I have so many memories from those first years in Rwanda of sitting on broken chairs in dimly lit, two-room houses and listening as woman after woman poured out her heart. Immaculee and I listened as they expressed their concerns for their families, their health, their loneliness, their struggle to find hope. We offered prayer and encouragement—small, intangible, seemingly useless offerings in response to their poverty.
In that season we were committed to simply being—to being present and open and searching as we got to know the neighborhood and carefully discerned God’s direction for us. Sitting with others in their brokenness and vulnerability reminded me of my own brokenness, my own weakness. I wanted God to give us something to do. But through Scripture and books and wise council, God kept telling us to wait and be faithful. Early on I came across this Prayer of Patient Trust that I returned to regularly just to feel comforted that in the midst of what felt like a lot of nothing, God was working slowly and intentionally.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually–let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Reading this prayer again now feels so prophetic. I was so impatient for the new things God was leading us to, but was wholly unaware of how unprepared I was. All that time, God was preparing us to be the people we needed to be in this new season where we are in ministry with more women and running a small but growing jewelry and crafts business. It’s all more than I had dreamed for our little community, and at the same time exactly where I hoped God would eventually lead us.
I also recognize the goodness that has come from our obedient patience. In Walking With the Poor, Bryant Myers reminds us, “By listening to the stories of the poor, our new neighbors, and by sharing our stories with them, we become neighbors to each other. To have community we must have good neighboring. This takes time. Loving neighbors is not something that can be rushed. Something gets lost when we hurry.”1 By being present and taking the time to be good neighbors, we set a foundation for who we are at our core. We created a space where women can come and be themselves, and feel supported and loved by community.
I am still learning to listen and be obedient—both to God’s call to stillness and God’s call to action. I am constantly yearning for the next thing, and struggle to be patient or to accept this feeling of being “in suspense and incomplete.” But this prayer slows me down and centers me. It reminds me that I don’t need to blaze my own trail forward, but that I can let the gentle flow of God carry me along.
Shelbye is the founder and field director for Word Made Flesh Rwanda, and has been serving in Rwanda since 2015. Shelbye recently graduated from Multnomah University’s Masters of Arts in Global Development and Justice program, which she completed while living and working in Rwanda. She is thankful to live in a country with some of the best coffee in the world and the most stunning views.
CONNECT WITH SHELBYE: firstname.lastname@example.org