By Kari Miller
Lord Alfred Tennyson said it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Ive turned this phrase over and over in my mind and I just cant make sense of it. Maybe it might be better said that it is better to love the author of love than to have no love at all. Joyce is a widow who has loved and lost and life has been hard. She has struggled to raise five children by herself. She has fasted and prayed for enough food to feed her children. The losing of her love was devastating and set in motion a life most of us cant even imagine.
This week Joyce took me to her widows group. They meet in a church on the outskirts of Kampala. As we walked up the dirt path to the church, I wondered what it would be like to be in the presence of 100 widows. How can that much pain and suffering be in one place? What does it feel like to bathe in disease and hunger?
These widows, about 100 in all, have escaped the violence in the north. In many ways they are foreigners in Kampala. Their language is different and they look distinctly Acholi. They were forced to leave with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They all have childrensome of the children are HIV positive, some are orphans from their community that they picked up along the journey. About thirty of the women are currently on ARV drugs and are in various stages of AIDS. I held one woman yesterday and felt her feverish face on mine as I hugged her. She was shaking as I prayed for her, but she whispered in my ear, I know God will be faithful.
They cling to the scriptures that tell them that God loves his widows and will take care of them. I have never heard such love for the savior. He is their only hope for survival. One woman told me that she has been HIV positive since 1988. She said that God is the only one who has kept her alive. Prayer has been her medicine, God her healer.
As I sat among these courageous women, Patience stood to give a testimony of Gods love for widows. Patience gave birth to three sets of twins. Two of her children have now died and she lives in a shelter that is not even fit for a goat. Every time it rains the water pours through the roof wetting everything and everyone. A couple weeks ago, she came to the other widows and asked them to pray for her. At this point in her testimony, Ruth, a fellow widow, stood up and explained that each time it rained, which is frequent here in the rainy season, she would get out of bed get on her knees and pray for Patience. During one of her prayer times, the Lord reminded her of some metal sheeting that had been removed from a nearby church. Ruth continued in prayer through the morning, when Patience suddenly arrived at her door. Patience had never been to Ruths home before and came only because she felt the Lord telling her to go. The two women then walked over to the nearby church and asked to meet with the pastor. Ruth then inquired about the metal sheets that had been removed from the roof of the church. The pastor then gave the women the metal sheets. That week Patiences house received a new metal roof. Patience ended by saying, I now ask the Lord to let it rain! The widows erupted in loud whoops and cheers. God had proved himself faithful.
It was now time for me to introduce myself. I stood and wondered what to say. I suddenly decided to be vulnerable. I told them a personal story of pain. I told them how God had been the great rescuer. The widows cheered and praised God saying King of Glory, King of Glory. Then I recited all the verses I knew about Gods love for the widows and they clapped and cheered. They live on those words. It isnt just a great thought or a cheery reminder, it is their only course of survival. I suddenly wondered if I cling to Jesus like that. Do I depend on him as if my life depended on it?
Finally, the announcements came. Many of the widows are being evicted from their homes by August 1st to make way for new development. They have lost all their original property to the long war of the north or to relatives of their dead husband and now they will lose the small structures on this piece of land. I shook my head and couldnt even comprehend the magnitude of this recent pronouncement. These women are devastatingly poor and are left out of even the Ugandan society.
As I pondered this seemingly devastating news, Ruth stood and quieted the women. She said, Ladies, we have nothing to fear. God told us over and over how he loves the widow. He will take care of us. Let us not give in to fear. Then she suggested that they all fast and pray one day next week to ask God for a miracle. God can do it. If he can find homes for birds and foxes, then he can find homes for us. Now faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.
At the conclusion of our meeting, we all held hands and began to pray. The ladies prayed for each other, for their possible eviction, for enough food to feed their children, for school fees and for me. They prayed that my coming would open doors of opportunity for them–that I would become a part of them. That I would care for them and meet their needs as I had the resources to do so. Somewhere deep in my soul I knew that God had connected me here to love these women and to provide for their needs as best I could. I asked God to put me in a place to love and be loved, not just emotionally, but in action. Once again I was placed in Gods divine drama where relationships reign and resources flow from one to another.
I suddenly felt right in the palm of Gods hand, but I was not alone. The widows were with me. We were connected. We were in relationship. At that moment I began to pray. My voice was loud. It seemed I was shouting. I imagined that I was standing before the throne of God small and ordinary shaking at the sight of his great might, but determined to stand firm. I shouted for God to look at these women. See your beloved are sick, your beloved are dying, your beloved are hungry, your beloved have no where to live, your beloved are scared. So small and ordinary, I asked God to come down from his throne and be with us. To make right what the world had made wrong. I told him that I would be his hands and feet. Like the story of Samaritan, I would not see the problem and pass by on the other side of the road. I was now stopped, in relationship with these women and giving of my resources. As I finished praying the women began to pray all at once. Telling the Lord how beautiful he was, how glorious, how powerful, how majestic. It was a small taste of heaven–the kind of heaven that should exist here on earth–loving the author of love and then loving each other.
Kari Miller is a 4th grade teacher who is passionate about loving Jesus and loving others. She longs to inspire others to love the least, the lost and the left out.