Wednesday, July 07, 2010

International Powerhouse of Prayer

When I set out to travel to Honduras with Compassion, my perception was that it would simply be focused on working with the kids and learning from the work Compassion does, in order to come back and work more effectively as an advocate.

Regardless of my perceptions, my hand was completely open to whatever experiences God had in mind for me. It was my intention to let Him take the lead.

I just never imagined that beyond the kids, He had something very specific in mind that kept repeating itself throughout the week.

The first project we visited, we met Wilson and his family. His mom is a single mom, raising two children alone. My heart went out to her. I learned on the first outing that it was very common for men in Honduras to leave their families because of the extreme conditions they live in, and the environment in which they've been raised. What will it mean for the next generation of families? Meeting Wilson's mom left an imprint on my heart. Although I can't relate to raising children on my own, I can certainly relate to being the sole spiritual head of the household.

The second project we visited, we met Isabel, whose husband is not a believer, and who is also left to be the spiritual head of the household. I was so grateful that her husband is working and supporting his family, his children, but I'll never forget the look on her face as she shared her deepest, most heartfelt prayer... for her husband to share her faith.

I recognize that look... it mirrors mine. That's when it hit home... I could really connect with these women, and it was only the beginning. God wasn't finished yet.

When we met Luis, the Leadership Development Student, we learned that he was raised by a single mom, and that it had really impacted him to grow up without a father figure in his life. The stories from earlier in the week repeated themselves once more... His mom also ended up as the spiritual head of the household. Through sponsorship and great leadership in his environment, Luis grew up to be a phenomenal young man of God who is now a leader in his family, his church, his community, and who lives a life by example... it was through Luis' testimony that God led my mom and I to look for a little boy to sponsor, so that we could encourage him to grow up against the grain in Honduras, against the cultural norm for men to have children and leave, against the norm for men to be absent as spiritual heads of their households.

Who would lead my husband to be the spiritual head of our household?

On Thursday, our last project visit day, God had another message waiting for me. My team was in charge of serving lunch to the children. As we finished, I wandered over to watch the boys play soccer. Somehow, even though my hearing is poor, I heard Kayla call out to me to come join her in setting up a beauty shop again, to paint the girls' nails. This was unusual in that we normally set out to follow along to where ever God lead us to go. I would soon find out that God was doing just that, through Kayla. I wasn't sure she was speaking to me, but she kept motioning for me to come over, so I wandered over and jumped in.

I met some great little girls, had fun painting their nails and butchering my Spanish a little in an attempt to get to know them. It was a ton of fun. One girl, Jennifer, spoke both English and Spanish, which was quite a surprise. She became our impromptu translator. She sat with Kayla first, and they struck up a conversation.

Then, one of the tutors, Gloria, came in to see what we were up to. She sat with Kayla, who painted her nails. While painting her nails, Kayla noticed Gloria's wedding ring, and via Jennifer, who translated for Kayla and Gloria, Kayla learned a bit about Gloria's story.

The more I heard of Gloria's story, the harder it became to focus on the kids who were sitting across from me, which made me feel conflicted until I heard Kayla tell Gloria that she had to sit with me and talk with me... Kayla knew about my husband, and told me I simply *had* to hear this woman's testimony.

So as Jennifer translated for us, I listened as Gloria's story unfolded. She had been married 33 years to her husband. The first half of her marriage had been heartbreaking and difficult. Her husband was a non believer for the first fifteen years of their marriage, as well as an alcoholic.

He refused to allow her to go to church. He threatened to lock her out of the house if she went... that didn't stop this woman. She'd return from church to find him in a drunken rage, and find herself locked out of their home for the remainder of the day. Week after week, undeterred, she went to church to worship the God she believed would deliver her from this difficult situation, the God who would restore her marriage to the man she loved.

That hit me hard... years ago, when my husband was unsupportive of my desire to attend church, I faced a choice between keeping the peace at home and living my life for God. More often than not, I chose peace, I chose to stay home. That has never hurt as intensely as it did sitting beside this woman, a real life Proverbs 31 Godly woman who let nothing stand between her and God, not even her husband's threats. I hung my head in shame. Oh, how much I stood to learn from her, and this was only the beginning.

