Monday, December 30, 2013

The Pregnant Women, Part II

The pregnant women are no longer laying on a grass mat, on the dirt, surrounded by cows and chickens. I know this, because I saw the new beds and the new building and the new light in their eyes. 

The windows are no longer shattered, the nurse’s home no longer vacant, the roof no longer full of holes. I know this, because I looked through the windows, into a home, full of life and hope.

The cleaner is no longer on her own, to offer basic first aid, to administer medication from a closet, using a large book to determine what drugs to provide. I know this, because I met the nurse, the community health worker, and saw the joy in the cleaner’s eyes, no longer burdened with trying to do it all on her own.

And the pregnant women. They are no longer worried about long, long walks to the clinic, while in labor. Because a home is being built for them, to stay there in their last month, so that when the labor pains start, they are right where they need to be. 

The cleaner told me about a woman, a few months ago; she had tried to get to the clinic, but ended up delivering on the way. She was hemorrhaging, bleeding way too much, on the side of the dirt road, far from the clinic. But her fellow travelers made a stretcher with a chitenge and some sticks, and carried her to this clinic. Both she and the baby were saved. Both of them lived.

With this new home, however, the hope is that no more babies and mothers will lie bleeding in the dirt. They will find peace and welcome as they anticipate the birth of their children.

Rural Zambia has one of the worst maternal death rates in the world. But there is so much reason for hope. When I visited the clinic this time, a year after my last visit, I could not believe the change. There was so much hope, so much joy, so much progress, so much life.

The Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, Synod of Zambia, has built this clinic in faith and hope that lives will be saved. They have sustained the clinic, supported the clinic, created new structures so that it can thrive. We do this because of Jesus, the great healer, who wants health and wholeness for all of us. As I see these women, as I experience their smiles, I know that Jesus is smiling, too.

I am so grateful to work for an organization that touches people with the healing love of God. And although there is still so much work to be done, every single mother matters, every single baby matters, every single family matters.

Last year, when I wrote a blog post about my visit to the clinic, it reflected my sorrow and concern over the challenges faced by pregnant women in rural Zambia. It is true that the sorrow and concern are not gone; I still pray for them and ask you to pray, too. But seeing such amazing change in just one year helps me to believe that things are moving in the right direction. It brings me great joy to know that as women bring new life into the world, there are many who care deeply about protecting their lives, as well.

I visited the clinic a few days before Christmas; thinking about another pregnant woman, who traveled far and just needed a place to rest. Another pregnant woman, who ended up in a barn full of animals, who must have worried about delivering a child, who was also poor, also afraid. No bed for her, no space for her, and yet the child came. That child, God-with-us, the light of the world.

As the pregnant women come to the clinic, as they look for a place to rest, as they hope for a bed and a person who will help them, it brings me great joy to know that there will be room at the inn. There will be room at the clinic. There will be a safe place for them to rest and wait and prepare. And when they deliver that child, they will see and know the love of God, in this clinic, a visible sign of God’s great care and compassion.

I think of the long journey, the aching feet, the weary eyes, the extra weight of a child, and I know, at the end of that journey, there will be a bed for the pregnant women. There will be a light for the pregnant women. There will be love for the pregnant women. Because of the light, because of the love, because of the hope that was born in a barn. Because there was no room for him, he has made room for all of us, especially the poor, pregnant women. Like his mother.

The borehole serves the whole community, providing water for the village and the clinic
The kids gave Johnny the chance to pump some water into their buckets
Vaccines are stored in this solar-powered refrigerator; Amayi Nyrenda puts them in small coolers and takes them by bicycle to nearby villages in order to administer the vaccines.
This is the Oral Rehydration Therapy post; this saves the lives of children with diarrhea. 
The clinic offers medication and education for the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV.
The outhouses that serve the clinic
The main clinic building
The house that is being built for pregnant women
Amayi Nyrenda at her home on the clinic campus

Monday, December 16, 2013


This weekend, we attended a meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian. The General Assembly consists of representatives from the five synods of our denomination: Livingstonia, Blantyre, and Nkhoma (all in Malawi), Harare Synod (in Zimbabwe), and the Synod of Zambia. These five synods, from three different countries, include people from more than twenty tribal groups, at least seven different languages, and an incredible diversity of economic conditions. Different tribes, different languages, different nationalities, different economic stations, different educational levels, different perspectives on gender and faith. And yet, they are all part of one denomination.

