Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Day 8: Women's Conference, Uganda Style
Day 8: Women's Conference, Uganda Style
27 June, 2009
Today was our Women’s Conference. Although it began at 10:30, Pastor Ruth said that the women began arriving at 7:30. The hall was completely full, and more chairs were added throughout the day. Around 220 attended in all, and all of these were by Pastor Ruth’s invitation, who pointed out that we could not have accommodated the number that would have come, had the invitation been open.
Jan is still not feeling well. She sweats profusely and also chills, which is making us wonder if she has malaria. We have all offered medications to her, and keep praying with her and for her of course. She was determined to attend the conference, regardless, and made it through the first half of the day before returning to the hotel to rest.
We were greeted warmly, with loud singing, clapping, and the unique trilling sound that we have found to be the classic African expression of joy. We were able to join the women in singing, “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” and “This is the Day.” One song that was sung in Swahili was about never going back to Egypt, but continuing on to the Promised Land. For the chorus of this song, the women put their Bibles and purses on their heads and walked around, symbolizing the traveling Israelites.
Robinah and the wife of the President of Tororo District each spoke. Then Denise, Jeanice, Jan, and I took our turns speaking, with a translator interpreting. Denise shared a little about the planning of our trip and offered many words of encouragement from the book of John. I sang “Knees to the Earth” and shared my testimony of dealing with fear and how it drew me into relationship and dependence on God. Jeanice spoke about the widow’s mite, and Jan spoke about God’s word as a seed that is planted in our hearts, and the need to nurture it so it will grow. She ended with an invitation to accept Christ. Four women responded by coming forward to pray with us, however several more responded by raised hands. How thrilling to see these women begin their new journey with Jesus Christ today, and even more thrilling to be a part of it –to pray with them and see the radiance on their faces!
We made a trip back to the hotel at lunch time, where Jan remained. When we returned for the afternoon session, the ladies were eating their meal of rice, beans, cabbage, and beef when with their hands, which is customary in Uganda.
Three women shared their testimonies during the afternoon session. They were touching stories of God’s deliverance and provision. They also had high praise for Pastor Ruth’s ministry to them. Pastor Ruth became quite emotional as they shared their stories. She is personally involved in the lives of many of these women, and has done much to empower them through assistance, skills training, and bringing them to faith in Jesus Christ.
We ended the day with our gifts to the women. Each had already received the Book of John. We also gave each of them a heavy-duty garden hoe, some bean and corn seeds, a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, and some candy. They came through in a line to accept their gifts, and were so excited and thankful!
All of the women were dressed beautifully, many in colorful traditional African garments. One woman, however, stood out as being quite ragged and dirty in her appearance. When she approached me, accepting the gifts I handed her, she began to sing –her gesture of gratitude. It brought tears to my eyes, for I felt that I had just been a recipient, on our Lord’s behalf, of the widow’s mite.
Jan was beginning to feel better after having rested this afternoon. We marveled over the day’s blessings during dinner, and were engrossed in conversation, when Allison, with the other organization, approached us and asked if we would like to “go shopping” at their table. I went with her, and was surprised to find a woman selling necklaces like the ones we had purchased at the Smile Africa store. I was even more surprised and delighted when she said, “You came to Smile Africa! You were at the conference today! I am Jacinda!” Then she whispered to me that she would give us a special price on any necklaces we bought because of our ministry to Smile Africa; so, of course, we bought some more!
This evening we decided to bless one of the families we met in the slums yesterday –the man in the overcoat, who didn’t have pants. We packed a suitcase for his family with some food, clothing, a flashlight, a soccer ball, and a little extra money. Tomorrow we will arrange for its delivery through Pastor Ruth.