It’s actually happening! The task we set out to do, the reason I left behind a job, comforts, my friends and family is being realized. This past weekend six women from the El Shaddai orphanage joined us for the very first Beauty for Ashes retreat. I know I shouldn’t be so surprised because I do indeed believe in our mission, but to actually see it happen before my very eyes is something else entirely.
Eleven days ago, under the cover of night, we made the slow and strenuous drive up winding roads to the orphanage situated right at the very top of the mountain. In the morning we were welcomed by Swaziland’s untarnished natural beauty, bolstered by the magnificent view only afforded by living atop the tallest mountain around. The valley below is dotted with small communities, bordered by a large twisting river. Every morning as I awake I look out the window and I remind myself of where I am and of the great opportunity set before me.
El Shaddai came into motion thirteen years ago by the word of a prophecy: EL Shaddai would produce men and women who’d lead the whole country of Africa. At that point nothing stood atop the mountain, all that existed was the promise and the assurance that people would show up to carry the task. I am blessed to be part of this promise spoken so many years ago and see the fruit from the faith of people who came before me.
The six women who joined us this weekend are part of a group of women who keep this complicated, intricate machine alive, day in and day out. Though working there is a huge blessing, the load is heavy. They labor to care, feed and clothe more than sixty children in ages ranging from a few months to preteens.
They complete this job under what seem unbearable personal circumstances. One of the women shared of betrayal by her family, another of the pain felt after being left by her husband to raise a family on her own. Each of them carried their grief so close to their hearts, robbing them of joy and peace. Through the sharing of our own stories of sorrow we were able to gather strength from one another and look to the source of all strength. We spoke of forgiveness, grace and God’s unending desire to know their hearts. At the end of our time together one woman shared she felt bigger, that she felt seen.
As I assess and reassess our work, I’m quickly reminded of the story of Moses and Aaron. Moses was entrusted with a job; as long as he kept his arms raised the Israelites gained ground against the Amalekites but if he lowered his arms Israel quickly began to lose the battle. Aaron played an essential role in assuring victory by supporting Moses when he grew weary. Our role was much like Aaron’s, we came in and supported and alleviated the women’s weary hearts and minds.
The task set before these women is a matter of life and death, they need support and encouragement so that they can insure victory for themselves and the children of El Shaddai and fully walk into the promise and prophecy said long ago. I’m beyond privileged to be part of this story and see God fulfill these promises right before my eyes.