Are You Listening Loud Enough?

Today’s scripture: Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV-text and audio) (KJV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Ceci Spence):

As we sat with a group of local Sudanese women and asked about their daily experiences, there was an eerie silence. The women would look around at each other, almost hoping that someone else would speak up. The eyes of the group would focus on the “elected” woman and then slowly she would rise and speak.

She was dressed in her best clothing in order to honor her guests. Often, her emotion would over take her; her voice would grow louder and her expressions animated as she described her struggles, her goals, and her requests. This scene replayed with each group of women we encountered. At the close of each meeting the women would graciously thank us for simply listening to them.

In Sudan, the mere act of being heard is as difficult as daily life is for these women. We witnessed first hand the inability of the uneducated women to communicate without translators, who were most often educated men. We were told stories of the violence against women who chose to speak out. We spoke with young girls at a primary school who spoke so timidly at first that they were difficult to hear. Even when a woman was educated and spoke multiple languages, she was not granted the same status as her male counterparts.

A Sudanese woman’s voice is rarely heard; culture has taught her to remain silent. Her voice may be silenced by her own fear, by the translation of others, by her sheer exhaustion, by the physical force of others, or by lack of an audience.

One of the main objectives of our learning tour was to listen — not simply to hear — but to actively listen. Today’s scripture exhorts us to be engaged in the interests of others. One of the most effective ways to “engage” is to listen. How is it that such a simple thing can be so important? Reverend Thomas G. Steffen put it this way, “…listening helps us fall in love with people we didn’t know we could love.” So the challenge to each of us is to listen as God listens to us, with a genuine interest in getting to know each other.

Thank you to all the brave voices of the women of Sudan who have changed our lives forever. Two in particular stand out to me: Florence from Pageri, who animatedly described raising four children on her own and challenged us to support her educational aspirations so she could continue to survive. Elizabeth, the Toposa woman dressed in a beautiful orange skirt, who waited patiently for her turn to speak and then held nothing back in her descriptions of the group’s troubles with distance to water, lack of resources, and lack of a market for products; eventually walking home from our meeting in the dark.

FlorenceFlorence, a woman from Pageri.

FlorenceElizabeth (center) with two other Toposa women.

Thought for the day: Who needs for me to listen to them today? Whose heart can I know better by listening deeply?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.