Cindy McPeake is spending a year in Malaysia as part of the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program. The program relies on coordinators who facilitate the young adults’ ministry and provide mentoring and spiritual guidance. To support a YAGM coordinator, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.
While we were in Thailand recently for our last group retreat, we got to visit the New Life Center, a center for young women who have been exploited or forced into labor. We took a tour of the facilities, ate lunch with some of the residents and spoke with the director. We talked about the causes of forced labor, what the government is doing to eliminate it and how the center is part of restoring the young girls’ hope.
We asked the director, in a seemingly hopeless situation, where does she see hope? Her response was, “sitting with the girls, listening to them cry, crying with them and being angry with them. And then seeing the transformation they go through when their power … their hope … is restored.”
Later that night, we talked about power and what it means. We defined power as “the ability to act.” The New Life Center director had the great power to act on behalf of those young women. She had the power to sit with them and cry. She had the power to show them that they could take back their own power, their own ability to act.
Our discussion moved to what motivates us to act. We all have the great responsibility to take action, to use our power on the behalf of other people to inspire, empower and sustain them. It can be a daunting task, to use our power wisely and positively, with the greater good in mind. But there is also power in using our power.
The power of power comes from building relationships with people, forming bonds of trust and restoring hope to the hopeless.
I know for me, I struggle with letting people have that power over me. Not because I think they will use it negatively but rather because it’s hard for me to admit I need help.
A good example of this is prayer. I truly love praying for other people. To be in conversation with God on the behalf of other people is a great joy for me. But I struggle letting people pray for me. I struggle letting people in on my own struggles. I am ashamed that I struggle and that I can’t handle it on my own. To acknowledge that weakness and be humbled by someone else’s prayer is always something I shy away from.
At the close of our retreat, we had a foot-washing devotion, which was a huge struggle for me. To sit, in front of my fellow YAGMs, as someone prayed for me is way outside of my comfort zone. To be completely vulnerable in the midst of all those people challenged my ability to stay calm.
But I did it. And it was a blessing to be blessed. To be taken care of. To be prayed for and cleansed.
That’s the power of power – the ability to act, but also the ability to stop acting and let someone else act for you. It’s the ability to step back from yourself and allow others to step forward.
How are you powerful? How do you allow others to have power over you?