Just sing….

We’ve all had nightmares like this, haven’t we? We find ourselves in front of a crowd, unprepared….incompetent….set up in such a way as to look like idiots.

It was our first post-adoption trip to Ukraine. We accompanied the founder and president of Hope Now, an organization that works to aid the infrastructure in Ukraine in the areas of hospitals, orphanages, prisons, and education. I’ve just spelled HOPE, did you catch that?

There I was in a church service inside a men’s prison, the first of its kind in the whole of the former Soviet Union. I WAS AN OBSERVER!!!! You can imagine my horror when Vic, the president, looked at me and said, “I want you to speak.”


“I want you to speak.”

“Well, I can’t you see, because I am a WOMAN, and these are men. At my church I’m not allowed to……”

“Speak.” He answered.

I got up and walked to the front. Everyone was silent as they waited, having watched us go through our debate in a language they didn’t understand. I fumbled through my Bible to a Psalm that had meant very much to me, and began to read. The interpreter repeated in Ukrainian everything I spoke. I had never done this in any church, let alone a prison church. I then explained how I felt this passage could apply to their lives. Relieved to be finished, I turned to go back to my seat.

“Sing.” Vic was giving me one word commands again.

“WHAT?” You’ve got to be kidding me.

“Sing.” I can’t sing.

“But I can’t sing.”

“That doesn’t matter, just sing.”

Regretting my return to Ukraine by this point, I turned back toward a room full of thieves, murderers, and all that landed themselves in this prison church. I chose a hymn I’d known as long as I could remember. Amazing Grace. Other than my voice, you could have heard a pin drop. No one moved. These men, with no bars between themselves and me, sat listening and gazing. They didn’t know the words, and there was no interpretation. They just listened.

I heaved a sigh of relief and turned once again toward my seat.

“Tell them Katie’s adoption story.”
“Just tell them.”
“It’s a long story,” I said.
“These men have plenty of time.”
I considered hopping the next flight home, but I turned back toward the prison audience and told them about Katie and how she’d come to be ours. The interpreter served them once again with the Ukrainian version, as I, trembling, dreaded what I would be asked to do next.When I turned, Vic was at last satisfied. I know I was as red as a boiled lobster when I sat down. How could he ambush me this way?
After the service, we returned to the van. Vic knew I was going to need some answers. In his thick British accent he explained to me, “These men have not heard the sound of a woman’s voice in a very, very long time. All they hear are harsh voices…men’s voices. Whether it’s prisoners or guards, it’s all they ever get to hear. Your voice was therapeutic for them. It didn’t matter what you said, it was the way you sounded. They needed to hear your voice.”It is that way here, isn’t it? We live in a culture where individuals demand THEIR needs be met, THEIR rights be fulfilled, and that THEY be served. Turn on a tv or radio, or go to a local restaurant, and you’ll hear it. Close your eyes. Is there a soft voice calling you to awareness of someone greater, someone full of mercy and grace, a God who became both man and servant for you? The media will tell you every bad or unfair thing that is going on in the world….or you can walk outside your door and see it for yourself. But where’s the voice calling out that this isn’t all there is?  WE ARE CALLED TO BE THAT VOICE! We are called to be merciful. We are called to share hope. We are called to love. We are called to look people in the eyes and smile, sending a message that they matter. We are called to be Jesus in the places where there is no Jesus.

It is my new goal to be that soft voice in a world of harsh voices. It may be tough at times. I may be tempted to demand my needs be met and my rights upheld. I may tremble. I may want to run back to my seat, but I am called to be that voice. God help me be it.


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