drake and Josh, and Go Diego Go, (the Askofus have some American cable channels), I miss the peace of no television in the house. I miss experimenting in the kitchen and making the awesome beans that Leah and I were becoming renowned for. I miss the daily battle with the water supply. I definitely miss living with Leah, who is a perfectly complementary roommate to me because she actually gets up when her alarm goes off in the morning to boil water for coffee and she enjoys washing dishes. ("Enjoy" might be too strong a word.) I was really missing living next door to the church last night when I had to wait 40 minutes for a taxi after the prayer service.
There are payoffs. As aforementioned, there is a TV with many channels, not all of which are in Swahili, and I'm fast learning to appreciate Bollywood (Indian cinema). I had a really great night on Saturday when Grace, Jastine, and Peace all borrowed books from me, and we sat on the front porch drinking hot chocolate and reading. I was pretty frustrated with God when we first entered into this desperate housing situation, but then I accepted that this might be His way of pushing toward a reminder that I am not independent, and never will be. I will always need others, and it's good to be in a position of embracing that rather than fighting against it. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.