Helpless But Not Hopeless

I held her in my arms and let her cry. I didn’t know how to pray for her. I couldn’t find the words. I let her cry, and I cried with her.

Let’s call her LeThabo. At the Friday Night Youth Celebration at Anglicans Ablaze, we had a special time of ministry and prayer. I served on the ministry team. A young girl, probably around 15 or 16, came up to me for prayer. “My mother has HIV,” she whispered in my ear, “and we are poor. I’m scared.” And then she broke down in tears. How to pray for her? I thought. I was so overcome with, why, God, why? LeThabo’s story is so common here; she represents thousands upon thousands of South African young people. I prayed for her mom’s healing; I prayed for her and her siblings, but it felt fake. I was so angry. Then I could no longer find the words. We wept together, and I found myself saying to her, it’s OK to cry, just let it all out. God understands your pain and weeps with you.

I felt so helpless as I held LeThabo in my arms, but neither one of us was hopeless. I don’t understand why there is so much pain and suffering in South Africa and in the world. I don’t understand why teenagers, whose greatest concern should be their studies and who should be blossoming into life, have to bear so much pain and responsibility. It doesn’t seem fair; it’s not fair.

At the times when we can’t find the words to pray, we can weep with our sisters and brothers in their pain and trust that God hears our prayers of tears.

 

Trust in him at all times, you people;

pour out your hearts to him,

for God is our refuge.

–Psalm 62:8

 

The [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

–Romans 8:26

 

 

 

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Humility

Archbishop Justin He washed their feet. Narrow and wide; male and female; shades of brown, black, and white—12 pairs of teenage feet, he washed. The head of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, got on his knees, gently taking up a pair of feet to wash. Then he blessed the bearer of the feet.

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.

I will never forget this day, when I had the absolute honour of overseeing the hosting of Archbishop Welby when he spoke to the youth at Anglicans Ablaze. His talk was real, vulnerable, relatable, encouraging. He spoke about how God used Paul and Barnabas’ disagreement over the young man Mark, who had deserted them on a mission, for good, helping to spread the Good News and how Paul later “re-commissioned” Mark, requesting his help on another mission. The archbishop tied this to our lives today, reminding us how God can use for good the mistakes we have made. Archbishop Welby also talked about how modern-day society, even himself at times, suffers from the “imposter syndrome”—the fear of having people know who we truly are on the inside, warts, fears, jealousies, muck, insecurities, desires, and all. If people really knew us, they wouldn’t like us.

Then, at the end of his talk, the archbishop washed 12 pairs of feet, demonstrating Christ’s love for his church. There was not a dryArchbishop Justin 2 eye in the room. You could feel God’s presence; it was the presence of love, nearly tangible, like a cloud. Archbishop Welby’s action was the act of love and a servant spirit. It was humility incarnate. I could sense God saying to us all, Go and do likewise.