This past Saturday I attended my first all day women's prayer meeting at our church - Igreja Baptista das Mahotas. Last Thursday our pastor's wife, knowing that I'd be attending the meeting, asked me if I'd like to speak to the ladies. My first reaction was to say No! Thank you! But then I think the Lord pointed my face in the direction of my Portuguese notebook. I remembered that as a class activity last year I had written out my testimony.....the story of how I began my relationship with Jesus. It had already been edited and corrected by my teacher. I could read that! The pastor's wife said, "Oh don't read it, just say it. " Ha Ha Ha.....I knew I would be reading it. I only had 48 hours to practice - not enough time for my 40 year old brain to memorize 4 paragraphs.
This is the account I wrote and sent out to a few friends after I got back, describing my day.
I want to thank all of you who prayed for me and my first attempt at giving/reading my testimony in Portuguese. It was the longest 4 paragraphs I've ever read! :-) It actually went really well. Everyone was super quiet while I was reading, so I hope that meant they were listening and understanding what I was saying.
The meeting lasted from 8:00 a.m. to almost 3:30 p.m. or rather I arrived at 8:00. We didn't actually start until 9:00 a.m. because no one showed up, except the three leaders, until then. We ended up with a nice crowd of ladies ranging in age from 9 to 50-something. I led two games involving balloons and they all LOVED it. It struck me that in most places I've lived, if there was a group of people with that age range, the older ladies would have sat out and watched the younger ones engage in the lively balloon relay. Not these ladies. Everyone played and wanted to do it a second time!
There were other things that were culturally different about the day when comparing it to a ladies meeting most of us are accustomed to. Things like when the leader discovered she had nothing to use to stick up the posters we had made to the wall. She sent a young girl to the nearby shop to buy chewing gum. Then she instructed me to chew it until the sweet was gone and use that for sticky-tack. Never mind that my poster fell of the wall 9 times during the course of the day. Someone was always handy to stick it back up.
Also, most of the songs included either creative clapping rhythms and/or dancing. And an African meeting can't be complete without a mentally unstable person making the rounds and being very vocal about it. Yesterday it was the 14 year old grandson of one of the attendees. He liked to walk through the middle of the group and say very loudly, "Let's pray!" or "I need to pee!" Of course all the younger girls in the group would howl with laughter every time he did that and his grandmother would roll her eyes and yell at him.
Most of the day was spent praying. Honestly, if I had known ahead of time that we would be spending 75% of our time praying, I would have dreaded that. I know that is awful of me and shows how shallow I am. But praying all day long, in another language on hard seats does not appeal to my I-want-to-pray-in-comfort-with- brevity, western mindset. Yet, we did spend that much time praying and it was really good. The leader was very creative with how she split up our time praying. I was amazed at how even these 9 year old girls would stand and pray really heart-felt, long prayers in front of the whole group or in their small groups! It was really encouraging to me.
So except for smacking my head on the very low, cement door frame of the long drop/bathroom/casa-de-banho, hitting my arm and falling to the ground, it was a great day. I had been dreading using this outhouse-type bathroom that is common here. I'm not real fond of them. But I did it, and even though I could see people passing by on the road through the holes in the wall, I don't think they saw me.
At the end of the meeting we concluded with cups of steaming tea and chunks of bread and I felt blessed to have been with these women and girls.
I used to pride myself in being able to fit in with a new group of people and watch how they interact and do what they do. We MKs/Missionary-types like to think we are good at that. God has forced me to throw that down in a place where the language is hard and the people so hard to figure out. I think I'll continually have to lay or throw that down over and over again.