Every now and then, out here, in this line of work you will experience a moment that makes all those tough times worth it and cements in your heart why you’re out here. Well last week I had one of those moments.
On Thursday night last week, the 27th night of the holy month of Ramadan, I attended with my language helper Lailat al-Qadr, the night of power. It happens on an odd night in the last ten days of Ramadan and it is believed to be one of the nights when the angel Gabriel visited Muhammed and gave him the Quran.
The night consists of a few things. Firstly we broke fast at my friends house, secondly we went to the mosque to participate in the evening prayer Isha. However we were a little late and the mosque was packed so we did Isha on the Mosque’s front lawn with a few other late comers. After Isha there was the gruelling prayer of Talawe. I learned that Talawe isn’t actually the night of power, but preparation for it. Talawe consisted of 12 Rakat. Each Rakat (prayer set) consisted of kneeling and prostrating yourself on the floor 4 times. So after the 4 Rakat of Isha and the 12 Rakat of Talawe I was suitably wrecked. Doing Talawe was the first time I had been in a mosque. Despite the strenuous praying involved I learned a lot about mosques and Islamic worship. Turns out kids muck up in Mosques just the same as kids muck up in Church; farting noises: inappropriate in both settings.
When we had finished Talawe we exited the mosque and debriefed. And got ready for the next event, the actual night of power. It was going to be held at the Mosque where my friend’s grandfather was the senior sheik. Grandfather was sick and so we visited his house to see what the plan was. At this time it was 10 o’clock and Lailat al-Qadr (night of power) was going to start soon, it wouldn’t finish till dawn. Unfortunately after a bit of discussion it was decided that the all nighter would be called off. My friend’s grandfather was too sick, the other sheik was out doing a night of power in a distant town, and the night was too important to have a young and inexperienced sheik do it. Very down beat and with a raspy voice the grandfather apologised that the night would be cancelled. I was both disappointed and a little relieved that I didn’t have to stay up all night.
We talked a little bit more with Grandfather, and then I got the urge (a prompting from the Holy Spirit) to pray for him. Regrettably it’s not a habit of mine to pray with those who are sick. It should be done I just never remember to do it. In my best broken ciyawo I asked if it would be ok to pray for him, he seemed a little hesitant and a discussion ensued between him and my friend after which he said we could pray. Butchering the language I managed to pray asking for healing in the name if Jesus the Messiah. When I finished he thanked me and we said our goodbyes and left. We walked back to my friends house ate some late night ugali (thick maize meal porridge) and I left and went home to my lovely warm bed.
The significance of what had happened with my friends grandfather hit me the next day. After talking with my friend I learned that the hesitancy and conversation that had happened just before I prayed was about whether or not God heard prayers in languages other than Arabic, and would God hear my prayer in ciyawo. My language helper said yes; God can hear prayers in English, Arabic, and Ciyawo. The hugeness of what had happened hit me. Here he was a Yawo man, a sheik (a senior and well respected one at that), hearing for the first time in his life a prayer not in Arabic but in his heart language (albeit slightly butchered). I got to share that with him. Talk about a special moment.
We did go to the hospital together a few days later. And praise God he is getting better. I hope that this prayer will be the first of many in Ciyawo. I’m also so grateful that God does hear and understand every language.