I have a growing respect and loyalty for Africa. My experiences in Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan have improved my understanding of how their communities developed into strong, positive culture identities. I am thankful for the unforgettable opportunities with my sisters of faith in these African countries, where I’ve absorbed and gained valuable life experiences, as well as expanded my global awareness. Each visit I encountered answered prayer and a deeper love for women in their individual cultures, admiring their resilient faith and close-knit communities. These experiences impacted and refreshed my personal faith, witness and future travels internationally. As I reflect, several fond memories stand out to me.
They passionately, beautifully worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. Together, we engaged in worship that involved our hearts, souls, minds and strength. Early morning devotions invited vibrant, worshipful dancing and laughter. How refreshing to enjoy God in their traditional style and culture. At one point, we marched around the room while clapping, jumping and shouting glory to God. I learned not only to wake my soul but also to speak to my soul and call forth vitality in worship for his pleasure. Praise be to our LORD, the God of all hope! It was necessary for them to be courageous, bold and steadfast in their ordinary days, and their worship was equally unwavering. Through their exuberance, they prove that salvation in and through Christ is the beginning not the end of life, especially as the enemy is relentless to pester and taunt us, to bully our convictions and weigh us down with doubts.
The Word of God is their anchor, hope and treasure — together. In Smooth Stones Taken from Ancient Brooks, Thomas Brooks writes, “Three things are called precious in the Scriptures: ‘precious faith (2 Peter 1:1); ‘precious promises’ (verse 4); ‘precious blood’ (1 Peter 1:19). Well, may grace be called the Divine nature, for as God brings light out of darkness, comfort out of sorrow, riches out of poverty, glory out of shame, so grace brings day out of night and sweet out of bitter and plenty out of poverty and glory out of shame. It turns encounters into gold, pebbles into pearls, sickness into health, and wants into abundance, having nothing and yet possessing all things.”
Whenever God grants us the ability to hear and witness how he transforms a heart to hold a precious faith, in his precious promises, all through the precious blood of Christ, it’s awe-inspiring. What an honor together, to trust God in faith, dive into the holy Scriptures, and to stand on the blood of Christ with my sisters and new friends of diverse backgrounds. As different as we have been individually created to be, together we run to our hope and rest in Christ. Together we encourage one another to persevere in faith. Together we embrace that “his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through our knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1: 3-9).
The Holy Spirit moves mightily in their midst to lead them in applying the Bible. Immediately after the women concluded their morning worship and Bible study, they rushed out the door, eager to witness to their friends and families the convictions they learned from our study in the Word of God. They promptly acted intentionally, willing to give away what they freely received. How the women seriously appropriated the message and ministry of reconciliation was unforgettable.
It was powerful for me to witness their joyful disposition, especially because of the remarkable fact that most, if not all, of the women arrived on foot, then again, in the hot afternoon sun, repeated the walk back to their villages. This experience was a fresh wind of motivation into my heart and prayer to witness at home locally and globally to the nations. I need to be purposeful to give away what I have so freely received. If I’m sincere, the opportunity to offer spiritual insight or doctrine confronts my daily idol of comfort. I found I actually enjoy an open door for evangelism and apologetics.
Although times are changing at a rapid pace in our American culture of moral reformation, God and his ways are immutable. This is what I witnessed in other cultures as well. Against all hope, women moved forward in audacity, confidence and joy in the Lord.
The women use their artistic gifts. Throughout the separate communities and countries, women displayed their handiwork in huts, grocery stores, airports, tiny shopping centers and stands. Handmade jewelry, bags, wooden items and so on abound for any interest and age. In Kenya, a team created a factory to fire local hand-painted jewelry made of clay. The company employs widows to complete most of the daily work and to sell their own jewelry at the company’s store next door. The jewelry store is filled with beautiful clay creations of numerous colors, sizes and styles. It was meaningful to tour the jewelry company and acknowledge the women enjoying their work. It also benefits them for Americans to purchase jewelry made in Africa online.
In the rural parts of Africa, many live in primitive manmade huts, but their hospitality is rich. The huts are built of natural materials: the roofs are made of grass or thatch, and the walls are made of clay or mud bricks. It was a humbling experience to be invited into their well-built huts to meet and enjoy their families. I often encountered dark walls of clay, gravel flooring, and maybe a chair in the corner. Yet, their joy is deep, sincere, and their faith is robust.
On one visit with a local pastor and his wife, they graciously invited us into their sturdy hut for tea and prayer. Together, holding hands, with our prayers and trust to God, we pleaded with them for God to help the men in their small church, who were absent due to persecution from their own families. What an honor and strengthening experience to join with our brothers and sisters in other cultures and backgrounds to pray before our Creator God, who hears, knows and sees all as we live, move and have our being.
Brokenness brings us together. Women were drawn together from very different journeys to share similar struggles in family patterns of addictions, abuse and marriage reconciliation. Often with limited resources, they waited long years of trusting God to keep his promises. Sometimes, due to severe suffering and trials, God’s character, sovereignty and justice are desperately needed in soul care.
We traveled to help a local church in Kenya establish a recovery ministry within their community. What encouragement to minister together and learn what ministry looks like for their culture. We encouraged one another with shared stories of mutual relational struggles and family experiences in being human, yet affirmed the value, acceptance and approval of being created in God’s image as our greatest significance. In America, we have a wealth of resources for addictions, abuse and soul care needs. Although the Internet is accessible, many countries do not have biblical counselors and resources readily available.
So being in these other cultures helped me understand how to address brokenness in our own culture. When we share our brokenness with one another, it helps drop barriers and false identities that make it difficult to connect otherwise. We approach one another from our different backgrounds and cultures, yet by being vulnerable and open, brokenness helps remove comparison, competitiveness, and protectiveness. If we’re honest, we understand the human condition is deeply broken and depraved. Being in Africa helped me realize, once again, how grateful we are to God for the gospel of Christ. The gospel speaks into the already and the not yet. The Holy Spirit comforts us and reminds us of biblical truth to set us free. Along with my African friends, I’ve remembered that this is our only hope and stay: to apply our exquisite faith and to trust the precious promises and blood of Christ.