By Carey Schleiker, RN, an Alliance international worker who serves in Mali
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Who doesn’t like a good story? Who doesn’t want prayer? I have found this especially true in my ministry to women in Mali. Here are some of their stories.
Kadia’s wrap skirt caught on fire while cooking over an open fire. The back of her legs and her backside were badly burned. She lay on her stomach for a month in our hospital receiving daily dressing changes and wound care for the burns. I was able to help her family members relieve her discomfort by showing them how to put wet cloths on her back. Her family was afraid to touch her because of her level of pain and because her legs were totally wrapped in gauze dressings.
Just a few minutes of attention each day made the difference. A bond was formed and her heart softened. After she was able to get up, sit, and walk, we talked about her family and children. She is the second wife in a family of the majority religion here. I started to tell her stories from the Bible—stories about women and about Jesus healing people. She kept asking for more stories. After she was discharged from the hospital, I went to her courtyard to visit. A colleague and I told a few Bible stories to the others in the yard as well.
A week later, she came to my house to visit. She stayed for about two hours and as she was leaving she said, “Next time I come, we are going to really chat!” My American mind was already thinking, “A two-hour visit is not a real chat?” So, I asked her what she meant. She smiled and replied, “You didn’t tell me a story today.” Kadia and I still visit frequently and although she is not ready to make a decision for Christ, she is always ready for a story about Him.
When Josephine, a Christian lady, asked if I could visit her home and do a health lesson and a Bible story for her neighbors of the majority religion, I was impressed and I admired her initiative. I gathered a few of my Malian nurse colleagues and we ventured across town to her home. I expected maybe five to ten ladies to be present. However, I was surprised when around thirty ladies came.
I had to raise my voice over the bellowing mosque next door, but the ladies were in rapt attention. After the health lesson on the importance of prenatal care, I told the story of Hannah and the birth of Samuel from 1 Samuel 1–2. The women identified with the gravity of being barren in their culture. In the polygamous culture of Mali, they also identified with Hannah being a second wife and the persecution from another wife. They asked for another story. We told them that we would be back; we closed in prayer, and went on our way.
A month later, we returned to the same group of women. Again many came. We taught them how to make a high-nutrient porridge for children. After the class, I asked if anyone could retell the story from last month. Without hesitation, a lady stood up and told the story of Hannah flawlessly. I was shocked that even a month later she remembered. I told another Bible story and they all promised to go home and tell it to their families.
We gave them all a taste of the porridge we had made and then dismissed the group. One lady just stayed in her chair. I asked her if she was OK and she said that last time we prayed for them, but this time we didn’t. She was right. In the chaos of giving out porridge, we didn’t close in prayer. My colleagues and I prayed for her and her family and she left content.
These stories challenge me. How much do I crave the Word of God and prayer? Do I boldly seek it like these women? Is my personal walk with the Lord one of thirst for the truth of His Word and the power of prayer in Jesus’ name? Even as a seasoned believer in Christ, these pre-Christ following women spur me to seek the Word and pray more fervently in my Christian walk.
I’m encouraged as well in my work. I want to never leave out the most important ingredients in any ministry: God’s Word and prayer! Like women all over the world, the women here in Mali want to be healthy. They want their children to be healthy.
However, they also believe in the power of prayer in Jesus’ name. They love to hear the beautiful stories from God’s Word. They can’t get enough of it! They are even bold enough to ask for it when we forget. May the power of Christ respond to that boldness and reveal himself to women in Mali.
—Reprinted from Evangelical Missions Quarterly, January 2016. Used with permission.