This General Assembly was monumental, in that it was the first General Assembly in seven years. Seven years ago, the General Assembly meeting ended in conflict and anger. The different groups, different synods, different countries, different people, left in dissent and severed relationships. When the General Assembly was due to meet again, it did not happen. There was simply too much anger, too much antagonism, too much pain.

Year by year, the division continued, until some of my colleagues began to speak up. “Are we called to unity in Christ? Are we not one denomination?” They built bridges, listened to frustrations, offered compromises, and finally achieved what many thought impossible. All five synods agreed to meet, bringing together the various countries, various tribes, various languages, various socio-economic stations, various educational levels, various theologies. And this weekend, they all came together.

During the meeting, there were elections, and new leadership was chosen. The newly elected moderator offered a sermon on unity, on the joy that parents feel when their children get along. “When a father sees his son and daughter laughing together, playing together, sharing together, the father feels deep joy. When a mother sees her children loving each other, caring for each other, helping each other, the mother feels deep joy. This is how God feels when we are united; it is precious.” He continued, “But how do you feel if your children quarrel and are cruel to one another? This is how God feels when we refuse to listen to one another, when we refuse to care for one another.” 

His sermon went a step further than I was initially comfortable with, for he declared that in order to really find unity, we have to be willing to give up a part of ourselves. For me, as an American, this statement was a bit unsettling. Shouldn’t we be fully ourselves? Shouldn’t we refuse to give up who we are? Isn’t it wrong to cave in, and offer up a part of what we want, what we believe? I wondered about this, and I am still thinking it over. But the idea that I can bite my tongue sometimes, that I can work with people with whom I disagree, that I can give up a bit of my own dogmatism, in order to find unity, is a powerful and on-going challenge.

So often in America, I spent time only with people who were like me; we had similar political and theological beliefs, similar educational backgrounds, similar careers. For those who were deeply different, especially those with very different beliefs, I had love, but at a distance. I simply did not think I could be fully myself and still find unity. But, perhaps, that was the flaw all along. Maybe I don’t always need to be fully myself...

The denomination I work for, the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, has agreed to work together in unity, despite significant differences and challenges. They have proclaimed that they are willing to give up a part of themselves, in order to move forward together. This challenges me to figure out where I am willing to give up a part of myself, in order to find unity.

I remember packing to leave for Zambia, as we were getting ready to move our family half way around the world, to a place I had never been. I was told I could only wear long skirts, and so, I piled up my jeans, my trousers, my shorts, my tank tops, any skirts that fell above the knee, and dresses that revealed my shoulders. I actually cried as I looked at the pile of clothes that I would not wear again. There was no point in packing or saving them; I would be donating them the following day. I looked at a favorite pair of jeans, at the dress that I wore to my sister’s wedding, at the comfy tank top that had lasted me through many summers, and I felt like I was giving something up. Some sort of comfort, some piece of me that was familiar, was piled up, like so much trash.

That was small, so small, and I am now well aware that I had the blessing of all those clothes to give away, as I live among many who wear ripped and stained garments by necessity. I feel a bit of shame as I remember crying over that pile of clothes that day, wondering what I was giving up, wondering if I was giving up a part of me.

Now, as I wear long skirts and walk with my Zambian sisters, as I wrap a chitenge around my waist, I feel the incredible blessing of unity across difference, the amazing gift of having friends who are different than me, who think differently than me, who believe differently than I do. I get the privilege of sharing meals, sharing lives, sharing stories, with people who choose to love me, even though I am different. Surely, it is worth wearing a skirt!

It is a challenge for me, where to bend, where to change, where to bite my lip, where to speak. But I think that for Americans, the biggest challenge is a willingness to give up a bit of ourselves, a bit of our dogmatism, a bit of our certainty, so that we can find true unity, walking together, working together, worshipping together, loving each other. For this is not only pleasing to God, as a parent who watches laughing children, but it is also pleasing to us, as our lives open, as our hearts open, as our worlds open.

Congratulations, Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, on a successful General Assembly meeting! Thank you for choosing unity and love over dissension and division. May we all follow your example.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Longest Night, The Longest Day

I served for twelve years as a parish minister, and one of my favorite services was The Service of the Longest Night. We usually held it between December 20th and December 23rd, marking the Winter Solstice, when the day is short and the night is long. It was a service to acknowledge the pain that can accompany the holidays, and to lift up the hope of God's light, shining in the darkness. The service involved candle lighting and readings, songs and silence, and usually ended with hugs and tears. For those who are mourning or alone or just rudderless, The Service of the Longest Night was a reminder that God's light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

Here, in Zambia, we are in the middle of summer. It is really, really hot, and we are approaching the longest day, instead of the longest night. And yet, for some reason, I keep returning to that service, to that chapel, to the little tea lights glowing across the altar, representing both hope and pain, loss and gratitude, sorrow and strength.

