Sing Barren Woman!
“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” ― Flavia Weedn
Once a year God blesses me with a visit (in Atlanta) from my friend Faith Philo Kunihira. Today was that day. I met Faith on a mission trip to Uganda in November 2014. I went with a team to a small village called Kaihura, a four hour drive from Kampala. On the drive to Kaihura, Faith’s brother Kenneth gave us all "pet names" after only two hours of meeting us. The name he gave me was Abwooli. He told me that means “Mama” in their native tribal language, Rutooro. I laughed thinking to myself, he has no idea that I’m single- with no kids, though that’s always been a dream of mine. Little did I know how that name would come into play over and over again that week, starting with my first encounter with Faith.
On our first day there, our team walked into the offices of “Bringing Hope to the Family”, a ministry that Faith started in 2000. They provide their community with a medical center, schools, three orphanages, a guest house and more! Right away I could tell that Faith was a gentle giant. She spoke softly but her words carried so much weight. I hung on to every word as she told us how God laid this ministry on her heart and provided them with every need from day one.
We sat down to dig into the Bible together. Faith read 1st Samuel, Chapter 1 out loud to us. I had heard it many times. There was something about it that always drew me to it, but I wasn’t sure why. After she read it aloud, she asked us what we gleaned from it. I didn’t have much to say, but others did. Then, she asked us to close our eyes as she read it aloud a second time and just listen to the words. This time I felt different. As I listened to the words in verses 5-7, I started to weep, just like Hannah.
“But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. 6 Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.”
How could that be? The Lord loved her AND He closed her womb? I had never read it that way before, but hearing Faith read it stirred my heart. I felt like Hannah in that story- barren (in a sense) but longing to be a mom. Then she read verses 19 and 20 “Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[b] saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.” The Lord remembered her AND He gave Hannah a child!
We opened our eyes, and I felt like everyone was staring at me. Faith asked me to talk about why I was crying. I felt put on the spot in front of people I barely knew. But I poured my heart out and shared my longing to be a wife and mom. Faith just kept smiling and holding my hand as I talked. I felt an instant connection to her. I found out later that she was also single and had started raising a child on her own, but her life had not necessarily turned out the way she pictured either. She understood what I was going through. Two women, from completely different worlds, yet that moment would connect us forever. Faith pointed me to Isaiah 54: 1-2, which reads:
“Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord. 2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.
It’s hard to sing in desolate times, but that’s what God is teaching us to do through these verses. That week, my name Abwooli would play into almost every aspect of our trip. From visiting with the children at Noah’s Ark or the Trade School or the babies in the orphanage, my nurturing side overtook me with each encounter. It felt so good to love on those little babies and kids of all ages- some who had parents and some who didn’t. I couldn’t get enough of them. If it weren’t for the strict Ugandan laws against people from America adopting these children, I probably would have come home with one or two of them.
I found myself in a village where people barely had running water and hardly spoke English (some didn’t speak it at all), where families lived in mud huts mostly, yet they were full of love and faith. And the common thread? JESUS. In every story I heard that week, Jesus was the healer, the miracle worker, the provider, the teacher. I heard story after story of hard things- from a specific amount of money needed to finish one of their buildings to people praying to be a wife or mom. And each story was woven with small miracles of answered prayers, from Jesus providing the exact amount of money needed (from anonymous donors), the spouse someone had prayed for, of Him opening wombs and providing children, of Him healing sick babies and much more. We even watched a child we prayed over be healed from malaria in front of our eyes!
Yet this story isn’t wrapped in a bow. So far I’m not entirely sure what God was trying to teach me with the 1st Samuel verses or my Abwooli nickname. I’m still waiting on some unanswered prayers of my own. BUT God is still good. And my biggest take-away from that time in Uganda, that sits on my heart even today, is that we need to be BOLDER in the way we pray. In Kaihura, they pray boldly every time, believing that God will provide. They have very little, yet they feel rich in blessings, and they have seen God’s faithfulness in the darkest of times. I think we have a lot to learn from them- I know I do! In America, we have so much at our fingertips, it’s easy to push God to the side until we need Him. Then we go to Him and pray for what we think we need, all the while not necessarily believing that He will come through. Or maybe that’s just me.
So I continue to sit here as God keeps teaching me to “wait well”- a concept I still haven’t mastered. My dreams of becoming a wife and mother still haven’t come true, but Faith’s voice is always in my mind, “Pray boldly my sister. Believe that God is who He says He is. Trust in His promises for your life. Sing barren woman!”
*Bringing Hope to the family has lost a lot of their support this past year. They have many needs to continue to care for these beautiful children and keep the medical center running. If you are reading this and can give any amount, big or small, it would bless them tremendously. More details are here (donations run through Thin Space Africa).