I was introduced to a group of women as a teacher and doctor here to discuss health for one hour during a 3-day Pastors’ Wives conference. But I wanted these women to see that health is important to God, and that the church has a key role of bringing healing to their communities. We started with a prayer, and then I asked the group about the greatest commandment.
The college principal’s wife stepped up and recited for us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
I acknowledged that the women showed incredible ways to love God with their souls and hearts at this conference, with their beautiful singing and well-choreographed choirs. Then I said “today as we open our minds for learning, I want to share with you ways that you can love God with all your strength. And we will talk about how you can love God with a healthier heart in your physical body.” I tapped the left side of my chest, did a happy little skip, and dove in.
“How many of you have someone with high [blood pressure] in your family?” I asked.
Only a few of the hundred women raised their hands.
“We know that one in three people in Malawi has high blood pressure,” I continued, “but we also know that very few people who feel healthy ever get their pressure checked. So if nobody in your family knows that they have high BP, you might want to encourage them to get their pressure checked.”
We went on to discuss the high global mortality of heart disease, and the role of blood pressure as a silent but powerful first warning sign. We talked about keeping hearts healthy through diet, exercise and rest. The women took my advice about decreasing salt and increasing dietary vegetables graciously — many had heard that before from doctors, and perhaps my reputation as a healthy eating stickler preceded me. But when I came to the part about stress, about sleeping 8 hours per night and releasing anxiety, most women chuckled awkwardly and averted their eyes.
I knew these women carried a lot on their backs, in their hearts and on their minds. Even I had experienced a very stressful week and hadn’t been sleeping much recently. But I wasn’t about to let us off the hook. I wanted to remind us of the women we should and could be. I grabbed Thoko’s Bible and turned it to Philippians 4:6, which she read in Chichewa to the group as I explained it in English. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
I thought that these pastors’ wives had surely heard this verse before, but maybe they had never allowed themselves to try living it out, because whether from novelty or concern, at least a dozen conference participants took out their notebooks right then and wrote down the verse, while the few with Bibles opened them up and checked for themselves.
We finished our time together with plenty of questions and discussions about things that can be changed by lifestyle and things that remain risk factors no matter what. As we finished up, I left them with a final verse: “Whether, then, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” I prayed a prayer of blessing for the group; a prayer for health and peace and strength. And in my heart I prayed that I could live out that verse, even as I was calling these colleagues to do so.
This month, please join us in prayer for:
- Sorting out immigration status which is coming up for renewal
- Organizing a training for pastors next weekend
- Submitting some important reports and proposals for Christina’s
work in California
- Deciding whether to keep a stray dog that came to our house last week