Fulata Lusungu Moyo says in ‘Navigating Experiences of Healing: A Narrative Theology of Eschatological Hope as Healing’ from African Women, Religion and Health, that when her husband Solomon became ill with cancer, her religio-cultural environment regarded it as ‘an infliction from the devil probably through witchcraft.’ However, the attitude of her faith community and herself was undoubtedly one of hope. They believed that it was God’s will to heal him. Even after he died and his body was taken away, she prayed for his resurrection.
Moyo says that African women are ‘continuously burdened with care-giving roles to those who are sick in the family or community’. The question of hope and healing are not only about the sick person: they are also about their carers. She cites some medical studies which suggest that there is a strong connection between one’s attitude and the possibility of recovery. This gives credence, she says, to the faith-healing’s emphasis on prayer and belief that God will heal.
However, for Moyo, even though her prayers and those of her faith community aligned with the eight divine principles of faith-healing* they were not answered with the healing of her husband. As a result, she has come to question whether divine healing depends totally on the faith of the intercessors. Here are some of her questions: Did we not display sufficient faith? Were those women and men of God misled in their faith? Or did God betray us?
It has been in reflecting on eschatology – the fulfilment of God’s promises – that she has rethought her concept of hope. A key text for Moyo has been Romans 8:28: We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. She rejects the simplistic, ‘Sister, accept this as God’s will’ as a valid or helpful interpretation of the passage, instead looking for new beginnings.
She argues that eschatological hope is the ‘midwife of new beginnings’.
The first new beginning is for the sick person, the sufferer. Moyo says Solomon ‘has graduated into celestial paradise with Christ where he met God face to face’. His body has been healed through death, not because he has escaped his body but because it has been made new.
The second new beginning concerns the one bearing the burden of the sick person, the carer. Because Solomon’s experiences the new life of paradise, Moyo is free to consider ‘new meanings and expressions in life even after bereavement.’ This means both looking to be a transformative presence in the world as well as being challenged ‘to develop new and deeper insights as we work to discern why God’s answer contradicted our own.’
Moyo believes that ‘common explanations such as ‘You needed more faith’ seem to contradict the very nature of God’s love and God’s preferential option for the oppressed.’ Hope is found in this God and in knowing his unconditional love, his justice and his infinite wisdom. I’ve heard plenty of western critiques of ‘prosperity theology’ but Moyo’s is different because of where it comes from. Not only is she an African voice, she’s a female voice, a carer and a bereaved wife: she is speaking from the margins. Her reflections come from a place of pain and bring a very feminine image of a ‘midwife of new beginnings’ to this very sensitive topic.
*1. praying in the Spirit, 2. praying with the mind, 3. praying in Jesus’ name, 4. praying while abiding in Christ, 5. praying in faith, 6. praying in humility, 7. praying in sincerity, 8. praying with perseverance.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.