Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
This poem ran through my mind as our team sat on wooden benches, circled by about thirty African women. This month, our team had been going hut-to-hut to women in the villages, offering prayer and encouragement. In doing this, Megan and I began to gain a heart for the women, as many of them had stopped dreaming with God for His plans for their lives. Many felt “stuck” in the daily life of an African woman – eating, cleaning, and cooking for their families – and weren’t given the opportunity to pursue personal interests or ambitions. Although these women didn’t have much, I’m learning that poverty isn’t just necessarily a lack of material possessions, it’s also a mindset. Many of the women believed they didn’t have any way to affect their situation, which Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen defines as the distinguishing feature of poverty. Megan & I felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to meet with women in this community to encourage them in their God-dreams.
After speaking with the pastor, he gave us three afternoons that we could meet with the women, which is how we ended up in the room that day. Megan and I had the big picture – we knew that we wanted to encourage women in our dreams – but we had no idea how exactly to do this. So we just prayed, wrote a brief outline, and were trusting that God would take care of the rest. When we were praying, God showed me a picture of the benches arranged in a circle to encourage community, rather than an us-versus-them mentality that we were there to preach at them or give them all the answers.
So, we showed up the first afternoon, set up the benches in a circle, and waited, not really knowing what to expect. To our surprise, about thirty women showed up. We began by sharing one of my favorite scriptures: Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.” For the first fifteen minutes, we gave each woman a pencil and paper, and encouraged them to ask God to show them the plans that He has for their lives. The Holy Spirit speaks in many ways, so we told them to write down any words, phrases, scriptures, or pictures that He showed them during the time of prayer. We then went around the circle and shared our God-dreams. It was amazing to hear each person share from their heart: dreams to get an education, to become a seamstress, even to start a store whose proceeds would help widows and orphans. One woman saw a vision of a bird tied to a pole, but she wasn’t sure what it meant. God gave me the interpretation that He wants us to take our dreams– which many times we have attached to a pole – and set them free. I also believe that the bird symbolized hope, just as the dove in Noah’s Ark symbolized hope for a better life, for a future. Megan then concluded our first day together by sharing about the three tools that you need to accomplish your dreams: A relationship with God, perseverance, and community.
The second day, we gave more time for the remaining women to share their God-dreams. However, as the gathering went on, I noticed something different in the dreams that the women were sharing – many were focused on the lack (how much money they needed) rather than on God who provides all. Also, many of the dreams were self-centered, on me making enough money so I can live, rather than God-centered, on doing something to benefit His kingdom. I felt like a stronghold in this area was hopelessness…We spent a few minutes praying to overcome this. When God gives us a dream, it will happen, as long as we continue to seek Him, because He is God and what He says happens. Megan also shared about about our identity as women of Christ and what it means to walk out that identity.
Our last afternoon together, we met and talked about community: What is a community? What does a community do? What would it look like for this group of women to live in community? I shared about how I believed that within this group of women existed everything that each person needs to accomplish their dream. But the biggest problem is that resources within a community are not effectively matched with the needs. One of the things that characterized the first church was their willingness to share with one another (Acts 2:42), but today we live in a very individualistic society. As we continued this discussion, each woman spent some time writing down their biggest needs to accomplish their vision, as well as their greatest skillsets that they bring to the community. We then went around the circle and shared these. As this happened, it was awesome to see how the community came together as they learned new things about one another.
Megan felt led to end our time together by our team washing each woman’s feet. We felt led to do this as a symbol of empowerment, of commissioning them to live out the dreams that God has for them. As we placed their feet in the small water basins, some women had tears in their eyes and they expressed how they had never had anyone serve them in this way. The life of an African woman is a humble life of servitude; yet seldom do they get the opportunity to be served and cared for.
I wish we would have had more time to meet and get to know each woman on a personal basis, but unfortunately our team had to leave to travel to Moshi. Despite this, many of the women seemed extremely encouraged by these gatherings. We established two of the women to continue leading this discussion as a continuation of the regular women’s Tuesday afternoon bible study. Our hope that this would be a time where women could continue to share their triumphs and hardships of pursuing their God-given dreams. We also left a small notebook describing this initiative for future World Race Teams, so they can continue to journal how this initiative builds and progresses.
In addition to this, Megan and I are planning to stay in contact with the women and support them in any way we can. However, we do feel that our role is not to provide financially. So many times westerners have seen needs within third-world nations, and then came in to rescue them and “save the day.” In reading the book When Helping Hurts, I’m discovering that many times we funnel money into causes, but unfortunately it actually hurts more than helps.
As these women continue to grow in their relationship with God, perservere amidst the trials, and serve others within the community, I believe there is nothing that will stop their dreams from becoming reality.
What about you? Have you asked God for His plans for your life? Will you take a moment today and dream with God?