Of course, she would want to be free of HIV. Of course, I could pray for her and her sisters-of-another-mother. However, the center of my thoughts was how much I wanted wholeness for each person in the room: not just freedom from disease, but a full embrace from God, living God. Particularly, the one woman in the back. I knew that gathering with others monthly at Kale Heywet Church in Addis Ababa brought mixed feelings: the marginalizing reminder that she is part of the group labeled PLWHA (People living with HIV and AIDS) perhaps contrasting with moments of felt freedom each time she attended …maybe even evidence of God’s presence.
Joining a roomful of women wrapped mostly in white cotton- 40+packed together in a dusty cool room at the end of a long day, we listened to a woman they knew from months of talks and practical assistance. The speaker’s face was bright and confident as she finished speaking in Amharic. I suspected that she also lived with the disease; but she looked different, she knew liberation of a different sort. What kind of release did the group want for themselves?
I sat in the back near a woman who clearly didn’t want to be there. While others followed the words of the speaker, she tolerated. Everything about her body said she wanted out. Perhaps she was not a Christ-follower, perhaps an Orthodox Christian but suspicious of Evangelicals, maybe secular, traditional or Muslim-background in her beliefs. No matter, KHC served all with kindness. Following the message, guests were introduced by our Ethiopian team member.
As he spoke, my thoughts returned to how much I wanted each woman to know healing from the brokenness she felt, from a sense of distance from God, persecution from those close to her, memories of abuse and hardship, shame, lost loved ones or continuing anguish over her circumstances. Boldly, I responded to the internal prompting and asked permission to follow the leading. As others prayed and sang, I moved through the room, laying my hands on each woman in prayerful petition—touching her shoulder, head or back. Many were already weeping. What would God want for their broken lives? How should I pray? The Spirit led on.