I’m excited at the moment because I am beginning something new. There are about 300 mamas who are part of a project called Mercy. They are the poorest of the poor in Pemba. Abandoned or widowed, they have to feed several children with no money coming in. They receive food, they make jewellery, they are shown love, they hear words of truth. I call this a ‘project’ but really it is the heartbeat of God. And it beats within me. I want to be there. I want to know these women. And now the friend who is overseeing Mercy is moving on, she has asked me to take on her role, and I am so excited to say yes.
My yes will get me started, and my yes will help me keep going. Because this is not an easy path. I need faith and hope. What do these words mean? How do they actually help? These words, FAITH, and HOPE, are leaping off the pages of my Bible and are really meaning something to me at the moment. This is what they mean to me – eyes to see.
Because these mamas aren’t always sweet, simple women sitting by the fire cooking beans and praising God. Their lives are hard and painful. Many – if not all – don’t eat enough. I have sat with Joanna*, as her son wails and wails into her lap. I asked her why he was crying, and she told me he was begging for one metical (the equivalent of two pence) to buy a piece of fried bread. She said he hadn’t eaten that morning. She said they had no food in the house. No food really means no food – not anything to take away the dull ache of hunger, not anything to relieve the stress of waiting. She could only stare into the distance and wait for the crying to stop. (But of course I gave him the one metical, and he ran off to buy some food).
I have watched Emmanuella*, a lady who shows me so much of God’s love, turn up to worship with the stench of gin of her tongue. She sings too loudly and I know she is drunk. It is 9am. I have listened to Maria*, whose home I have visited and whose family I have poured my love into, as she grabs my arm and screeches angry Makua at me because I haven’t acted in the way she wanted me to.
I have seen too many times newborn babies arrive with their beautiful mamas, and I know the father is long gone. I have heard the sobbing of these women as they pray. I have held Dora* as she wept aloud ‘A te quando? A te quando? A te quando?’ ‘Until when? Until when? Until when?’ The question tears up my heart.
Would it be easy to be hopeless and faithless in the face of these 300 desperate daughters of God? No. Not for me. It would not be easy for me to dwell there. In fact I can’t live there. I must live in the beautiful house of hope and faith. And this is what that means for me: hope is the eyes to see what will be, and faith is the daily exercising of this hope.
Hope is the eyes to see. The eyes to see what is coming, but to see it like it’s already here. I see the mamas well fed. I see their houses with metal roofs and tiled floors, curtains and beds. I see lots and lots of food. I see beans, chicken, beef, rice, milk, oil… abundant food spilling out of their houses. I see flowers in their garden. I see them in beautiful kapulanas (wraps), all different colours, all new. I see them with lots of breastmilk, I see every baby fat. I see every child bright-eyed and going to school. I see every heart healed. I see every spirit knowing the heart of Daddy God. I see Jesus at home in each home. I see true worship. I see godly men, holding their babies and serving their wives. What is poverty? What is hunger? What is witchcraft? What is sickness? This is a picture of beauty, of health, of glory, of love. This is just the beginning of what I see.
And faith? Faith is the muscle I use to keep my hope. It is the ‘assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’. It is the muscle I use to keep my hope. I use it every day. The more I use it, the stronger it gets, and it becomes easy to believe.
Hallelujah – I am not intimidated by the great need around me as I step into something new. It is not because I don’t care – my heart breaks, and breaks, and breaks again as these women become my friends. I do care, but I won’t be overwhelmed. This is a battle, and my tools are perfect.
If we really are on a mission, of course we are to face impossibilities. Whatever country we live in, there are impossibilities. The hungry are everywhere. The lost are everywhere. If we do not face impossibilities – face the the poor, face the lost – perhaps we are not on a mission after all. But if we face them, we are encouraged. I am encouraged because my eyes have been burnished with a vision that no one can take away. And the vision is on its way.
*photos of different women in the Mercy programme than those mentioned & names changes for dignity