Be the Answer (Reflections on my trip Kenya and Uganda)
March 3rd 2013
I was new to the conference production scene and was drowning in details with no land in sight. I walked into the coffee shop to meet a friend, but with one look at me, she could tell something was wrong.
“Are you ok?” was barely out of her mouth when I burst into tears. The pressure had to go somewhere and my tear ducts were happy to accommodate. I mentioned the stress and how overwhelmed I felt when she quickly replied, “Let’s pray!” She prayed a very good prayer asking God to help me and give me strength. When I opened my eyes, I saw a big smile on her face and an expression that said, “There you go! You’re all better now!” She felt a lot better, but her prayer didn’t do much for me.
Is it possible that some prayers are actually useless? That’s right. I said it, but I wasn’t the first one to make this point. Look at James 2:15-16: “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” I wasn’t lacking food or clothing, but I needed help…and she gave me words.
We sometimes avoid the responsibility of action when we hide behind our prayers, words of comfort, and blessings. We feel better because we did the “spiritual” thing by praying about an issue. We’re all guilty of this and I know I’ve done plenty of praying with too little action. When we see need, God isn’t asking us only for our prayers. He’s actually asking us—giving us the privilege—to be the answer to someone’s prayer!
My trip to Kenya and Uganda was filled with times of prayer for, and with, the people we met, but it was also filled with meeting daily needs as well as giving practical help to assist in long-term independence.
Along with two others, I traveled with Diane Brask who spoke at the 2012 Arise! Women’s conference in Mpls./St. Paul. After Diane’s session last year, I took an offering for her ministry and the women responded with outrageous generosity! (For those of you who gave during that offering: Thank you so much! God used your gifts to bless, encourage, supply, and strengthen so many.)
Because of that offering, God enlarged Diane’s vision and she birthed a new ministry called Sister Acts which “believes that we can come alongside these women and their children and help champion their valiant efforts through simple acts of kindness—one sister to another.” This trip was the inauguration of Sister Acts. Diane has traveled many times to Kenya and Uganda and has made deep friendships with the people we met. They received us as if we were family.
Answered Prayers in Kenya
One evening we went to four rural homes where we handed out food and solar players and then we prayed a blessing on the household. The solar players are the size of a cell phone, are recharged by the sun, and have the entire New Testament as well as many Bible stories recorded in the local dialect. There was such delight when they heard the voice speaking in their own language.
One woman, with tears in her eyes, pulled out the front of her shirt and then “spat” down it a few times. It was explained to us that she was actually blessing us as she did that. (Remember that scene in the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” when the attendees at the wedding spat at the bride as she walked down the aisle? Same kind of blessing.)
We learned how important feminine hygiene products are for the young women in school. James Waruiru, Project Coordinator of Fountain of Hope Life Center (fohlc.org) in the Kiambu District of Kenya, was made aware of this need a few years ago when he saw a young girl crying along the side of the road. When he asked, he found out that she had just gotten her period that day during school, had been teased by some of the other students, and was never going back. He then realized that many girls miss school completely when they are menstruating because then can’t afford the protection they need. He’s been handing out disposable supplies paid out of his own finances for many years.
Diane did some research and discovered a resource called Days for Girls (DaysForGirls.org). From Days for Girls: “Girls miss up to 3 months of school in just 1 year. Girls use leaves, mattress stuffing, newspaper, corn husks, rocks, anything they can find…all to try to stay in school. Worse, girls are often exploited in exchange for hygiene. It turns out this issue is one of the keys to social change. It’s hard to imagine, but true for women all over the world.” Until a few months ago, I had never considered how something so central in a female’s life could impact and restrict millions of girls and women around the world.
Last fall Diane shared this need with a church in Oregon, and their women sewed over 300 reusable kits that we brought with us. We handed them out after a few hours of introductions, singing, preaching, and instruction. The girls were so excited and thankful to be receiving these kits, and James reported that for many days afterward he kept getting messages of thanks from the girls and their families.
Part Two: Answered Prayers in Uganda
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