The Story Continues...
One of my favorite days of interpreting here in Peru came quite unexpectedly. I thought the short-term mission season was over, and in a way it was: there were no more medical teams coming to Villa Milagros in 2013. However, I was invited to interpret for a different team from Arkansas. The men were helping to build a church in Matara and the four women on the team planned a three-day ministry for women.
The women had planned a craft for each day and gifts to give away at the end of the day. I can attest that those gently used or new sheets and towels some of us have sent with mission teams before are gratefully received by women living in harsh conditions in the Third World.
The main part of their program was that each day a woman would share her testimony. Each of the stories that were shared were of a difficult life experience; the first one was about a son that had died, the second was of a grandson who was killed in a car accident, and the third was of being raped. I was a bit apprehensive about translating these stories. I was comfortable with interpreting for the doctors, as there was so much repetition. But testimony would be different.
When we got to the church, I realized that interpreting was not all that was required of me. There was no one to actually lead the group; being the only person with both languages, the job fell to me. Honestly, that was the easy part. The pastor (a woman) and I led the singing a cappella. One day we alternated the verses of Amazing Grace, the English speakers singing in English and the Spanish speakers singing in Spanish. I wish I could bottle what happened that day while we were singing: it was the sweetest move of the Spirit of God. Many of us, as you can imagine, had tears in our eyes. It was glorious.
The women of Arkansas shared their experiences: they were heartfelt and there were still places of sorrow for each of them. Yet, the story was not enough if it was just their story: there needed to be an invitation to the women of Matara to receive from the Spirit of God what he had prepared for them. The first two days we spent a fair bit of time in prayer as a group at the end of the testimonies. But the third day was my favorite.
When Anna (not her real name) shared her testimony of having been raped, I could relate, and - as we discovered later - so could many others. Having been a rape victim many years ago, I have always been sensitive to this crime and the soul destruction it leaves behind. So when Anna finished her testimony, I continued with the idea that we know that when a group of women are gathered, there will be others in the group that have been violated. I invited any of the women who had been violated and would like to receive one-on-one prayer to stay so that we could pray for them. Prior to this we had only prayed in a large group.
Even though I had made this invitation, I was not sure what would happen next. At that moment, the woman organizing the give-away of gifts came into the room and said to me ‘OK, line them up to get their gifts.’ I was momentarily stunned: how could this happen? God was moving: what should I do? All of these sweet women were looking at me with expectation.
I explained to them what had been said, that they could get in line for the gifts, but I also said I would stay and pray for anyone that wanted prayer. There were 55 to 60 women that day. I thought that, based on the previous two days, the place might clear out now that the gifts had arrived.
I walked over to the first woman I saw expecting prayer, made the sign of the cross on her forehead, blessed her in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and then began to pray for her. I prayed for protection, for healing, for an awareness of the great, great love the Father had for her, for an awareness of his presence in her life and his desire to take her hand and walk with her in this life.
I prayed much the same thing for each woman. I cannot explain the joy I had, the assurance of God’s presence and his Kingdom, his redemption at work that day. What he did in each woman’s life I do not know, but I pray that he continues what he has begun.
Can you see this sweet group of women, most of them having those giant palm hats, removing them to receive prayer; standing there in their full skirts and colorful blouses and sweaters and their black shoes? I touched their heads, most with braided hair. I prayed for them, hugged them, cried with them, and believed for them that God was indeed at work.
Thirty-five women waited that day for prayer. Waited for a healing touch from their heavenly Father. Thirty-five impoverished women waited to receive prayer while free things were being given away. Thirty-five woman…had they all been violated? I do not know. But I do know that if they were, God weeps. And more importantly, he redeems.