"Thou art favored..." What is favor?
This year I found myself wondering about the meanings of so many words that I have thrown out recklessly since I learnt them like, transformation, love, persistence, honesty, fear, hope and now as Christmas is upon us, FAVOR. I used to believe favor is a church word. My mother prays it on me, when I was young she would declare favor from God and man on me. Then, it meant, I find favor with my teachers so they get so interested in helping me with my academics so that I excel, and I be the kid on spotlight, and that other mothers should see that my mother was doing a good job raising me and they should aspire to be her. As I got to college, favor meant I find opportunities, I find financial aid for my academics and I find pieces of jobs to sustain my livelihood. When I got a chance to go to America for my fellowship and studies, I was literally dripping favor. Later, it meant I get a good man willing to marry me, and I get to have babies, build a home, get a good paying job and my mothers prayer for favour keeps changing as I keep growing. Now I think, maybe favor is not one thing, just like transformation, love, hope, persistence are not.
I wonder what Mary thought when the angel foretelling Jesus birth said to her,
“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!”Luke 1:28.
In her mind, did it register that favor would mean conceiving and giving birth to a child she hadn’t planned for?
This year, I think I have been favored to not have run Voices Awake to the ground. It has been a tough year because of the many ways Covid has made life unpredictable. Rather than slow us down, the pandemic raised our list of needs and I am grateful we were able to reach out to some. Among our many highlights are our feeding program that provided over 4000 meals to around 70 high school kids during the weekday, our mentorship program that eventually led to an epic summer camp of awareness where we focused on being aware of abuse, our mental health and our sexual and reproductive health. Our home continued to be a permanent home for 9 high school girls and one college girl, while temporarily hosting many other college girls volunteering as interns, our house mother and an administrative assistant. Our partnership with Cornerstone Christian High school has seen us being able to raise support for a girls dormitory that we are in the process of building and will be habitable next school year, this is targeting provision of safe space to access education to 80 girls from all over the country. We were also able to provide school fees sponsorship to 15 girls monthly. There is more to share, but then if you had met me even a year ago, none of this would have been defined as favor in my eyes.
One of my most favorite things to do is tell a girl when she has found a sponsor. When Promise found a sponsor, this is what she wrote in her letter to her sponsor,
“ When I was told that you are the one’s to take a responsibility in sponsoring my school fees and stay at the home, I was greatly surprised. I was so shocked and couldn’t believe it. I am very happy and thankful because you have acted as way makers towards my future. You have cleared the thorns on my way, I can now see the possibility of achieving my dreams. I had negative thoughts about my future but through you I have seen the Lord pull me from darkness. I will never be sent back home from school for lack of fees. In my community, I will become one of the people with an opportunity to learn. This is happening because of your mercy.”
On the other hand when Bridget got a sponsor earlier in the year, she wrote this in her letter,
“I am so happy. That you are interested in knowing me, a child from Malawi. I am also happy that Aunt Vanessa wants us to be loved. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to receive all this love, may He bless you and keep you. I am a child who grew up with my mother and grandmother. My childhood was very painful because I had no father. I was unable to study because we had no money for food or school fees. I had reached a point of giving up when I met Aunt Vanessa, and through Voices Awake I have been given a new life.” Isn’t this favor?
Two years ago, I met Thandi, a 17 year old pregnant girl who just wanted to get married. We became friends and I later learnt she thought after being pregnant and dropping out of school in grade 11, all that was left for her was marriage. When I proposed that we would help her take care of her baby and her education, she accepted to go back to school, and this year, I witnessed her graduate high school. She hopes to be a teacher after training. Still favor?
And Beatrice graduated from the Malawi college of Health Sciences with a Diploma in clinical medicine. She is serving at our district hospital which treats thousands of people from our community and surrounding areas. She says favor for her has been, being able to finish this level of her education with the support she got from Voices Awake. She dreams of becoming a doctor and building the first Voices Awake women hospital in our community.
I keep wondering if, when young Mary was being told she was favored to bring to life the savior of the world and she said, “may your word be fulfilled, for I am the Lords servant”... Did she know, the pain, heartbreak, uncertainity that this son would bring? If Mary had known that her life was going to change drastically from this point, that there will be running away from home, blood and tears shed, rejection, poverty and deaths involved, would she have considered herself favored?
Running an organization is embracing all that uncertainity, but supporting one takes as much faith. There is nothing that we have achieved in 2021 that could have been without your support. I keep knocking on your doors, and you keep opening. You have let the vision of Voices Awake into your heart, your home, your church, your school, your workplace and you make this possible. I look at you, and I see God’s favor, I would like to ask that when you look at all we have achieved this year, amidst all the chaos and the losses, you see and experience this favor too.
I do not know what tomorrow brings, but I am stepping into it with so much courage because I know I am not alone. I am with you, and the Lord’s favor that I get to experience in so many different ways through you and through the girls we serve.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very restful and joyous holiday season.
With so much love and gratitude,