Ephesians 5:20 says God created men and women to love each other and submit to each other out of reverence for Christ. In the month of February when love is often celebrated, I am reminded how far many of us have drifted from God’s ideal. Perhaps this letter is something God will use to help you get centered in God’s will again.
May I tell you two sad stories from Ethiopia? Through God’s grace, they have happy endings.
In Ethiopia if a wife is beaten and dragged out of her home by her hair, it can seem like business as usual. Women often have no choice but to endure such treatment, because the alternative for themselves and their children is homelessness and starvation.
One man attended a Community Health Evangelism (CHE) training, provided by Medical Ambassadors (MAI). It was for men and women and addressed God’s view of love and marriage. He was curious because he was unhappy with his wife. She was expecting their eighth child. Because being pregnant made his wife less able to meet his demands, in each pregnancy he had resorted to beating her without mercy. It was so bad that the elders of his church had tried to counsel him, but he had ignored them.
The CHE trainers led the attendees through Bible passages presenting the way God wants men and women to relate to one another in marriage. It was a beautiful picture of love and respect that was nearly the exact opposite of what this man had experienced. In the past, this man would have shut his ears and walked away. However, the Holy Spirit did not let that happen this time.
Part of the reason was that the training did not seem like preaching. It started with a role play, and was followed by questions and group discussion. This held the man’s attention long enough for him to see his choices in a different light. In tears, he stood before the group and said, “I am so sorry for the pain I’ve caused my wife. I should have been more sensitive during her pregnancy. From now on I will support and help her.”
People in the group, especially those who knew his story, were stunned. But the story did not end there. This man went home to his wife and asked for her forgiveness. At first, she was afraid, and did not know what to expect. It took time for her to see if she could trust her husband. Now it is clear that God really has changed this man’s heart. Their marriage has been transformed.
Meseret, one of the MAI master trainers who witnessed this story, was truly impressed with what had happened. She began using the CHE lessons about mutual respect in marriage and God’s view of women’s worth in every situation she could. She even dared to teach the lessons to one couple who were in desperate trouble. Their relationship was so bad that they were headed for divorce. In Ethiopia, things have to be extremely bad before divorce is considered.
Results were not immediate. It took three months. She focused on the hopes and fears of this distressed couple. Just as she had been trained, she mainly asked questions and listened. The method of training by itself would certainly not have been enough. However, Meseret and her fellow trainers were praying. Then God did a miracle. This couple has been reunited. They are now depending on Jesus to help them change and grow strongly together so that their love will be able to weather future storms.
Couples like these can become powerful instruments Jesus will use to strengthen his church to reach out to others in trouble. The ripple effect can be enormous. When parents begin to love one another, babies are saved, children are nurtured and there is hope for entire generations of healthy family relationships in the future…because they’ve been taught to love one another God’s way.
You have been a faithful donor to help CHE workers around the world who are teaching Family CHE—folks like Meseret. When you read a report like this, you can truly say, “I have had a part in that couple’s transformation!” because you are a crucial member of the MAI team and God has used your gifts to enable this work. Thank you!
Here’s an idea for sharing this joy of teamwork. We have piggybanks for children or young families to fill, with the goal of “saving a baby” through the training a CHE worker can provide. When families are healed, babies can grow up in a loving place. And children “get” that. Would you like to give a piggybank to a child or a young family you know and challenge them to share what they have? Please see the response slip to ask for as many as you can use.
We pray that you and your family will experience the love of Jesus in a very special way in 2017.
John Payne, MD
P.S. The report from Ethiopia ended this way: “We were all praising the Lord Almighty. He is wonderful and mighty to heal broken families, and strengthen family relationships.” He truly answers prayer. How can we pray for you or your family?
We appreciate your prayer and financial support. Without you as a member of the team, this ministry would not be possible.