All of this rain we are having here in Baltimore this past week is reminding me of my trips to Nigeria. I went in August, which is the rainy season there. It would rain almost every afternoon. Dark clouds would roll in and the rain would come pouring down, making huge drumming sounds on the tin roofs of the buildings. It would be so loud that it was too hard to talk to each other. So everything was quiet except for the pounding, drumming of the rain.
On my first trip to Nigeria at Faith Alive Hospital, I did not know what I would be able to do to help out. I had felt called to serve and was very excited about going. I was so surprised that I was not scared to go and leave my family. However, when I arrived there I got nervous. The first night my team and I were sitting around together at the guest house having conversation and dinner with Dr. Chris, the Medical Director at Faith Alive. Everyone was discussing what they were going to do to serve at Faith Alive. My team consisted of a nurse, a lab technician, a few medical students and then there was me - a stay at home mom with no medical experience. There was also another missionary team at the guest house having dinner. Someone made an unkind remark about me that had something to do with "older" women not being much help. I thought: really, did anyone tell that to Mother Teresa? And when had I suddenly gotten so old? I laugh at this now, but it wasn't funny then because, after all, I was nervous and in Nigeria away from my family. Would you believe for the first time? Of course I chose Africa for my first time away from them! Anyway, the person continued to tell me what I couldn't do, to help explain their remark. I got upset. I let the negative remarks affect my focus. I thought what WAS I doing there? What could I offer at this hospital? When Dr. Chris was sitting by himself, I had a chance to speak with him alone. I told him I did not know how I could help. I do not remember the exact conversation, but he said something about everyone having a purpose for God's work and that everybody that comes to Faith Alive can use that purpose to serve. He asked me a few questions. Somehow he found out that I like to pray and that I believed in the power of prayer. That's great!" he said. I said, "It is?" Foolish me. He said, "It is one of the most important things. We need someone to pray for us confidently. You will pray for us. That is your purpose. Thank you for bringing Jesus Christ here." He got up after that. I remember just sitting there letting this sink in. Thank you for bringing Jesus Christ here. A simple sentence that said so much. Could I believe that? Can we believe that? Isn't that supposed to be what we do as missionaries - as disciples of Jesus Christ? Aren't we supposed to be the light? If we have accepted Jesus Christ into our lives and turn our lives to Him, then He will be manifested in us and we take Him wherever we go. How does it feel when you think about taking Jesus with you? That He is right there in you? Not just watching you from afar, but inside you. Instead of a detached, distant God, He is a close caring God, that we can become one with. Dr. Chris gave words of encouragement and love that day. You can choose your words to be a loving ,blessing balm to someone or a judging, condemning curse.
So now I had a purpose and was able to find my niche. I prayed for the patients at Faith Alive and I felt so humbled by it. The patients wanted prayers and they would hold my hands tight when I prayed. I will never forget it. I especially loved praying and spending time with the mothers and children that were in the sewing class at the Social services unit of Faith Alive. I was blessed by this experience. It might have never happened if someone had not encouraged me. Encouragement is God coming through you. It's His inspiration, beauty and love that will lift someone up.
Negative comments, of course, are not of God and produce negative feelings in others. I think we just all talk too much. I know people don't always mean to say hurtful things. But sometimes they do. Maybe it would be good if we could have the rain come down hard and have tin roofs like in Nigeria so it will be so loud we will be forced to have silence every afternoon. We should use that time to stop and pray.
Last August I went to the Willow Creek Leadership Summit where I heard a powerful, moving presentation given by Mamma Maggie Groban who started the Ministry for Stephen's Children in Egypt. This woman is a "mother" to many poor, forgotten children in her city much like our Sister Oresoa at the Anawim Home in Nigeria. This tiny, soft-spoken woman projected so much love and wisdom with her words. We were all amazed when she finished speaking. This is what she left us with:
I believe silence is the secret.
First, silence your body to listen to your words
Silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts.
Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart....beating.
Silence your heart to listen to your spirit.
Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit.
In silence, you leave many, to be with the One.
Let's make time for some silence and prayer for mothers and children in Nigeria and here at home this Mother's Day. If you know a mother or a child who is hurting, please reach out to them. The least we can do is encourage, inspire, love and lift one