There was more.

Her husband would come home from a night of drinking, and pass out cold in a drunken stupor... and rather than get angry and bitter, she would stand over him in prayer, believing that God would redeem the situation, heal her husband of alcoholism, restore her marriage, and renew his faith.

As she spoke, these words repeated themselves relentlessly in my mind... "This woman, stood over her drunken husband, and prayed over him while he was passed out cold."

I have prayed for my husband, but have I prayed for him with the passion she prayed for her husband? Have I prayed for my husband not only with that much passion, but with that much strength, that much faith... that much love?

Time and time again this past year, I have heard women tell me that my faith was strong, that my Christian life inspired them.... that they had learned from me. In that room, though, I was brought to my knees. I was not worthy to be in her presence, yet Lord had shown me mercy and brought me there. It was in that room that I realized all over again how far I have yet to go, how much I have yet to learn. I knew I was in the presence of someone God had sent to speak straight to my heart.

The visual of this woman standing over her husband in prayer was so powerful, so strong, that I almost missed the answer to those prayers that had captivated my heart.

In her 16th year of marriage, her husband stopped drinking completely and started coming to church with her.

The reverent silence in the room was palpable. God had answered her prayers, beyond measure.

She broke the silence first, and asked how long I had been married.

Fifteen years.

She paused, took a breath, grabbed my hand, squeezed it, and said "Next year. You will see... keep praying, pray over him as he sleeps... pray over him as he sleeps. Next year will be your year."

I couldn't help but believe her. I believe God spoke through this woman. There was no room for doubt.

My hope for my marriage has greatly increased in the last two years. I explained to Gloria the changes that had taken place in recent years, my prayers for God to change me into who He needed me to be, to completely break me and rebuild me for my marriage's sake. I had hope... but she increased my hope. She restored my hope, renewed it, rekindled it... set it on fire.

She became quite attached to me, and encouraged me to share more of my personal story, more of what had made my faith what it is today... so while the world blurred out of focus around around us, time stood still in that little classroom as I shared with her. She was overwhelmed with emotion by my testimony, but I told her that it was hers that had overwhelmed me, inspired me and taught me to press on, to increase my faith, to aim higher, work harder, hope for more.

She showed me all over again that no matter where we are in our faith, God sends us those who sharpen us, as iron sharpens iron. He knows just who to send for where we are in our journey. Sometimes, He has to lead us halfway across the world to cross our paths with that one person.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17)

I saw her throughout the rest of my time at the project that day. She memorized my name, took some photos of me, of us, and throughout the afternoon at the project, everywhere I went, there she was. She even walked with me to the home our team was visiting that afternoon, and insisted on holding my hand. When it was time to say goodbye, she made me promise that when (not if) my husband accepted Christ, to please contact her and let her know her prayers had been answered. Until then, she would continue to stand in prayer.

I know without a doubt that in a little Honduran village, a beautiful woman with a heart for God knows my name, knows my story, and is standing in prayer for me as I sleep beside my husband tonight, believing that God WILL restore, renew, and redeem... believing that my prayers WILL be answered.

All week, we've heard about the children praying to receive letters from their sponsors, that those letters would be an answer to their prayers. There is one letter being prayed for right now, not by a child, but by an international powerhouse of prayer named Gloria, who believes that next year, she will receive a letter telling her that her prayers have been answered.

I have every intention on sending that letter to her.

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24


Our Family said...

What an awesome gift - for both of you - to have found one another.

stewbie2 said...

JD, what a beautiful, and powerful story.

Shebecomes said...

Wow, I have the chills. That is such a wonderful story...and hope. I'll join in that prayer for your husband as well :)

Kasie said...

amen, amen & amen, so be it! What an awesome encounter. Thank you for sharing & I know that soon you'll be sharing the stories of your husband's turn towards Christ. How awesome. Keep standing JD. God is so faithful.

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