Surprise, Suspense and the House of Prayer
The Prayer Tour Begins
Opening my eyes to the unfamiliar surroundings, it takes a few moments to remember that I’m in Ifrane Morocco, the home of Al-Akhawayn University, the first private English-language University in North Africa. Last night before dark we got a brief view of this Alpine village built by the French in the 1930s. Driving by the King’s residence we saw beautiful parks and grounds.This morning the night is still hovering and the street is quiet as I begin my devotions. By faith, our team has come to this strange land to do the will of my Heavenly Father – to meet with Christian workers and to pray for the people of this region. A vapor of doubt drifts by asking me if I really believe that I’m equipped to lead a prayer team on such a mission. Then I remember when I am weak then I am strong; God’s grace is sufficient. The Holy Spirit is present to help, and I trust Andy who has walked this way before.
Praying for each member of the team (our host, Andy, David, Clare and Lane) I am thankful that the Lord God is sanctified in our hearts. Then I think of you who are praying for us and my faith is reinforced turning all traces of fear out of doors. I make mention of you in my prayers with joy. Your prayers avail much and even though we don’t know the language of the region, we have come to pray to the One who knows all languages and all things. I thank God for the Holy Spirit who gives us the wise answer when anyone asks us a reason for the hope that we have within.
Closing my Bible and placing it in my briefcase to take with me, I notice it is time to go downstairs. Meeting my traveling companions in the lobby we find our way to the hotel restaurant for the breakfast of Moroccan coffee and delectable, flaky breads served with butter, honey and marmalades. After a few moments of savoring my breakfast I am surprised by a delicious dark chocolate piece hidden in my croissant.
There is more room in the van today so let’s get going on our prayer journey. Today we will visit with colleagues who are establishing a new ministry, a home for unwed mothers. Andy doesn’t give us much information, but says when in Morocco one always expects the unexpected. Sitting by the window I try to see everything. Just outside the village there are a few nice landscaped homes along side the hovels and fields where the shepherds are attempting to keep their sheep out of the narrow road. There is construction everywhere – steel and concrete work is in progress. Now and then a worker looks up and waves.
School children involved in their conversations ignore us as we drive by. They remind me of our American children in their hooded jackets and backpacks. A woman with a bundle strapped to her body watches us and I wonder what she is thinking, is she married, does she have children. Is she content or would she like a different lifestyle? How I wish that we could talk.
We travel in silence as the van bumps its way along the rutted sliver of a road. From experience I know that Andy is up to something, but I don’t question him. The terrain changes as we continue our rough ride to a key town in the Middle Atlas Mountains. The road is taking us into a forest of cedar trees – some giant-size! Suddenly, a holy hush falls inside our vehicle. This cathedral of stately, majestic trees invites us to worship God our Creator – only He can make a tree.
Before anyone can speak Andy pulls off the road and suddenly, there, in front of our eyes, is his surprise of the day – monkeys – real, live monkeys. Families of wild monkeys are playing all around us. Several are swinging from branch to branch, singing, “Abba-dabba-dabba,” to each other while posing for the cameras. (Are you old enough to remember that song?) We stop and delight in their antics.
Everyone is laughing and talking to the monkeys. People from different countries make room for each other, chattering in words I don’t understand. However, the monkeys seem to understand all languages – especially if you have peanuts in your hand. Truly, God has a sense of humor.
Chuckling with amusement we walk back to our vehicle and continue the drive. On a dead-end cobbled street, Andy stops outside one of the gated houses where we wait for our host. Alighting from the car, we see him approaching with his six-month-old baby in his arms. Opening the gate he invites us to come on in. Walking through the ornate gate we follow him, chatting as we go. His wife and the other children greet us while we remove our shoes (a Moroccan custom) before going into the salon. Even though we have never met, it’s old home week – we all speak English (some with a Southern drawl)!
Just as Tim’s teenage daughters are serving tea, our host is called to the outside gate. It’s the local police! The prayer team is under surveillance! The atmosphere is filled with suspense and intrigue.
Prayerfully we wait for Tim to return. Even though we can’t really hear anything, we listen intently, wondering if we will be called outside. The girls continue pouring tea and serving refreshments as though nothing unusual is happening which helps us feel less tense. All tension dissolves when Tim returns, and calmly shares about his talk with the policemen. They wanted to know who we are, where we are staying, why we are here, are we welcome guests, and how long we will be in town. Thank God everything was handled appropriately, and all is well!
The conversation takes a turn as Tim and his wife begin to share about the maternity home for women in crisis, which is scheduled to open in early 2007. Our hearts are touched as we listen about the plight of unwed pregnant girls in this area. These young women suffer great shame when their families turn them away. Usually they have nowhere to go; some go into prostitution so they can survive. There is a plan to give these girls a home where they can experience love and receive medical care.
Lunch is Served
No television chef has served a more beautiful lunch of Couscous, which was prepared by a neighbor. (We were told that it takes several hours to prepare this dish.) The tempting mountain of Couscous with lamb and vegetables sits in the middle of the table; we break bread and relish each tasty morsel. (Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.)
While we eat Moroccan style, I share about our prayer ministry and ask if we may pray for them. The place wherein we are sitting becomes a house of prayer; obviously our hostess is a trained intercessor! (A side note: A precious moment is experienced as this mother nurses her baby while taking care of spiritual business.) Expect our God to prove Himself mighty among these people who are followers of Jesus.
You may contact Tim and Jayme at [email protected] to learn more about this vital work program.
Afternoon Coffee Break
In the afternoon, we go to the marketplace in the village of Azrou for a cup of coffee where we discuss our experience. It is comforting to know that the police are aware of our presence, and also that were checking on the safety of our host. Strolling through the souks (stalls) of hand-crafted souvenirs, leather slippers, rugs, and pottery we take in the smells and sights of this small town, and share the figs Clare buys at the market. There’s so much to see: stalls with fresh meats hanging up, fruits, vegetables and so much more. There are people everywhere. Some are sitting at the outside café tables with their coffee, women are shopping, and smiling merchants are standing outside their stalls beckoning us to come in. And as Clare says, “I love this!”
Trying not to stare, we look into the faces of young girls and women, some with veils. They avoid making eye contact, but often they smile. I pray that our smiles and warmth will manifest Jesus, the one who takes away the sins of the world.
Before we left for Morocco, friends and family began expressing their concern to us about our trip. They need not have been concerned. The people in the towns and villages made us feel welcome. Everyone was friendly. Even the one incident with the police proved to be friendly. We were invited to join in a joyous celebration on our last night in Morocco.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Photograph by Clare To Be ContinuedCopyright 2007 by Germaine Copeland