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.
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.