Sometimes, the longest night happens when there is gray slush everywhere, and the chill is so strong your back aches. But sometimes it happens when the sun is brutal and you have to carry the water, carry the charcoal, carry the babies, carry the burden of wondering where the food will come from today, and tomorrow, and you just won't think beyond that.

In Advent, we are waiting. Waiting for hope and joy and wonder. Waiting for something spectacular: God's love made flesh. But, in the words of my friend, Rev. Alice Townley, some of us "are numb by waiting too long in the cold night."

Ann Weems, who lost her 21 year old son, writes this poem,
"In the godforsaken, obscene quicksand of life, 
there is a deafening alleluia
rising from the souls of those who weep,
and of those who weep with those who weep.
If you watch, you will see
the hand of God
putting the stars back in their skies
one by one
Yesterday's Pain
Some of us walk in Advent
tethered to our unresolved yesterdays
the pain still stabbing
the hurt still throbbing.
It's not that we don't know better;
it's just that we can't stand up anymore by ourselves.
On the way of Bethlehem, will you give us a hand?"

It helps me to remember that the story of the first Christmas is a story about life in the real world. Mary discovers she is pregnant. Joseph plans to break the engagement. She will be alone and shunned. He feels betrayed. The angel comes; but still, this is no easy time for the family. Their country is under Roman occupation and the rulers are known for cruelty. These are not ideal conditions for bringing a child into the world, especially a poor child, especially a child conceived before a marriage.

The baby comes, and in the midst of Mary and Joseph's joy over the safe birth of Jesus, a new crisis looms. King Herod orders the death of all children under two and so they have to flee as refugees to Egypt. Children are killed, women are wailing, the world is turning upside down with violence and loss and pain. Unimaginable horror. This, too, is part of the Christmas story.

But Jesus grows up, and God-with-us remains, through unspeakable acts of cruelty, and through the everyday sorrows of human life. God-with-us remains, even when the cross comes, even when the nails come, even when the mother watches her son take his last breath. God-with-us remains. Even if we are numb from waiting, even if we are sick from sorrow, even if our eyes are too puffy to open, and we just can't see that tiny flame of hope.

And so, whether you are approaching the longest night or the longest day, whether you are full of joy, or struggling with sorrow, I want to share one more poem in honor of those who trudge through Advent, putting one foot in front of the other, hoping that God-with-us will help ease the pain, praying that God-with-us will bring some peace, waiting for God-with-us to carry the burden for awhile. May it be so.

The Thing Is
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again

Ellen Bass, Prayers for a Thousand Years

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Our Thanksgiving

My plan was to ignore Thanksgiving this year; I figured that was the best I could hope for. Maybe, if I ignore it, I won’t feel this aching longing to be with my mother, my sisters, my nieces and nephews...Maybe, if I ignore it, I won’t miss the pie and the stuffing and the fudge that Joel’s grandma always makes....Maybe, if I ignore it, I won’t be frustrated that I have chosen to live half a world away from the people I love the very most.

Last Thanksgiving, we had been in Zambia for less than two months, and I remember spending a lot of that day in tears. In the kitchen, trying to cook, trying to make Thanksgiving work, while tears flowed and frustrations grew. And just as I was attempting to create some semblance of a Thanksgiving meal, the power went out. No electricity, no water, and a half cooked meal. I think that was the point that I sunk to the floor and asked Joel to just leave me alone to sob in the kitchen.

So, this year, my goal was to ignore it. I could be thankful, that was for sure. And I try to be thankful every day. There is so, so much that I am thankful for. But on this day, I figured, I could just give myself a break, and get through it. Without tears. That seemed a good goal.

And then, some American friends invited us to their house for Thanksgiving. I took a little while to respond, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to ignore Thanksgiving anyway, so we accepted the invitation. They didn’t ask us to bring anything; we chose a few things to take along, but they cooked and created and brought us to their table. And not only was it a Thanksgiving feast, it was a vegetarian Thanksgiving feast, and our family is vegetarian. It was delicious.

