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    Posted April 2, 2014 by
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    Raina's Pot

    Last October I traveled to Zimbabwe with a small group of United Methodist Women from across the US to meet and form bridges of friendship with Zimbabwe women. Still reeling from a war of independence and three brutal civil wars, Zimbabwe has the second lowest income per capita worldwide and a fragile infrastructure. Our mission was to work with women from the InnerCity United Methodist Church in Masvingo during a four-day workshop.

    While it would be easy to write about the poverty, pain, and need for medical care that we found, what struck me deepest was the profound wisdom and joy exuded by the women we met. Born of pain and poverty, loss and uncertainty, their spirits soar beyond understanding. On looking back we realized that we took away far more than we were able to give to the women.

    Raina came to our workshop on a bus from her village, carrying a sleeping mat, a battered suitcase, and a clay cooking pot. There was no telling her age. Raina seemed ancient, like God in the form of an old African woman—a wise, deep well of spirituality, love, and kindness, and so full of laughter and gratitude that she was infectious. She spoke of her children dying and how she had adopted others who needed a mother. She danced and sang.

    When asked about her pot, Raina told that a Shona woman wasn’t a woman without a pot. She would make it by her own hands and bring it to her marriage, where it would be used for preparing food, brewing beer, and keeping water cool. She explained that the pot is the symbol of the woman, herself, round and womblike, the source of life for her family.

    In our four days together, Raina became my friend and someone I wished I could have held on to far beyond our brief visit. So, on the last day I braved breeching etiquette and asked if her pot was for sale. After looking at me for what seemed to be an eternity and appearing to reach far into my soul, she said yes. We hugged, I cried. The last time I saw Raina I was holding my pot and watched as she balanced her mat and suitcase on her head and walked out to wait for her bus home.

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