If you're like me, reading through this section opened your eyes to realities far beyond your own corner of the world. For example, I live in what is called "flyover country", so urbanization isn't something that I personally face. Yet when I stop and think about it, I realize that even here I've seen the impact of these trends: We live in the wealthiest part of our state, and yet our poverty rate here is also the highest in the state - demonstrating the demographic contrasts mentioned in OW. We have a large number of immigrants both in our college town and in nearby towns working in various industries. One of our local high schools has native speakers in nearly 100 languages. Thinking of the small-scale impact of these helps me when I stop to pray for the demographic shifts that have occurred on a global scale.
One of the things that has helped me learn to pray for "the world" is personalization - getting in my heart and mind a picture of a person who is impacted by the issue at hand. Sometimes this is based on a story I've heard from a missionary or on something I've read in a magazine; other times I just place myself in that situation and try to imagine what it must be like to have that reality. So today, I want to paint a portrait to help us better grasp the depth of the issues in this section. While this portrait is based on studies and stories of real-life people, it does not represent one specific individual. After the portrait, I'll include my prayer for this section of OW.
Portrait: Lai. Lai is a middle-aged women from southeast Asia. In her village, women outnumber men 5 to 1 because of immigration - many men have gone to a large country nearby to work and send money home. This has created challenges for Lai's church, as there are few male leaders. It has also created personal challenges; Lai has been assaulted while walking on a back route home but by God's grace was not raped. Other women have not been so lucky; most have quietly disappeared afterward because they were no longer considered marriageable or because their husbands accused them of adultery. Lai isn't sure if the rumors she's heard are true, but some people say that the women's family members sold them to someone from the capital city as housemaids, to get some financial relief and remove the shame of the rape from the family. Some people say that housemaids are really another word for prostitutes, but Lai is sure that no one would intentionally sell their child into prostitution. Like most women in her village, Lai is in effect a single parent. She is caring for her elderly parents who live with her as well. Although there are many wealthy people in her country, Lai is like most individuals who scrape by day by day and hope that mail strikes don't slow down receipt of the money her husband sends to keep them afloat. Lai is in the minority as a Christian but hopes to share the Gospel with more people in her village. However, there is no Bible in the native village language and many people cannot read the national language. Lai tries to translate the Bible stories but she wishes that someone could help them get a Bible in their own language before it becomes extinct since so few of the young people use it. But she can't do anything about it, because it takes every minute of her day to take care of her family. She lifts another prayer to God while she washes clothes at the river.My prayer for today: Lord, we take so much for granted. It's so easy to forget that much of the world lives in survival mode. These demographic shifts that are largely theoretical to me can make a life or death difference to someone else. So Lord, I lift them up to you -- the contrasts in demographics from one place to another and the associated differences in income; the reality of cities and their unique needs and opportunities; the many migrants both Christian and non-Christian; the languages of the world that don't have Your Word; and the women of the world who suffer disproportionately. Lord, we know that you have a heart for the poor, that you love justice, that You long to set free those who are enslaved. We ask You, God, please pour out truth and justice and light upon the trafficking situation and the suffering of women especially. When the crowds were hungry, you saw them and had compassion on them. Lord, have compassion today, on all those who are hungry and needy and abused. Show Christians how to redeem some of these trends for Your kingdom purposes. Help us be thoroughly obedient to whatever you show us to do.