What wonderful news for these women of Swazi! I will pray they continue on encouraging one another and teaching other women how they too can be lifted up and wear God’s crown of beauty. Now they know the 3 keys to Christ’s love: faith, hope and and most importantly love for him and for each other. It’s a “lovely” story. Good work World Racers! Thank you Lord!
Swazi women’s retreat changes lives
Up until Sunday, the last day of “Beauty From Ashes”, Maria, an older woman of great love and inner strength resided more on the outskirts. Not because she put herself there, but because it wasn’t yet her time. Being one of the women who assisted us in translation all weekend, she poured her heart into listening to the other women’s stories while crying, praying, and coming alongside them in their pain.
Initially, she seemed very reserved. From a distance no one would suspect she even had much of a story to tell. As the weekend went on she requested for pain medication multiple times because she was suffering from intense headaches. On Saturday, the “Day of Ashes,” it was a day full of many stories, tears, and women vomiting out the pain of their lives. As we were closing out one of the large group sessions, Maria and another lady both came to the front ready to share; however, Maria quickly sat back down after realizing we only had enough time for one more story. Promising she would be given an opportunity later, only a couple of the women at this point recognized she was currently living in deep pain and brokenness. So, the “Day of Ashes” finished and Maria still hadn’t shared.
By the next morning during “Day of Beauty,” our last day together, God made it very apparent that this was Maria’s time. She was the only woman who ended up sharing that day. After worship and prayer, she told us how at age 20 something she was married to a 60 something year old man. She questioned God’s hand in all of this, but learned to love. Since then she’s been widowed and has had to raise her children alone. In the midst of all this is one of her sons who mistreats her, so much so that he’s lied about his father’s heart towards her and has held her at gunpoint in hopes of forcing her off her own homestead, leaving her with no place to go. “What am I supposed to do?” she cried out at us with her hands desperately questioning. Weeping to the point of falling to her knees, I next saw Jesus.No longer needing to model to the women of Swazi the importance of coming alongside one another, they naturally flocked around her in a circle comforting her through touch and loudly praying together on behalf of her “ashes.” Later that day, at the end of our time together, Maria once again stood before our group. This time it was to communicate the importance of continuing how to love.She stood in the middle of us all with the question, “How have we been shown love this weekend?” Being an older woman who’s highly respected by the others, she modeled this as she walked towards one woman kissing her on the cheek, embracing her, and talking about the importance of praying for one another. Soon after a few of the women followed her example continuing these same actions within our circle, while also forming a line to show appreciation and love to us Racers for what they had been taught…
It was in this moment that I realized not only had God used us to empower these Swazi women to experience and continue living out “Kingdom” as being the hope of their nation, but He fulfilled what He had promised. Through them sharing their stories and learning to grieve with one another they would see Him “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.”
“It was in the ashes of these women’s lives being shared that I experienced beauty amidst the authenticity of their pain. I caught a glimmer of Jesus as we tasted heaven together.” -Krystle Longmire
“The whole point of this weekend was to have these women share their stories, not only did they do that, but they came alongside one another to encourage, love, and celebrate one another’s lives.” -Jessie Miller
“It was amazing to see the Holy Spirit working in the lives of the women to become vulnerable with each other.” -Maithili Johnson
“I saw God when Alvina, one of the gogo’s, told us she was going to give us a chicken at the end of the retreat because it showed how much she was impacted by the weekend.” -Katie Rowland
“It was an amazing time of celebrating both joy and pain.” -Kara Burrows
“As one woman mourned they all mourned, as the same woman found freedom the rest were sure to follow. This was beauty instead of ashes.” -Tara Stephenson
Beautiful! I love the women of Swaziland…