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Theology in the Trenches


Once upon a time there was Martha who had a sister named Mary. They grew up in a land far away. 

I knew her name because the nametag upon her winter coat proclaimed it boldly. “Martha” it read in bold black letters. She had just made her way out of the church sanctuary and our eyes met as she touched the tattered nametag. Gently bowing her greeting, she smiled.

Black coat, pants, and well worn tennies were all part of the attire covering the humble soul standing before me. The crocheted hat upon her head was telltale of the elements held at bay during her walk to the church this early morn.

We chatted. Comparing and contrasting our lives came easy enough as the conversation flowed as best it could with the language barrier. She had seven kids, I had six. She had once joined a convent for a season of her life, and I had desired to do just that. She had traveled far from her home in Africa, and I had set sail when younger to do so in lands far away as well.

After a bit, we decided to make our way to a side pocket withn the church to gather in prayer. Time passed quickly and soon I had to leave for a prior commitment. She agreed to join me as I needed to tend to my grands for a short time. Solid enough was her comfort zone as we drove with nary a word. 

Arriving, the grands were a bit more reserved than usual, but they greeted Martha none-the-less. As the hour passed, I noted their innate urge to express themselves in “sisterly manner,” but just as quickly they held it in check as they glanced her way. They were courteous and for this I was grateful. Martha was thrilled with the reception as she pointed out how polite they were to her when she first entered. Their greeting meant something to Martha…something I did not know until she shared that others hadn’t been quite as kind.

A simple meal of eggs and toast we did share as she was content with what was set before her. Once finished, I beckoned the little grands over and asked them to sit a spell with Martha. As they climbed into my lap, I asked Martha to explain to them why prayer was so very important in her life. These are the words Martha spoke while getting down on their level. Martha from Ghana, Africa spoke intently, clearly and slowly.

“I pray because God is the only one who can help. He’s the only one who can help you and so you must pray.”

“Did you know that?” I asked the little ones?

“No,” they replied.

“I suppose you know that your mom and dad can help you too sometimes, right?” I continued.

They nodded.

But that is when Martha firmly and unequivocally clarified. “But God is the only one who helps your mom and dad to help you. And so, you must pray. You must pray to your God because He is the only one who can help you with anything!”

Their little hearts listened just as intently at the words spoken before scooting off to play. 

I’m thankful for the Marthas in this world who travel far and wide to help “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…now and ever shall be…world without end.   Amen.