Jerry, SP staff working in South Asia, testifies to the many new educational opportunities women are accessing as they become literate, advocate for their neighbors, and learn to pray for God’s miraculous healing for others.
"Praying is like planting. Each prayer is like a seed that gets planted in the ground. It disappears for a season but it eventually bears fruit that blesses future generations….No matter how big or small [the fruit], we need to share it. It’s a stewardship issue. Giving testimony is the way we give God all the glory. But we also need to share it because others need to hear it. If we don’t share our testimonies of how God is working in our lives, then others are tempted to think He isn’t working at all." —Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge
Here are some of the ways God answered prayer through my ministry in South Asia. With the graduation next month of 10 literacy classes, the women will be leading 20 women's house churches—a number we hope to double in the coming year.
Four of the women I met in another state and did an incredible job in training 20 village women to work as lay social workers, advocating for benefits for their fellow poor in some 100 villages. They used a variety of learning strategies including presentations, small group discussion, problem solving exercises, skits, and more.
These women embraced the training enthusiastically and are already working in teams of two, using surveys and interviews to identify needs and then helping villagers apply for government benefits that are rightfully theirs but are usually missing because of poverty and corruption.
This training is the fulfillment of prayers prayed more than ten years ago from 2000-2010. In the months ahead and as God provides, we hope to add literacy, self-help savings groups, and much more to relieve the grinding poverty in villages where more than 400 churches were planted.
One of the sweetest answers to prayer came as a surprise, but it illustrates how God can bless and multiply our smallest gestures of help. One of the women who attended the training is an illiterate widow I met soon after our work began in the early 2000s. We picked up Auntie (as we call her) on the roadside on the way to the training center one day. As we drove, we learned more of her amazing testimony.
She was widowed when the youngest of her three sons was still a toddler, and she became the sole support for her family of four as a daily farm laborer averaging no more than a dollar a day. Not long after being widowed, Auntie had a stroke leaving her family at even greater risk. The stroke happened around the time that one of our evangelists was telling God's story in her village and provided the opportunity for Auntie to come to the Lord. Soon after that her second son was diagnosed with severe tuberculosis and was given only six months to live. Auntie prayed, and that son was healed and survived.
God gave Auntie the gift of healing prayer, and that literally hundreds of people began seeking her for prayer over the years, with many being healed. And we learned that although there were many times when the family didn't have enough to eat, remarkably, all of the boys have completed their education. The older two are village doctors with two-year degrees in primary health care, and the youngest is about to earn his bachelors in business, an almost unheard of feat for an outcast widow like Auntie.
As we were marveling at her story on our drive to the training center, one of women in the car asked Auntie how she learned to pray. Without hesitating, she pointed to me sitting in the seat in front of her and said, "Jerry brother taught me!"
"What?!" everyone exclaimed incredulously.
But Auntie was dead serious. It turns out that around the time she came to the Lord, I visited her village with a team leader on one of his regular visits. Auntie was part of a small group of women we met in one of the villages. One of the women was sick, and she asked for prayer. As is often the case, the group wanted me, the foreigner, to pray. I agreed, but only if Auntie, who was standing next to me as a part of the group, would pray, too. Auntie was extremely shy and quite reluctant, but she eventually agreed. I placed her hands on the sick woman's head in typical Indian fashion, and told her just to tell Jesus what she wanted. Auntie prayed a short, passionate, but barely audible prayer, and then we left the group soon after. But for Auntie, it marked the beginning of life of prayer that continues to this day.