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From South Africa — The Healing Power of Story

By R.G. Lyons Dí06
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Photo By R.G Lyons D '06

Divinity students accompanied members of Calvary Methodist Church to Little Eden, a residential home for disabled children and adults in Edenvale, South Africa.

The gospels tell of Jesusí encounter with a woman who had been suffering for 12 years. Jesus was on his way to the home of Jairus, a leader of the synagogue whose daughter was ill, when out of the crowd this woman, whose name we do not even know, touched his cloak.

Immediately, she was healed. But then Jesus did something very strange; he asked who touched him. Why did Jesus ask this? The woman was healed. Wasnít Jesusí work done? Apparently not.

I think Jesus understood that while this woman may have been healed physically, she had not been healed emotionally. One does not just forget 12 years of trauma in an instant. She had a story to tell, and Jesus wanted to give her the opportunity to tell it.

Jesus knew that the crowd also needed to hear her story. The people assembled were concerned, and rightly so, about the health of Jairusí daughter, but few knew or cared about this woman. She was invisible.

In the same way, statistics about hunger, sickness and violence do not make the suffering poor visible to us; perhaps these statistics even numb us to their pain. But when we hear a story expressing painful emotion, our numbness is removed, our compassion restored. Jesus asked the woman to tell her story, a story that needed telling both for her sake and for the sake of those who would hear it.

Those of us who had the privilege of spending our summers working at various churches in South Africa want to share the stories of a few of the people we met thereó and how we have processed those stories theologically.

Indeed, it was the stories of our sisters and brothers that had the biggest impact upon us. These are stories of people living and dying with AIDS, of people living in extreme poverty in informal settlements or sleeping in the bush, stories of people who have experienced incredible pain.

But these are also stories of people who find joy in God and in relationships with people in the midst of poverty, stories of people so convicted by the Gospel of Christ that some have indeed left “father, mother, husband, and wife” for its sake.

Story Continues >>

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DIVINITY Online Edition :: Winter 2006 Volume 5 Number 2 Duke Divinity School