While in El Salvador, we listened to Jenny, a beautiful fifteen year old girl, talk about what she wanted for her future. This is her final year in the nearby schools. To go to high school means leaving her community.
She wants to be a teacher. She wants to go to high school and actually has a sponsor family in the city that will support her and give her a place to live. But her mother and older brother don’t want her to leave the village. Her father, who shared her dream, died several years ago, and the family struggles without him.
When I think about the opportunities my own children and the children of most of my friends have had, it grieves me to think that Jenny may not get to fulfill her dream. There is a risk in leaving the community, but staying home means that Jenny’s future consists of picking corn and raising children. Neither of these is bad, but she is capable of and wants more for her life.
So how do we pray for Jenny? As a mother I know about wanting to protect your children. El Salvador is a tough country. Gangs are so powerful there that the government negotiates with them.
Whose hopes and dreams prevail? Jenny’s? Her mother’s? I cannot even begin to say the right thing to do. Jenny lives in such a different culture, in such a different place, and I have not right as an “Americano” to impose my thoughts.
Romans 8:26-28 comes to life for me as I struggle with how to respond in prayer in a way that is faithful to Jenny, her mother, and the village: In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will. We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.
I won’t know how Jenny’s story, her life story, turns out. But I know that my act of praying for her keeps my heart tender, and gives me the great privilege of bearing a small part of the burden of those with limited resources and opportunities. As long as my heart aches for Jenny, I know the Spirit is at work in me.