NOVEMBER 21, 2005

by Pastor Connie Larson DeVaughn

It is hard to praise God in the gritty urban poverty of Nouakchott. I came here specifically to pray with and for our urban overseas workers, the Powells, as they begin their community development center among the poor of this city. It is my custom to begin prayer with praise. Frequently I use the beauty of creation as a handle on which to hang my prayer, reminding myself of the grandeur and greatness of God, as a way of beginning my soul’s flight to the throne of God. But it is hard to see God in the midst of grinding poverty.

On Saturday we went to a pristine, beautiful beach—crystal clear water, emerald green ocean, beautiful, clean, fine sand, only two miles, but a world removed from the garbage strewn streets, survival mode of the dirt-poor. I had no problem praising God there. But the rest of the week I’ve been immersed in poverty, and have had to discipline myself to praise when it does not come naturally. So I’ve honored God by affirming these awesome truths about God that are nonetheless true, though unseen:

  • God is all-powerful
  • God is all-loving
  • God cares deeply for each person
  • God is here in our midst

In this part of Africa, Christians walk by faith and not by sight, because what is seen can be so discouraging. What is seen is a vicious cycle of poverty that never ends. What is seen is a culture in which corruption is the “way things are done,” dishonesty is necessary for survival, marriage is not highly honored. What is seen are fetishes fastened around babies’ necks, prayer mats and beads used for obligatory prayers, visible reminders of superstition and spiritual darkness. Therefore, we cling in prayer to the unseen reality of an all-powerful, loving, present God, the only hope and motivation for positive transformation.

So I have prayed, with the team here: in my devotional time; walking through neighborhoods; on the roof top; in the office; through insomnia, offsetting the donkeys braying, dogs barking and the mosque calls to prayer. I have prayed for Africa, for this corner of Africa, for the poor, for the team here, for the few native Christians, for specifics as I hear of them, and in sweeping generalities.

And I have also thoroughly enjoyed every day here in Africa. Zach and Beth Powell have been wonderful hosts. We’ve had many hours of conversation-one of their most significant gifts to me. I’ve played with their two children, enjoying theirs when mine are far away. I’ve checked out the local market, cooked on their single gas burner, eaten out of one big common bowl with my fingers, African style (my personal space looked much like three year old Dillan’s); met many in the ex-patriot community; spent a night out in the desert away from the city; worshiped in church which is allowed for foreigners, where I practiced my halting greeting in the local language, met one mature believer, one of very few, etc.

Christians here, isolated from the support system we enjoy in the US, very much count on our prayers. So as you get a brief glimpse of Africa through my eyes, I hope that you are motivated to lift up this country to God’s throne of grace, interceding for these brothers and sisters, who so need our prayers.