Bringing pampering to the women of Mansoa wasn't the only blessing being delivered in Guinea Bissau during our visit. Katie had a blessing in mind for Tonya and me as well. One morning the three of us gathered in the comfort of her living room with our Bibles and notebooks in hand, and she instructed us in the art of listening prayer. We already knew how to speak to God, and we already knew how to recognize His voice when He spoke to us, and now we were going to learn to focus our listening specifically for the benefit of a chosen recipient. After getting our instructions, for fifteen minutes Kate and I opened our spiritual ears to hear whatever God might have to say to Tonya for her edification and encouragement. We scribbled notes, drew pictures, and located scripture references in our Bibles as the thoughts came like a stream. I had entered into this activity with doubts about my ability to hear clearly. In fact, before making the trip to Africa I had expressed to a few friends that this was the only part of our planned mission that left me feeling very insecure. The original plan had been that we would have listening prayer over half a dozen local Christian women, but as it turned out there simply wasn't time to work this into the activities of the week. Kate had experienced this herself in the context of a conference for Christian missionary women in West Africa, where about two hundred women blessed each other with listening prayer, one by one. As this experience had ministered powerfully to her, she had the desire to pass on the blessing to others.
When our listening time was up, Katie and I took turns sharing with Tonya what we had heard the Lord say concerning her. Though I had entered into this with apprehension, once the thoughts started flowing I knew that the success of listening prayer depended not so much on my listening skills as on God's speaking skills, and He is not lacking in this ability by any measure! He spoke clearly to Noah about building an ark to spare his family and a pair of each species of animal and bird from the coming flood. He spoke clearly to Abraham to take his family and go to a land that would be shown to him when he got there. He spoke clearly to Moses with instructions to return to Pharoah and lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. Throughout all the recorded Old and New Testament times God spoke clearly to those who had chosen to follow Him, and sometimes to those that He chose to snatch out of their rebelliousness or misdirected religious passion. When God speaks we can choose to listen or we can choose to tune Him out, but for those who have ears to hear there will be messages of wisdom, guidance, encouragement, exhortation and insight. And so, with a desire to receive a message for Tonya, Kate and I had asked the Lord to open our spiritual ears to hear. When I expressed one particular message I received that didn't make sense to me, Kate was able to supply the other half of it from her time of listening! After I read the passage of scripture that I had been led to for Tonya, Kate declared that she had the very same scripture! And it was clear from the emotional response that Tonya's heart was being touched at a deep level.
And then it was my turn to be the recipient of listening prayer. Tonya was, if possible, even more apprehensive than I had been, but it was obvious from the page of notes she scribbled that God was able to make Himself heard even by one much younger in the faith. My heart was moved deeply by the messages that Kate and Tonya delivered to me from God.
Though we didn't have the opportunity to do listening prayer over any of the African Christian women, we did bless another missionary with this gift. Liz and her husband William live about an hour's drive away in the town of Lendeng, on assignment with SIL, a language translation organization. The work she is doing to help small translation teams bring written language to several people groups in the country is simply amazing. Not only does she guide and oversee their work in translating portions of scripture, but she and her teammates produce remakes of the Jesus film in each of these languages being studied and developed for evangelistic purposes. Voice actors have to be located and taught to read in their native languages, then audio recordings are made of voice-overs for the film. Recording of these tediously prepared scripts is done in tiny makeshift, airless booths where the actors emerge after an hour drenched in sweat like they'd taken a dip in the river. Liz and her husband are an important strand in the network of selfless, dedicated workers bringing Christ to this dark corner of the world, so it was our joy and privilege to visit in their home and gift Liz with listening prayer.