Something happened today, as we prepared food with friends in their kitchen, as our children played together, as we all joined hands and shared what we were grateful for, as we ate and laughed and shared our stories...I realized that I was having Thanksgiving. Not a tear-filled day of missing my family, not a stubborn day of ignoring my pain, but a real feeling of gratitude, for these people who were strangers to us a little more than a year ago. But even more than that, a feeling of gratitude that no matter where we are, we are never far from love.

We were far from home today, but we were not far from love. We were invited into a home, to share in that love, to share in the gratitude of the day. I was ministered to, and cared for, and fed. And that is exactly what I needed. And I am so grateful.

Lately, I have heard way too many horror stories. Really, really bad stuff about pain and suffering and violence. From Joel’s travels in South Sudan, to my colleagues’ terrifying accident, to a friend struggling to keep her son alive, I have spent days sick with sorrow. But I do believe that we are never far from love; that no matter what we are going through, whether it is simply being homesick, or having one’s heart ripped open, God’s love is present and powerful and real. In fact, this is the one and only thing that I really can depend on.

And so, today, my friends reminded me of this love, through their kindness, their invitation, their open home, and they filled me with gratitude. There is love. It is real. It is God. And I do believe that this is the foundation of everything that makes me feel grateful. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Last weekend in photos

Frankie's birthday party: 20-something children, 2 adults

A very sweaty birthday boy

Our friend Precious 

Lots of smiles, a few tears, no blood

Art table

Bounce house

More art

Ball games

Singing Happy Birthday and cupcakes

Sunday morning worship
Frankie singing with the choir

Making a funny face while preaching in Chichewa

Johnny doing a seriously awesome dance, a little preaching

Home for Scrabble by candle and solar light (Johnny did "quiz" and was very proud!)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Yoga in a refugee camp

My memories of yoga are not all that fond. It was pregnancy yoga, eight years ago, and I was the only person in the class required to use a chair. I simply could not do it, and the instructor was worried I would break myself. So, I got the "special" station, where I could use a chair for balance and support. It was not a pretty sight, and after about a month, I gave up. I decided to dance instead. 

This past week, Joel came back from South Sudan. And during his time in a land that has been devastated by interethnic violence and civil war, he worshiped in a refugee camp. They sang and danced and played drums. They praised God with joy and clapping. Many of these people had seen their family members murdered, their houses burned to the ground, watched their loved ones die. But they believe in a God who is more powerful than the violence they have endured. They believe that God’s love will win, that life will triumph, that there is reason for hope.

And at that refugee camp, they also have a yoga class. It is amazing to me to think about people who have lost everything, spending time stretching their bodies and paying attention to their breath. The woman who teaches the yoga class maintains that the refugees are incredibly strong; they can hold positions that most other women cannot. They are strong. They are breathing. They are holding onto hope.

Joel shared so many devastating realities; one of the stories that he heard over and over again has to do with dowries. A man has to provide hundreds of cattle for a dowery, which he does not have. And so he steals cattle from another tribe, killing the owners and often their families in the process. After awhile, the other tribe takes revenge, stealing the cattle back, while murdering the original thief and his family. This happens again and again, as cattle are stolen and re-stolen, as people are slaughtered in order to provide an unreasonable dowry. When I think about the joy, the love, the new life that is supposed to define a wedding, this horrifying practice of stealing, killing, and revenge makes me so deeply sad.

Joel also mentioned riding through South Sudan with his driver, who explained that one should never argue with a police officer. “They will just shoot you,” said the man. He went on to reassure Joel that he had his own guns hidden in the trunk. At the schools Joel visited, he saw teachers walking around with large sticks. The sticks were used to keep the children in line; beatings are all too common. Domestic violence, as well, is rampant. In a country that has only known war for twenty-two years, violence seems to lie just below the surface of most interactions, and is often considered the only way to solve a problem. 

What do we do with all this? We find our way to God. Our way to pray and worship and build. Our way to breathe. We join with other people of faith and we claim our power. We support ministries of reconciliation in places of violence and pain. The women in that refugee camp refuse to give up; so must we.

The stories from the typhoon in the Philippines, the Ethiopian adoptee abused and murdered in the US, the cuts to programs that feed the hungry. These things make me feel hopeless and sad. But then I picture the refugee woman in South Sudan, doing yoga and then getting up to dance her faith. And I know there is a God. I know there is something more powerful than all this pain, all this death, all this horror.

