A Woman In Red

Her image kept coming to mind.  A woman in red.  Red headscarf, red dress, a smile. That’s it, no defining face or figure, just an impression that she was waiting for us.  Over the months of preparation, her image continued to come as I prayed with the team for our upcoming trip.

We had been invited, in conjunction with World Missions and Zoe Waters, to lead a women’s conference in Fissel, Senegal.  Fissel is an hour and a half van ride from Mbour just outside of Dakkar.  Pastor Albert had invited us to come and lead the women in his community in their first ever women’s conference.

As day one of the conference opened before us, we prayed and wondered if anyone would come.  This isn’t a place with internet marketing or Facebook boosts.  Yet, as women arrived to the cement block church full of plastic chairs, the room began to fill.  Many had started walking at sunrise, in the heat, to be to the conference on time.  Women who never really have time to get together, women hungry for discipleship, women willing to stay the night on a cement church floor just to hear God’s truths.  As I looked at their faces, it was overwhelming.  Women with babies strapped on their backs, women sitting on wooden benches with no support (for hours), a couple younger women serving the older by walking around with a shared cup of water as the heat increased throughout the day.  Women who love Jesus, who wanted to know Jesus, and who want their children to know him.

While one of our ladies was teaching, I had the opportunity to just observe the women and pray as they listened.  Then, I saw her.  Esther.  My eyes grew wide as I realized she was dressed completely in red. No other woman had red on – just Esther.  She looked beautiful.  And, I knew her.

When we had arrived in Senegal a few days earlier, it was a Sunday morning.  As a team, we were able to attend a church in Mbour and connect with the pastor and his family.  His wife, Alice, and two other women from his church cared for us that first day through meal preparation, kindness, and prayer.  Esther was one of those women.  While we were together, we had learned Esther’s story.

As a follower of Jesus, Esther had paid a high price.  By choosing Jesus, her family had cut her off and her husband divorced her.  She was alone.  Yet, as I watched her across the room in her amazing red dress, I could see the peace and joy radiating from her face.  Later as I shared with her that I had been praying for her specifically for the past five months, we shed tears of amazement and wonder at how God works.

Just like the Esther of Scripture, she had left her family to be with the King and she continues to come to her King for reassurance and love.   Her faith comes from the deep places, one that says she knows hardship but chooses joy. Her life is hard, yet she smiles.

The theme of the conference was; You are loved.  It was our hope to encourage these women to know their incredible worth in Christ and his love.  As we closed the conference on the second day, we were able to tell each woman personally how loved they were as we placed a necklace around their necks that read, I am loved (in French).    Placing that necklace around Esther’s neck is a moment I’ll always remember.  A sister in Christ, on the other side of the world, she taught me so much about faith and sacrifice. 

Women walked miles to hear of Jesus, they applauded the words of Scripture, and they drank in the truths of forgiveness and grace.  As a part of World Missions, we were able to give each woman an audio Bible (Treasure), in their own language. The Treasures will allow them to experience the Word of God personally in a culture that is illiterate.  Children will be raised hearing Scripture.  Generations will shift because God’s Word is being heard and shared, discussed and believed.

I’m humbled to have been able to play a small part in it all and it has led to ask myself some hard questions as a Jesus follower, a parent, and a leader in ministry.  Maybe they’ll make you think as well?

  • What am I willing to do to hear the Word of God? Would I walk a mile?  Would I walk 30?  (one man walked 35 miles to come to our women’s conference – can you even imagine?)
  • How much do I take reading my Bible for granted? Is it a pearl of great price?
  • What am I willing to do to help my children connect to a Christian community and learn more of God?
  • Am I willing, here in my own city, to share Jesus? Not metaphorically, not to a group, not just though actions, but with a simple look-them-in-the-eye question that asks –Do you want to know Jesus?

Oh Jesus, may I never take for granted the wonder and access I have to Your Word.  May I realize the privilege it is to be able to read and share it.  May I never back down from showing my kids who you are and do whatever is necessary to point them to you.  And, most importantly, may I never hesitate to share your gift.