Numerous Naomis

"There was a famine in the land..." Ruth 1:1

Africa is a nation in crisis. Of that there is little doubt, with the plethora of statistics that tend to numb the rest of the world into inaction. The first and second worlds have stood by during the wholesale slaughter of cultures and tribes. We have failed to pass on the abundance of resources in technology and education, while robbing the Continent of its natural resources that benefit our consumption.

A famine exists not only in food, clean drinking water, accessible medical treatment and education, but also in time.

The women at the conference had to gain permission from husbands and family to attend. Someone had to agree to assume at least a portion of their chores during their time away. Someone had to tend to the animals, watch after the children, carry and heat the water needed for the household. And while a portion of their responsibilities were taken care of they still had to walk (some for two or more hours) over the hills and precarious pathways to the church.

"yeah thou I walk..." Psalm 23:4

The last day of the conference was a reality check for our American team. As we looked out at the congregants beauty, new found worthiness and joy, we also had to acknowledge this "retreat" on the mountain would close and the daily "valley" life of our amazing new friends would resume all too soon.

"Call me Mara..." Ruth 1:20

The last topic before lunch was on Naomi. When JA presented it at the 2004 Nakuru Conference, the floodgates of forgiveness and release broke open. We expected no less to happen on this hilltop.

The rest of the team acted out the theme as it unfolds in the Book of Ruth. There was wailing during the deaths of the husband and sons, and the anticipation at the departure of Ruth and her embittered mother-in-law for their homeland.

"I will go wherever you will go, your God will be my God..." Ruth 1:16

As the lesson ended the women broke unto small groups for discussion on cultural limitations, harboring bitterness and tragedy unexplained. When S reconvened the session and asked for women to share, over 10 women raised their hands. S looked at us with surprise and said, "we will have to limit this." Most of the women that stood to share were older, "Black Naomis" but purified hearts.

It gave testimony of the power of story. We each have one to tell, one of God's hand on our circumstance, His mercy and grace through tragedy, and His unfailing love and faithfulness to those who love Him.

Here is their witness:

1) One of the oldest women came forward: "I have five children, when my husband became sick and died. I was living with my relatives, then several of them fell ill and died. I became sick and thought "who now will help me?" Then other relatives came and gave what they could and people from the church came to cook and help with my children. I thank God for giving me more family in the church."

2) One of the younger women had left Vuga for a good job cooking. She was enjoying life when she was called in and fired. The same day a storm destroyed her house. But she trusted God and still gave thanks.

3) A mother-in-law spoke of her joy when both of her daughters found good husbands, but one of them came to her home and died. Tragedy struck, but the Christians in the community kept coming and providing.

4) A young mother had tow children die before the reached one month. Church workers encouraged here to read the 23rd Psalm. Now she has 2 more healthy children.

5) With hesitation but humbleness a women stood holding fast to the back of the pew. She shared the tragedy of her husband's alcoholism and after 2 of her children died she turned to the comfort of alcohol and tobacco herself. She finally turned to God and prayed for His help and now has been soberly giving thanks to the King.

6) The last of the women to come forward kept repeating, "Naomi, Naomi, Naomi," Her utterances were interpreted as her personal association with the woman of the book of Ruth. Through tears and a breaking voice she told of her own "famine" tale. She had three children, then her mother and one of her children fell ill and died. She raised her hands, as did many other "Naomi's" in the audience -

"but Christians kept encouraging me to pray, and now I am praising God."

"The women said to Naomi: "Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer." Ruth 4:14

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