I was recently asked to be one of several guest speakers at a women’s conference in South Africa. It was clear that a lot of planning, preparation and prayer went into the presentations. Some were polished, some were full of humor, some were thought-provoking, some were all of the above. All of us who spoke wanted God to speak through us.
One speaker mentioned Elijah’s experience with God on Mount Horeb, and how God was not in the powerful wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire, but instead God was in the small still voice. Another speaker discussed the topic of listening for God in the silence.
Interestingly, that is what happened at the conference. We guest speakers were polished, prepared and politic in our presentations. Some of us shouted, some quoted Scripture, some leaped or otherwise put on an impressive performance. But did the weight of our quoting Scripture generate the wind in which we would find God? Did the leaping antics and mimicry create the earthquake that would shake us to our foundations?
I’m not saying God was not in those things, but for me the voice of God was in the still small voice of one woman who stood up unprepared and spoke from her heart to the hearts of everyone there.
This woman was from Zimbabwe. She, along with seven other women from Zimbabwe, had traveled long and hard by bus, even crossing national borders, to join the conference. When asked about how our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe were faring in the midst of the turmoil that has gripped that country, she smiled and said, "I don’t think the church in Zimbabwe has ever been so strong."
The still small voice of faith!
She then proceeded to tell us about the blessings that God has showered upon the church there: people helping one another out in times of crisis; needs being met through unexpected circumstances; members and congregations seeking ways and means to do mission outreach; spiritual growth in times of physical dearth.
But for me the most inspiring and humbling feature was that before she even began to speak, she asked us to join her in prayer. The first thing she did, before sharing what was happening in her country, was to offer her thanks and praise to God. When she finished telling us of the events happening in the churches in Zimbabwe, she offered up praise to our Lord for his abundant mercy once again. Her first and last thought in talking about the plight of our Zimbabwean brothers and sisters was in looking to the things that are above.
Her view of the Zimbabwean churches’ situation wasn’t the severe food shortages or the astronomical inflation that has made money virtually meaningless, nor the infrastructure that is scarcely recognizable as a structure. Instead her view was on the blessings that God has bestowed on them through spiritual growth and of individuals stepping up to shoulder the job of feeding the sheep.
She spoke with excitement of the baptism in one day of 60 people — people who had walked miles to a river to be baptized. She told how the women’s ministry in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi will be celebrating their tenth annual retreat next year. That’s stepping out in faith.
Despite all the polished, well-prepared presentations, the real highlight of the conference was the message of positives in the face of a mountain of negatives brought by the ladies from Zimbabwe. In their "still, small voice" they modeled hope and faith and enthusiasm for us all.