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Right: Sister Mary making her necklace
It was so lovely to exchange the dark dank days of a UK January for the glories of warm Ugandan sun. Sunglasses, floaty dress and flip flops were definitely the order of the day. This year, John and Dafydd left me in Jinja to lead a sisters’ workshop whilst they travelled to the north of the country for a week.
This year’s workshop was around the theme of “Women of the Bible”. I tried to pick women with particular relevance to their lives, so in the end I chose 6 from the OT: Hagar (despised 2nd wife), Leah (unloved 1st wife), Ruth (an outsider welcomed into the family), Hannah (couldn’t have children), Abigail (married to a fool), Jezebel (an influence over her husband NOT to be copied!). And 6 from the NT: Mary the mother of Jesus (a woman who is an example to us all), Mary and Martha (learning to be a Mary as well as a Martha can be hard in an African context), the Samaritan woman (a woman with a dubious past), Herodias (another woman NOT to be copied), Sapphira (tried to cheat the church and God), Priscilla (worked with her husband for God).
As usual, I produced a workbook summarising what I had to say about each woman, with four worksheets with questions which the sisters worked through and then we went over and chatted about. I have found that giving them something to take away with them enables them to get more involved in the discussions and hopefully helps them when they get home and have to pass on what they have learned.
We chatted our way through the first three women on the first morning, Hagar, Leah and Ruth. I was so encouraged by the feedback and ongoing discussion as we talked and as I led them through the stories and tried to find lessons in these women’s lives to enable our sisters to be better Christians. Their insights into the stories were a challenge to me as well, and I can truly say that I learned a lot from them. Their suggestion that Abraham must have prayed so hard for Hagar and Ishmael when Sarah sent them away was something which I had never thought of, but was probably undoubtedly true.
I felt that I prayed during this trip like I’d never prayed before. I was on my own, I did not have Sheron [Barham] to help me as I normally do and to bounce things off, I did not have John as backup, so I had nobody else to help me apart from God!! I’m sure that he did and I know that he answered my prayers for help and reassurance when I was a) unsure if my English was being understood, and b) unsure if I was speaking anything of relevance. On the first day two sisters said to me that they felt God was speaking to them directly through me, as if the morning session had been specifically for them. One said that her mother was a despised 2nd wife, as was Hagar, and the other said that her mother in law had thrown her out of the house, as Naomi had most definitely not done with Ruth. They had both come to the workshop feeling distressed and depressed but by the end of the first session were so thankful they had been there. I say this not in any way to congratulate myself, but to show how God encourages us when we doubt our ability to do something; I felt very humble that God should have used me in that way. He was helping them and encouraging me all at the same time.
It occurred to me whilst I was in Uganda - God does not need us to do this work for him, he doesn’t need me to encourage the sisters, he doesn’t need John to teach the brothers, he can do it perfectly well himself! But he is letting us do this work as a favour to us so that we can learn from it ourselves and grow closer to him. That puts a whole new perspective on it doesn’t it! I tried to think of that throughout the trip so that I thanked God each day for the opportunity that he’d given me, and for the favour he’d given me to draw me closer to him. And prayed for the ability to use the opportunity properly.
Left: Sister's workshop group
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