I believe that God works through the church, the body of Christ, to bring peace, to bring hope, to bring reconciliation. As Joel traveled, he saw people doing incredible work of transformation. RECONCILE, one of our partners in the Presbyterian Church, USA, brings together people from different ethnic groups, to work on peace-building, justice, and forgiveness. Theological colleges, also PCUSA partners, train new leaders to live out the love of the gospel. South Sudanese Christians and mission co-workers come together and declare there is hope, there is breath, there is a future. For they believe in a God of liberation, a God of reconciliation, a God of transformation.

There is yoga in a refugee camp. There is dancing in a refugee camp. There is worship in a refugee camp. There is breath. There is joy. There is God. 

Monday, November 4, 2013


At the goodbye picnic
A very good friend is moving today. She just called me from the bus station. It will be all day on a dilapidated bus, packed full of people, hours at the border crossing, and finally, she will arrive in the middle of the night, in Zimbabwe. She and her husband and their two boys will soon start a new life in Zimbabwe, in a town she has never been to. They will struggle to survive on the funds that a poor church can raise; they will simply live in faith that God can provide enough.

She wants to send her boys to a good school; she worries about the fees and if she will be able to afford a decent education for them. She is smart, educated, incredibly generous, faithful, loving. I know that she will figure it out; I know that she will succeed. But it will be hard, so hard. So much harder than it is for me.

I have written about her before; she is the nurse, who cared for the epileptic man with severe burns. If you didn’t read that post, you can find it here:

My friend is a model of love and faithfulness and goodness, and she held me up so many times. She loved me through every pain. She inspired me and walked with me and made me feel like I was not alone. She has been a sister for me here, and thinking about her getting on that bus in one hour hurts my heart.

She is also pregnant. She found out on Wednesday that it will be a little girl. She is due in February, and since I will not be there when the baby is born, I gave her baby gifts over the weekend. A smile lit up her face and she said, “It is a gift of hope. Hope that the baby will come.” I thought about baby showers in America; we don’t call them gifts of hope. We just assume that the baby will come, that all will be well. But for my friend, that is not her assumption. That is her hope.

I took her out on Friday to a restaurant, for a goodbye meal. I asked how she was feeling about the pregnancy, about delivery in the town that she does not know. She began to tell me stories; as a nurse, she had some horrific ones. “One girl, she was only 16. She was pregnant, and trying to deliver at home. It was expensive to deliver in the hospital, so she was in her house. Labor stopped, and she kept pushing, but the baby was stuck. The midwife told her that it was her fault, that she had done something wrong during the pregnancy, and that the girl needed to admit it, or the baby would not come.” My friend’s face was creased with sorrow. “They would not take her to the hospital until she admitted her crime. There was nothing to admit, and by the time she had pleaded to go, it was too late for the baby. The child died, and we had to remove that young girl’s uterus. The girl survived, but can you imagine?” 

My friend went on to explain that some people believe that any labor complications are the fault of the mother. Either she had an affair while she was pregnant, or she infuriated another woman, who then cursed her. The woman must admit her crime before the baby can be born. My friend said that she had seen it many times; women die because of it. 

I kept looking down at the little swell in her belly, the little girl that was forming there. Oh, how I wanted to protect that life, to cover my friend with all of my privilege, to allow her the security and safety I felt during my pregnancy. She smiled again as she took the two wrapped gifts. “I will wait to open them until the baby is born,” she said. “I will have the discipline to do that.” I looked at the gifts of hope, at my friend, and felt my heart break again.

Together on campus
I thanked her for letting me be me, for being patient and helpful with all of my learnings and fumblings and mistakes and questions. I thanked her for being a friend when I really needed one. 

I keep thinking of a night about a month ago, when Frankie’s fever spiked high, 103 degrees, and I was home alone, and scared. I called her, and although she was in middle of making dinner, she came immediately to our house. She brought a malaria test, a thermometer, medicine...Her husband came, too, lifting Frankie up in prayer. They offered to take us straight to the clinic, leaving behind their food, their needs, to make sure that my sweet boy would be okay. That is who she is, who they are. And I hate it that she is getting on a bus in an hour. That I can’t just call her and know she will be there.

But I am so grateful that I got to know her, that I had the privilege of calling her friend. I am so grateful for the pain of missing her, because that means I had the joy of knowing her. And I am grateful for the excuse to go to Zimbabwe, to visit my friend, and to meet her little daughter, after that baby is born.

Holding a friend's baby
We will both hold onto hope, the gift of hope. That is what she gives to me, that is what God gives to us. Hope in a God who is big enough to see us through. Hope in a God who creates beautiful people. Hope in a God who works through friendships, allowing us to experience the power and the beauty and the wonder of love. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Auntie, I want up!

