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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Africa (03/05/09)

TITLE: Not Superwoman
By Melanie Kerr


I suppose that I shouldnít be unkind. I can see that you are squirming. My presence here doesnít fit with your neat theology.

I can almost taste the question that is hanging on the end of your tongue. Go on. Say it. Get it off your chest so that we can move on.

You are surprised that I am a woman. Before you ask, yes I have read the part in Paulís letters about not permitting women to teach in church. I know the bit about women being silent too. Believe me, it is something that I have struggled with. No one was more surprised that I was by my husbandís wishes that I take on the leadership of the church in the event of his death. Surprised too that none of the congregation challenged the decision.

We live in different cultures you and I. In Western societies men have long been dominant. The woman takes, not exactly a back seat, but a less prominent, less authoritative role. It is not so here in this part of Kenya. Women have long been the responsible ones, managing to plant crops, weave fabrics, bake bread and give birth to children - all at the same time!

I try to see myself through your eyes. I admit that I am a large woman, dressed in a rainbow of mismatched colours. I laugh a lot. I have an opinion about everything and I donít hold back. I seem to be overflowing with confidence, but I am not a hen-picker. I donít dominate men with my loudness. I am not bossy.

I noticed that you softened a little when you visited my church on Sunday. I love singing and I really think that music and song should be joyful. I donít apologise for stopping every so often to talk about the words of the songs we sing. I mean, isnít grace really amazing? That God could take someone like me, and love me and accept me, and change me? I donít apologise either for the exuberance that I encourage. Yes, we dance, and we clap, we lift up our hands. And yes, we cry too, we weep and we mourn. We share with God and with each other every part of our lives, our triumphs and our defeats. I canít imagine being a stranger to my church family!

Perhaps you need to see me out of the limelight. You need to see me at five in the morning. I will be in the field behind the house. This year, we should have a good crop of vegetables. The peppers havenít done so well this time around. Henry will be there. The two of us do a spot of harvesting, making up little hampers. We donít usually give them to the church family, but people in the village know that they can come and we wonít send them away empty handed. The few things we donít give away, we sell. Thatís what the little shack is for. Itís our shop. It is not a little goldmine by any means, but the money is useful to pay school fees for some of the children in the village.

Or perhaps you should visit later on in the evening. It would be nice to put down the sewing. The back room, I am not sure if I showed it to you when you visited, is my sewing room. Sometimes Christian charities are so kind in sending clothes. I suppose that we could just wear the dresses and skirts, but I like the challenge of unpicking seams, re-cutting fabric, mixing and matching colours and creating something new. Donaminaís two girls are wearing my latest creations. They are so proud of those dresses and it keeps them from playing in the ditch at the back of their house. When it rains, the water in there is not clean. I once got to see what it looked like under a microscope.

Perhaps if you stayed even later, we could pray together. There are so many needs in my church family, I am sure that Godís ears are aching over my persistent demands! Who else is going to help us? I do what I can, but, contrary to what the men mutter in their cafes, I am not superwoman!

I am simply doing what my Father has asked me to do. Isnít that what we are all doing?

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This article has been read 1701 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 03/12/09
Amen, sister, preach it!
Sonya Leigh03/12/09
This is brilliant. I am nearly speechless--what connection, what ingenuity, what amazing writing and, bam, what a message. Bravo.
Gregory Kane03/13/09
This story is liked a loaded shotgun. The wisest course is to grunt politely and move on. It's so incredibly well written. And what a powerful woman - almost like someone from Proverbs 31. I love the sheer energy levels that the prose conveys. It's exhilerating and so moving.

But, is this one example sanction women pastors in Africa? They do occur but they're few and far between. We face a similar dilemma in Mozambique where in many of our village a number of the older men are polygamists. Paul also speaks out against this practice, forbiding such men from taking up church office. So how do we respond to this injunction? Some churches advocate sending away second and third wives, thus freeing up their men to take up church office. But this has always struck me as cruel and contrary to the spirit of the Scriptures. Other churches will simply ignore Paul's prohibition, preferring to be pragmatic in their theology. We take a third view, welcoming polygamists into our churches but excluding them from leadership. We will even discipline a church leader who willfully takes a second wife. We do this understanding that the non-verbal messages a leader sends out are just as important a consideration as how enthusiastic or capable he may be. Personally I think that the same argument can be made for women pastors. Let a woman serve by all means, but not as the head of a church. In saying that, I thank God for the many capable women who serve alongside us in the work of the gospel here in Mozambique.

I wonder how many people will echo, Amen, brother, preach it!
Catrina Bradley 03/13/09
I want to meet this woman and get to know her! Fabulous job of getting facts in without "telling", even tho the MC is telling them. :)
Mona Purvis03/14/09
Excellent writing, development and delivery. Very interesting. While my pastor husband and I might differ, here's my thoughts of this PARTICULAR situation. She didn't ask for it, she responded to God's leading inspite of the controversy. Her love of people and love of God abounds in this piece. Terrific characterization.

Gregory Kane03/14/09
In retrospect I can see that my comment here was misplaced. As Lisa has correctly pointed out, it belongs better in the bulletin boards rather than attached to an indiviidual story. I therefore apologise for my inappropriate posting.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/15/09
Blessings on a superbly written article and on Greg's humble spirit.
I'd love to meet the woman so escellently described.
Karlene Jacobsen03/17/09
Thank you for introducing yourself to me. It has been a pleasure getting to know you a bit. I love the creativity you show in dismantling clothing and creating something new and lovely. I would love it if you could do that in my closet.(lol)

Joanne Sher 03/17/09
Wonderful character study of a fascinating woman from a fascinating culture. Wonderfully done.
Suzanne R03/18/09
I know that woman, except on a different continent and dressed in different clothes. You've given your readers a glimpse inside another world that we would do well to remember more earnestly in prayer ... joining her in bringing all the needs around her to God.
Carol Slider 03/19/09
Your MC is so vivid and real, I feel that I've met her. Congratulations on your EC!
Sharon Kane03/19/09
Congratulations on your EC. This was brilliantly told. I am proud, and humbled, to have met your MC: actually several of them. Just watching their lives leaves me exhausted.
I don't know any who are in charge of churches though. They are far more often 'the overworked wife behind the great man'. Personally I think your story would have lost nothing if you had not introduced the controversial bit about women in leadership, but just let this woman shine for who she is. That's just my opinion.
I love these women every time I meet them. Thank you for bringing these heroes to the attention of the FW community.
Melanie Kerr 03/20/09
The woman was not a work of fiction. She was the leader of a vibrant black churh in Durban in South Africa.