On the last day of the workshop at CORAT, Reverend Phyllis Byrd Ochilo read from the book of:
On a Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, Woman, you are set free from your infirmity. Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
In her sermon, Reverend Phyllis analogized the situation of the bent woman with the unjust situations in society. She noted that the woman with the spirit of infirmity had been enslaved for 18 long years and could not straighten up. The spirit had been brought by the demons
which had made her a weakling. “The demons shuttled her mind. The demon of hunger haunted her; the demon of unemployment walked with her daily, the demon of inadequate health care followed her in the street. The demon of hopelessness and powerlessness
surrounded her. The demon oppressed her so much that she became weak and could not stand straight,” stated Reverend Phyllis.
The Reverend notes that for the many years that the woman had lived with the spirit, it was like she was an invisible being. No one wanted to take a second look at her frail twisted body and it was like she never existed.
“A call came from OAIC, CORAT- Africa, The Danish Mission Council, and The United Nations Millennium Campaign inviting leaders from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania to come together for three days. Perhaps they thought about Jesus being in the grave for 3 days. Or maybe they knew liberation took place after 3 days, or perhaps they knew that Jesus rose from the dead after three days. But all that was not important. The fact that we have all gathered here for the past three days means that we all want to listen and know how collectively we can listen to God and take action against injustices around us,” stated the Reverend.
Reverend Phyllis who is also the Director of Just Communities at the OAIC stated that he bent woman only hoped that one day she could be healed of her situation. That the church leaders present at the workshop understand the struggles of the people living in deplorable conditions and it was up to them to take action.
That if the leaders could make a point of coming together and mobilize their congregants and communities to take action and demand for effective service delivery that would make the world a better place to live in. She states that there is a something blinding them that they cannot see the possessed woman.
“The woman was in the bus with them but they did not recognize her, she was sitting in a matatu next to them but they ignored her. She travelled in the planes with them but they never noticed. She is everywhere but people still ignore her,” stated the Reverend.
The bent woman basically refers to the mama mboga – woman selling vegetables in the market -, yet people pass her every day. They do not know that she constantly surrounds them.
She wondered aloud that perhaps the church leaders had come to the conference with their own agenda. Of resting, fellowshipping and going back home and events would continue as they were – business as usual -. But she urged them in her sermon that as they reflected on all the issues that had been discussed, that something extraordinary should take place. That there should be an excitement at CORAT, and that the Holy Spirit which was at work in a powerful way would enable the church leaders to dare to be different and that their lives would not be the same again after the close of the conference.
Each of the attendees was urged to look at their bent-ness, understand that they could not themselves stand straight if the women and children in their countries were continuously oppressed. That their lives could not be the same if the men in their countries were denied proper health care.
She challenged them to no longer allow politicking in their pulpits while allowing the everyday unjust happenings in society to continue hounding people. That they cannot afford to walk straight as long as the young African men and women were used as pun in a game of chess.
It was sad to note that the church leaders had for a long time stayed in their comfort zones while the structures currently in place which had been designed to make a few comfortable at the expense of the masses of people continued to operate unchallenged. “The reality of our bent-ness has hit us because we have realized that we cannot continue to claim that we are the church built on a rock unless we speak with one voice. Our eyes to see and ensure that we use our hands to make a significant difference in our various countries,” she stated.
“We must emulate Moses who knew he had to stop whatever it is that he was doing in order to bring desirable change. The woman told them in a soft and feeble voice, “if you have come to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because you have realized that you cannot claim to be a disciple of Christ without working towards the eradication of poverty in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, then you are on the right track,” she added.
She urged the leaders to reiterate the need amongst the various communities that they don’t have to depend on handouts but rather, there was need for people to be empowered to learn to use their own hands. That the interconnectedness meant that they could not be divided along divisions of OAIC, Lutherans, and other denominations they are affiliated to but rather there was a need for the churches to live like brothers and sisters of the high God.
The sermon reiterates the need for deeper understanding that everyone present was part and parcel of the bent woman as she encapsulates what kind of a society we were leaving in. The reverend noted that the church leaders understood that the men and women in Africa were shackled by disease, and the pain of the bent-woman arose from poverty and hoped that they would experience God’s amazing grace and understand that God was calling them a step higher.
That before, the church leaders were okay with the church getting a grade C, but that God was calling them a notch higher as He wanted them to be part of the just society. Analyze and understand the factors that necessitated the ben-tness and take action to eradicate the bent-ness in Africa.
“They made her visible to the entire world, they did something that no one else ever did before, they called her by name. The woman thought to herself as no one had ever dared call her by name. They understood that they had to go a notch higher and challenge what was going on. They had to risk being misunderstood by the world but speak prophetically even if they were called rebels or seen as outsiders. They had to deny themselves in order to free others,” stated Reverend Phyllis.
She urged them to speak about injustices and touch the woman in spite of her illness and by so doing, they would experience the power she had when she was healed. She stated that it was their duty to call out the atrocities happening in society and free their tongues to speak out about the troubles in society as this would free the society from the demons, ethnicity and speak out about the social illness in society.
“I am glad that the UNMC was here to support this conference. But I would like to make them understand that the UN did not come up with the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s ), they are actually in the Bible. I like to refer to them as My Divine Goals. I predict that there will be another East African revival; People shall say that when the Lutherans, the Evangelicals, the Pentecostals, and the OAIC’S came together at CORAT, there was a wind that blew across, that caused change to happen in our respective countries,” stated the Reverend.
“We need to begin to look at issues and analyze them because we can now see with new spectacles, we understand our bent-ness and God has called us to walk up straight for he who the lord has set free is free indeed. You can never go back the same,” concluded the Reverend.
By: Fiona Imbali, OAIC Communications