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As we entered the one-room mud hut, the first thing we noticed was the absence of light. The one window was tightly shut and there was no lamp to illuminate the darkness. The second thing we noticed was the woman lying on a straw pallet quietly moaning in pain. As soon as we saw her, we stopped, bumping into one another, dumb in stupor. We’d come to visit her and the little boy, her son, who was playing outside. But, how do you visit the dying when you thought you were going to see the living? As we fumbled through the darkness, our translator took over, “I will ask her how we can pray for her. It is not appropriate to ask other questions at this time.”
This was one of our first visits to families supported by a partnership between Food for the Hungry, local Ethiopian congregations, and our home church in Austin, Texas. The AIDS pandemic has created a generation of orphans in the world’s second largest continent. In years past, grandparents and aunts & uncles would care for these children, but many of those potential caregivers have died as well. For those caregivers who remain, there are just too many children and not enough resources to care for them all. The result: children living alone, trying to act as grown-ups as they grow up. These young ones are incredibly vulnerable to malnutrition, disease, exploitation of the cruelest kind, and the fate of living in an unbroken state of extreme poverty. Our cross-Atlantic partnership tries to catch these little ones in a safety net of love, protection, and grace.
We’d traveled halfway around the world to visit these children and children who had parents still battling this ravaging disease. The woman lying on the floor answered our translator’s question by saying that she was worried about what would happen to her boy if she were to die. She was worried about how she could pay her $20 rent every month when she was too sick to work. She was worried…and she began to weep. By this time, the little boy had entered the room, and as his mother wept, he curled his little body up next to her feet and began to weep with her. After a quiet pause, we asked if we could pray over her. With her permission, we gently laid hands on her frail frame and began to pray. As we prayed, the darkness that seemed to be so overwhelming was inched out by the one true Light. He was there, before us, but it was prayer that opened our eyes to see Him.
John 1:5 says, “…the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” I don’t know what darkness the Lord has asked you to step into or what battles he has asked you to fight. You might be waging war for someone in your congregation stuck in sin, for a family member who’s fallen ill, or for the children orphaned by AIDS in Africa. There are times when the fight can seem overwhelming, crushing even. There are other times when you know that the Lord has called you to just a little more fight before a breakthrough is secured.
Whatever war you’re waging, can I encourage you to not give up? to not stop pressing into Him? to fall a thousand times, but get up again? And, if you have called it quits, can I tell you that it’s not too late to ask to be re-enlisted? He is still the God who gives flesh and breath to the dry bones of warriors long dead.
Ephesians 6 tells us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” And 1 John 4:4 reminds us that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” Romans 16:20 tells us that “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” And, finally, after a long treatise on the victory Christ secured for us over death, Paul encourages us with these words from 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Kristina Vandiver works at WORDsearch. She loves the Lord, her husband, her pets (especially her cat) and studying God’s Word.