Bowing my head in frustration I cried out to God, "Lord, I have no words to intercede on behalf of Mantombi. Your Holy Spirit gives me suggestions of what to pray for, but today, as I listen to you, I feel barren. I have no words."
I admired the small, delicately crafted cross serving as a bookmark in my Bible. Mantombi, a beautiful, lyrical name was written on a card attached to the cross by a gauzy gold ribbon. Mantombi. The heavyset woman's dark, wrinkled, weathered face flashed across my mind.
"What do I pray for you?" I whispered.
Sitting in church the day before, I was moved as I listened to our women's ministry leaders describe their experiences visiting and ministering to the people in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. I saw photos of grandmothers beading at a small church. They were making crosses and angels that, along with monetary donations, would help support the countless children who had lost everything—including their moms and dads to AIDS. As I watched and listened I felt God move me to get involved. But how? What could I do—a suburban, midwestern American woman—to make any difference in the lives of people on the other side of the world?
My answer had come at the end of the service. The women's ministry group passed out small crosses and asked us to pray for the Phakamisa ministry, and for the grandmother who made our cross and worked with AIDS orphans.
I can pray, I realized. And so I added Mantombi to my prayer list. What I didn't realize was that through my prayers, God would teach me something about my own life.
"What Do You Need?"
Now I gently held the cross in my hand. What do I pray for you? I wondered afresh. "Lord, please teach me how to intercede for someone I don't know or understand. Our lives seem so different," I pleaded. "I haven't met her and I haven't visited the Phakamisa ministry in South Africa, but I know these AIDS orphans are some of your 'least.'" I thought of Jesus' words in Matthew 25:40: "I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!"
"I know they need the usual prayers for money, product sales, supplies, and personnel issues. Is this what you want me to pray for Mantombi, so she can continue to care for these orphans?"
I waited to hear from God, sure he wanted more from me than just a list. "Holy Spirit, I feel a gentle tug of love and compassion for her that can only be coming from you," I pressed on, not willing to give up until I felt direction.