Single moms … you have the toughest job in the world! Without a doubt single moms know how to Man Up. I know when Kari takes off on a two week mission trip that propels me into the role of solo dad, all I can say is … Whew! The kids and I are all counting down the days for the return of my most awesome wife and mother of my three kids. Wow, before 9 AM I’m already exhausted from what seemed like a full day of work just getting them ready for school. I know my whining brings no sympathy for me (and I don’t deserve any), but single moms deserve our appreciation and a standing ovation each and every day. So, what does Man Up mean for single moms?
Today, as I was praying for Merse “Mercy” (our P61 Sponsor child) to get her approval for a medical visa, I couldn’t stop thinking about her mom, Mulu. Kari and I met Mulu two years ago on our mission trip to Ethiopia. Our paths colliding was not an accident but a specific miracle for our families. It’s amazing how God will supernaturally arrange meetings in the most unlikely circumstances. Mulu is a widow who lives in Korah with her two children. She is like most American single moms. She works hard to provide shelter, food, and an opportunity for her children to get the best education possible. Like so many single moms she put the needs of her children and everyone else ahead of her own needs.
For me, the highlight of the mission trip is always visiting Korah. It’s a very special place for Kari and I, as it’s the birth place of our daughter Zoie Senait. Now, witnessing big mission teams coming to Korah is nothing new or unusual. Mulu sees teams come and go, but God spoke to her heart to come and meet our team. She asked only a simple request, to come to her modest home to pray for her sick daughter, Mercy. When Kari and I lead mission trips together we rarely see each other. We adopt the divide and conquer strategy, so we had put together a few small teams to help us cover more ground in Korah. Mulu, being faithful, searched and found someone from our team. She politely approached to make a request for us to come over and pray for Mercy. Unfortunately, our team didn’t respond. I wish I could give a good excuse, but we failed to answer the call. What were we thinking? We were so busy doing projects, we missed a divine appointment. Luckily, Mulu had the fierce determination to come back again the next day, early in the morning and approached our team. This time, she found my wife. Kari and five women headed over to Mulu’s home where they found her daughter, Mercy lying in her bed motionless. Even with the commotion as they walked in she didn’t have the energy to move to see who the “forenzi’s” (crazy Americans) were that had invaded her tiny space. The team proceeded to circle Mercy to lay hands on her and pray for God’s healing upon her. No movement, no sudden miracle, not even a smile from Mercy to acknowledge the prayer. Mulu was gracious and grateful and broken as the team as the left. Nothing extraordinary … yet.
A few hours later the whole team was at Great Hope and it was just about time for us to leave to go back to the guest home we heard someone yell, “It’s Mercy!!!” Just like a child who has something so exciting to share; You know the kind of smile that radiates pure joy came bursting through the gates. It was Mulu with her daughter, Mercy. She had been healed! The team celebrated and gave ALL the glory to God. We proceeded to take Mercy out to get her something special for her to remember THIS special day. Kari and I celebrate miracles with a “special” object to thank God for something He had done significantly in our life as a reminder of His faithfulness. We want to make sure we are obedient and grateful, like the ONE leper, out of ten that Jesus healed, to come back and thank Him for the miracle of healing. The object we gave Mercy to remember her miracle day was a special ring that belonged to Kari.
Needless to say, I learned a lot that day.
As Christ is the father to the fatherless, He is also the husband to the widows & single moms. For me, I can get so narrowly focused on only part of the verse, advocating and protecting and loving orphans. Mulu reminded me, that day, about the other group of people that James identifies in James 1:27 … the widows. Man Up also needed to Man Up for widows & single moms.
On our Man Up trip last August when we returned to Korah we were able to do a home makeover on Mulu’s home. We painted, laid new flooring, bought new furniture, bed, pots, and paid a year’s worth of rent. In fact, a returning team member from our February mission team, Brady Stark brought Mulu a solar lighting system so she could see inside her home at night time because she didn’t have electricity.
The Man Up team in July was also able to minister to widows and single moms in Uganda. Unfortunately, just as it is basically all over the world, women are not valued or honored as priceless treasures. Especially, widows and single moms. In Uganda, Pastor Andrew of Home Again Ministries in Jinja has Manned Up for orphans, widows, and single moms. He has a very cool outreach to widows and single moms. (Check out my good friend Mitch Hauschildt post here about his ministry.) When our Man Up team met Pastor Andrew he had targeted five communities for us to minister to. He asked me to divide the team into five separate teams with at least one member who could share the gospel. I picked the teams just like you remember doing in junior high. I had everyone sound off from 1 to 5. You know where one person starts by shouting out ONE, the person next to them shouts out TWO, the next THREE and so on from there to five until everyone had a number. Well, I took team one and I designated myself to share the gospel (I love speaking and sharing Jesus).
At first, I have to admit I really didn’t think there would be very many ladies. I thought we would have a nice group of about a dozen ladies. Well, there was probably close to 75 – 80 ladies present. I was shocked! How could there be that many widows and single moms in such a small community. To be honest, I really didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to say to widows and single moms; so I simply prayed, “Lord, please help me speak an encouraging word to these ladies!” That was literally my prayer. I walked up in front to where all the ladies were patiently sitting in a big semi-circle waiting for me to say something to them. Standing in front of them Romans 8:15 came to mind in that I was orphan who was adopted by the most awesome Father. I really wanted to validate to them that I was no different. I’m a sinner and I needed Jesus too. I then moved over to Colossians 3:11 in that we are all one in Christ. He values each and every one of us equally. It didn’t matter who you were, but you are so valuable in that Christ gave He gave up His very own life on a cross just for you and me. But, as I looked into these precious ladies eyes I could sense that inside their hearts they were beaten down, without hope, and no self-worth.
I stopped what I was sharing and I walked over to a lady whose eyes and body language screamed out “ASHAMED! Once I got to where she was sitting, I reached out my hand to her which she placed her hard calloused hand into mine and I helped her up gently to her feet. I then led her to the front where I was speaking. I pulled out a chair that they had placed for me to sit in, for her to now take a seat. I turned around to speak to the ladies to say, “You are all so beautiful, valuable, and worthy that I want you to truly know how much you are loved.” I turned to the girl that was sitting in the chair and I took off my shirt. (I said a quick prayer that my white gut wouldn’t scare them away.) I knelt down on my knees and began washing her feet with my t-shirt. I shared with all the ladies that I was doing this not just to her but to all of them. As I washing her feet, I saw a smile … and it was beautiful!
After I finished washing her feet and I had regained my composure seeing the glimpse of hope come back in her eyes – a single mom who had been raped, prostituted, and left to take care of her kids by herself. I concluded the gospel presentation and gave an invitation. Some of the women made decisions to accept Christ as their personal savior and Pastor Andrew led them in a prayer to invite Jesus into their hearts. As I stood back and watched I felt the message that God really wanted me to share was to show HONOR to single moms and widows. To really let them know how incredible they truly are, how valuable they are, and that Jesus Christ loves them so much that He gave his life for each one of them. As I look back on that experience I wonder how many widows and single moms feel loved and appreciated? Here is the States and the rest of the world. In living out Pure Religion what can you do to Man Up for Widows & Single Moms?
Mulu taught me what it really means to radically live James 1:27. Man Up isn’t just about taking care of orphans. Just as Jesus is a husband to widows, we want Man Up to project and love widows, single moms, the poor, the sick, and most of all, the unreached people groups who are lost and need a savior. Without the willingness to wash the feet of the least of the least there is no need for Man Up. It’s all about Jesus and nothing less.
Thank you, Wynne Elder for the photographs of Mercy and her family.