Our recent series of online Advent Prayers was full of moments that inspire and challenge us to pray for EMMS International's partners and the work that they do.
Malawi: Stories of Hope
We began in Malawi where we were joined by Gary Brough, Church of Scotland Mission Partner in Mzuzu. He shared an update on the current COVID and economic situation in the country and his experience of a recent visit to Mulanje Mission Hospital on behalf of EMMS.
Against a background of low vaccination numbers, rising COVID cases and an increasingly difficult economic situation, Gary reminded us that there is still hope. He shared the story of Miriam, a mother who had given birth in a clinic with no running water. Of Olivia, a 14-year-old girl who had returned to school after having a baby. And of volunteers, communities and healthcare workers working together to improve local healthcare. Each story demonstrated a need for change, but also glimmers of hope.
India: Hope for Girls
Dr Vandana Kanth joined us from Duncan Hospital to explain how girls continue to experience deep discrimination - more boys than girls were sent for their vaccinations, many more boys receive education in high school and men control the economic resources in the family, while girls cook and take care of the family.
"I am happy to report that our work is paying off and we are seeing the age of reported early marriages rise from 11-12 to 16-17 in our area" explained Dr Vandana. However, she added that there is still much to do. "We are sensitising men and women, boy child and girl child. We are encouraging people to prioritise girls' education, and we see growing confidence in the girls who are being trained as health workers. This support came as a prayer at the right time and we really want to thank EMMS for this."
Nepal: Hope for the future
Nurse Manju joined us from Green Pastures Hospital in Pokhara. She reminded us how the role of women and girls at home is set by culture. It is hard to change this although there are now more doors opening for women if they are educated. It's therefore vitally important to remove the barriers that keep girls out of school.
Nurse Manju explained how, as a palliative care team, their care of people with life-limiting illnesses lifts the burden from girl carers. This means girls are supported to complete their education while loved ones are receiving the care they deserve.
Manju described her role in training others in palliative care and the emphasis she places on listening. "You can listen as you carry out your nursing duties, listening doesn't need to hold you back in a busy day - all you need is two ears." She spoke about her role at GPH and the part she will play in the Sunita project (and already is playing in the lead up and prep for the launch on April 2022) and her plans for her Master's in Nursing Studies (online), so she is better equipped for leadership and management. She asked for prayer for her personal and professional development.
An Advent Prayer
In closing the final online gathering, Rev John Cowie, EMMS International Board Chair, offered this prayer:
We come to you with all our hopes and fears, to take hold of your promises again, and to look forward to the end of fear and sorrow and pain and crying.
Through Jesus coming into the world, you have shown the depth of your concerns for all the world.
Through Jesus coming into the world, we know you as our loving Father. Help us to respond to you with worship and prayers and concern.
Season of hope, season of expectation, season of celebration, yet we remember today those who need support and care.
Today we give thanks for the work and commitment of the partners we work with in Nepal, Malawi and Bihar, India, responding to needs with skill and dedication.
How glad we are that pains are eased and that people are learning to preserve the dignity of those who are ill.
For the doctors and nurses, the community health volunteers, the family members learning to care for their own.
We pray for the people they support and help with compassion and lovingkindness as much as with medical help.
We pray today especially for the girls who are drawn, by compassion and culture, into caring at the risk of their own futures. We pray too for girls whose lives are at risk because of discrimination, poverty and health challenges.
Teach us ways to protect and cherish them.
Let our words and works be a witness and a sign to the world of your loving concern – and an example to the world of compassionate help.
We pray also for the global community.
Our political leaders appear to be so often in disarray.
We pray for them to discover a unity of purpose, generosity of spirit, wisdom in decision-making, and commitment to act in the best interests of all in the face of climate change and health crises.
We thank you for the cooperation already seen in combating climate change and the coronavirus, as nations share lessons and resources. But we also know that the vaccines are still often inequitably shared, hoarded by the wealthy and the privileged. Forgive us and nurture much more cooperation.
Please give wisdom, clarity and boldness to national and community leaders as they plan and implement a coordinated response to the pandemic and climate change.
Help them respond, too, not just to the immediate crisis but also to put in place plans and policies that will help us create a more just, beautiful and sustainable world - the world future generations need us to create.
And help us to play our part in bringing hope and sympathy and justice to your world as we rejoice in the ability to come together from different parts of the UK and the world. And continue to support one another in prayer and encouragement.
For Jesus' sake. Amen