“Pray for My child” – by volunteer Emily Jones

Several months ago I was blessed to be able to go to Swaziland for a second time.  I have been on the “group trip” once before, about 2 years ago, and was called to go again, this time for a longer duration.  Janine asked me to write a blog post about my time there, but I have struggled with what God wanted me to say.  Following Janine’s blog posts recently, I was introduced to Shirley, a little baby who was thrown in a pit latrine.   When she survived this, she was lit on fire by her own mother.  I, like many of you, had a visceral response when reading this.  Though not a mother, I could not imagine what would possess a woman to do this to any child, much less her own.

God asked me to pray for His child, and like many of you I prayed hard for baby Shirley and all of the children that are staying on Project Canaan.  Then He said, “No, pray for My child.”  I didn’t get it.  I thought I was.  Then he pointed me to a story I was told by a young woman while I was in Swaziland this last time and I finally understood what “pray for My child” meant.

While in Africa, I had the pleasure of meeting daily with a phenomenal young woman.  She was touched by poverty and illness like so many, if not all, women in Swaziland.  As we got better acquainted, she began to tell me stories of her life in Swaziland.  One such story was about the birth of her daughters.  While she was in the final stages of pregnancy with her twin girls, she was hospitalized for pregnancy complications.  She was told that her babies were too small and that they would be lucky to survive until birth, much less through the process of childbirth.   This was when she looked at me and said, “I prayed to God that my babies were dead.  I cried with them when first one, then the other cried right after birth.  I wished my babies had been dead.”

I could not imagine feeling this way.  She clearly loved her children, and was quick to say that she loved them from first laying eyes on them, but I could not reconcile in my own mind how someone who loved her children could also pray that they would be born dead.  Then my mind replayed the conversations I had with her throughout my visit.  How she and her daughters were starving.  For the first couple weeks of life she was forced to feed them, but did not have food to eat herself in order to produce milk for one, much less two children.  I cannot imagine wishing my children were dead, but I also cannot imagine how horrible it would be to watch my children slowly starve to death.  In listening to her struggles, I see the struggles of all the young women in Swaziland who have to decide what to do when their child is born.  Women who cannot feed themselves, who are sick and hungry with no family to support them, they often see two choices:  keep the child and watch him/her starve, slowly and in agony, or they could make it quick for their child.  While you and I see another way, many of these women don’t.  These are the children that God wants us to pray for, these women in Swaziland who see no other way.

When Janine asked me to write a blog post about my time in Swaziland, I couldn’t do it.  She suggested I tell the world about Gcebile (Nomsa) from a different perspective than the one everyone heard repeatedly from Janine.  Why couldn’t I do it?   Well, because Janine said it all.  Gcebile (Nomsa) was a true child of God.  She loved God and she loved every person who came into her life.  She prayed with them, laughed with them, and discipled them.  She had a heart ornament hanging in her room, one for each of her 5 children, and she prayed for God’s blessing on them every single day.  She was an amazing woman whose life was too short, and someone I was lucky enough to know and call my sister.  But she also represented a population that I think we sometimes overlook due to the horror of their actions, the parents of our children who live on Project Canaan.

We are full already.  No room for more children.  While I am not saying that we should not be praying for Janine and all of the children and workers vital to the success of Project Canaan, I am saying, wouldn’t it be great if we did not need to.  What if we did not need a Project Canaan?  The only way for that to happen is to shift our focus a bit and pray for His children.  I do it in memory of Gcebile, my friend and my sister.

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