This is Isaac. Isaac is adorable. Just plain straight up crazy cute. And he spends a lot of time at our house.

Yesterday, I was working from home, and there were nine kids in the house, a pretty normal afternoon. The older boys were painting at the dining room table, some other kids were coloring, and others were playing foosball. (Yes, we have a foosball table in our home. It is a loan from neighbors who are now in the US....)

Sitting at my desk, trying to write curriculum, I could hear the noise of the ball flying across the wooden stadium, children arguing over crayons, and the older kids, occasionally showing one another their creations. From time to time, one of the young artists would bring in a masterpiece for me to admire.

Just as I was working on a story application for Jesus' healing of the 10 lepers, Isaac walks in. I am ready for him to ask for an apple, to ask for more crayons, to ask me to make the other boys share the foosball table. "What do you want, Isaac?" I asked him, as he is one who is usually full of demands. Really, he is so crazy adorable, he can get away with this. He looked up at me with his enormous eyes and replied, "Auntie, I want up." I needed clarification on this. Not a banana? Not a toy? Not a glass of water? "What do you want, Isaac?"

"Up, Auntie. I want up." Well, okay then. I lifted him onto my lap, and he became an octopus, arms tight around my back, legs around my waist. "You just want up, Isaac? I am just going to be working here." He nodded and said, "Yes. I just want up."

And so, I turned to the computer and commenced with the rather challenging task of writing curriculum while embracing a three year old child, who was clinging to me like a life raft. His brother came in, trying to pry him away with a few toys, but Isaac would not budge. He just wanted up. He just wanted to be held. He just wanted to rest in someone else's arms for awhile.

I didn't get a lot of writing done, but in holding little Isaac, I realized how much I am like him. None of the toys or crayons or foosball tables or paints or apples or bananas in the world can really satisfy me. I can keep gathering things together, and try to build up a life that makes me feel safe. I can have a healthy savings account, a good safety net, a reliable car. But mostly, I just want up. I just want to be held. I just want to rest in someone else's arms for awhile.

And the arms that have always held me are those amazing arms of love that never fail. The one who will lift me up is the One who is always there, no matter what, no matter how I fail. When I just need to be held, I know that God is there to hold me. And when I say, "Auntie, I want up!" God is waiting with open arms.

Love is what we need. Open arms, open hearts, open lives. Open to the power and strength and gentleness of God. Open to loving one another.

Isaac was not satisfied with any of the things in the house. What he needed was love, arms wrapped around him, the promise that he is not alone. I know that I have never been truly satisfied by any of the things in the world, either. What I need is love, arms wrapped around me, the promise that I am never alone. And I am so grateful to follow a God who offers this time and time again. No matter what, no matter where, no matter who, when we say, "Auntie, I want up!" God is ready with open arms.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Over 800 women. Coming from Zimbabwe, Malawi, and all over Zambia. Sitting on the hard, concrete floor all day long. Singing and dancing all day long. Praising and preaching all day long. For five days. The building was overflowing. The Spirit was overflowing.

The theme of the conference was Women in Ministry and Leadership. The guest of honor, Rev. Suzzane Matale, spoke of women’s equality, education, and empowerment. Her passion, her eloquence, her energy was incredible. She offered a message of liberation, which was linked intrinsically to Biblical literacy. The freedom, the hope, the justice, the equality that she preached came straight from her reading of the scriptures. God wants you to know that you are beautiful, she said. You can do anything. Anything at all. The women were on their feet, cheering, laughing, clapping. Overflowing.

At the end of the talk, she had us all look into the eyes of another person and say, “I love you. I need you. I care.” Looking into the eyes of a beloved colleague, I knew how very true these words were. “I love you. I need you. I care.” The love. Overflowing.

I was also blessed to be one of the speakers, with my talk translated into three different languages. It was overwhelming to look out and see all these women, all this joy, all this love, all this power. My gratitude. Overflowing.

My talk focused on how we can overflow with the presence of God, when we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, take care of our own needs, and live in love with one another. I spoke of strong Biblical women and Jesus’ message of liberation, freedom, and justice. I filled a pitcher full of water, and just kept on pouring until it overflowed. The living water, I said. It is for us and it can fill us, until it just spills out all over the place...Living water. Overflowing.

All week long, God was spilling out all over that place. Overflowing. My friends, my colleagues, so many women, filled with the Holy Spirit. Overflowing. What a blessing to sit among these faithful women of God; to be drenched. Let it flow, my friends. Let it flow.