I had been told by some that some things in my life I should never share with women in this area of the world. That they would have no respect for me it I did. I believed what I was told.
But while believing it, part of me wondered. How then do they deal with their hurts? Or is just not talking about it working for them?
And besides, these women were all mature believers, reaching out to others around them. Maybe they could handle it. Maybe we could begin to discuss how to reach women beyond the barrier of shame and silence.
I just wasn't sure what would happen next.
But slowly over the room, women began to cry.
I got nervous. I really am just beginning to be comfortable with tears, and a roomful of crying women still scares me!
But I had just heard these women's life stories. I was impressed with one fact. They talked about horrible things which happened before and sometimes after they became believers. Bad decisions they had made, abuse which had happened to them, but their stories never finished. It was as if becoming believers had suddenly made the history all better with a magic wand.
I've never found that wand. My past still affected my life, even as a believer. I had needed some healing. It hasn't been an easy path, but God has been walking me through this way.
But I had wondered when I listened to these women - had they ever dealt with their hurts, or have they only been good Christians? Oh, they are good Christians - much stronger than me, people who I admire and respect.
Yet now I was in a room surrounded by strong women crying. Help!
Over the next few days, we talked. I had minutes here and there with a few and they talked to me. One ministered to me in ways that few have been able to. Another took my hands and prayed for me.
And then, as I became vulnerable enough to let them pray for my hurts and comfort me, and as they saw my tears and my struggling with letting people pray for some of these areas in my life, things began to change.
They tried to talk; they tried to explain it, but words at times are difficult. It began with "I can't tell you why, but you got inside my heart." Finally, one or the other said to me, "you suffered like we suffered, and you gave us hope. You showed us a door to this hope."
Another older woman went to the room of one of our leaders, sat on the floor, and very gingerly asked for prayer for the hurts from twenty years ago. She had shared her story at times, but not her heart, and she wanted to talk and to be prayed for.
I stood back in stunned awe. I had really expected judgment; or perhaps, at the best, to be able to open doors to talk about how to reach other women who are hurting. I had not expected this. I had not expected that these women who have it all together would dissolve into tears and want to talk about things they had not yet been able to.
I stood quietly at times and looked up at God. Who would have known? Who would have believed? My brokenness and still unfinished healing could bring hope and healing to a small room full of other women.
I had grown up believing we had to be perfect to be good missionaries - or as close to it as we could be. We were examples, so we had to live right and show perfection.
And I had just shown weakness and pain.
And all I could do was hold my hands out to catch the blessings which filled the room.
I had grown up believing we minister to the local believer - after all, we are the missionaries.
And I just had one of these women come to me, hold my hands up, and tell me that I could take this one step that I needed to, and she would hold my hands until I was strong enough to do it myself. And she prayed for me, and ministered to me in something I had been begging God to do for a long time.
Another came and sat beside me one dinner and told me her story. Because I shared that I was struggling in this area in my life and had no answers there. She quietly told me her story, her struggles, and God's working in her life and her marriage, allowing me to question, to learn. And she gave me a door of hope to go through, and encouragement.
Transparency. Taking that plunge. It led to healing. For me. For others.
And it led me to stand back in a quiet amazement of how God works. I guess He meant it when He said when we are weak, then He is strong.