I had the privilege of attending Stretch Women’s Summit this weekend, presented by Soaring Women International which was founded by Luphurise Mawere. The name Stretch comes from the idea that many women remain in the situation they are because they don’t step outside of their comfort zones or think flexibly; the encouragement is to try new things or look at the situation a different way in order to empower women to succeed.
The day started with praise and worship and an opening word from James 5:13-18 about each responding to God according to their situation: let the troubled pray, let the happy sing, etc. There was an extended time of prayer, including pray of confession.
A theme song that ran through the day was Joel Lwaga’s ‘Sitabaki kama nilivyo’ (I will not stay like I was). Some of the lyrics are:
Maisha haya, ninapita tu (I am only passing through this life)
Hali hii ya sasa ni kwa muda tu (My present situation is only for a time)
Ushindi wangu, U karibu nami (My victory is close to me)
Mtetezi wangu, yu hai (My Defender lives)
The highlight of the day was a panel of 6 women who shared their stories. These included:
- Dr Rose Acen, an AIDS orphan, split up from her brothers and sisters who was educated by a church and through various obstacles and challenges now has a PhD and has become the youngest head of Department at the University of Dar Es Salaam.
- Kanael Terry who at 35 was harassed by her family because she had not yet married. Her testimony is that God grows you through these things but there is also glory awaiting: she was married at 42 and now has a daughter.
- Omega Ngowi, who at 18 is the youngest female pilot in Tanzania even though she has not yet finished her A-levels! She spoke of her parents willingness to support her dreams.
- Mary-Ann Lema who is the CEO of a hospital here in Dar even though her background is nursing, not being a doctor. She said, I meet with very important specialists but before God I am important. Many were inspired by her story because she has risen to her position during her widowhood.
- Amina Sanga, an entrepreneur who started a business while in university and through various ups and downs has become a very wealthy woman.
- Wema Mwamtimwa who has struggled with infertility and now has one biological child and one adopted child.
At the end of their session, the panellists were asked for one sentence of wisdom. They said:
- Start with what you have
- Don’t give up – keep eating, exercising, doing stuff, believing in yourself
- Know that God has a plan for you.
- Don’t rely on your husband – contribute at home and be productive.
- God has not finished with you.
- God can use you in any season of life, even widowhood.
- If you have children, let them learn what they want to instead of imposing your vision for their life.
- It’s OK to ask people to pray for you but make sure that you are praying and contending for yourself.
- Don’t leave what you learn on Sunday at church; apply it in your life.
The first preacher was Eliona Kimaro. He spoke about two women, from 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 4:1-7. The context of the drought in Israel made it a relevant text for times of economic hardships like right now. He had two main points: (1) things have to change if you want to grow and (2) there’s a supply and demand relationship for growth as shown by the widow whose pots God filled – if she’d had fewer pots he would have filled fewer. So we need to demand great things of God. This culminated in him instructing us to say things like, “I am going to demand some billions of shillings/dollars/euros,” and “Mine mine mine.” He claimed to have the authority of Jesus and to see major success ahead in the lives of people there. He ended by saying that the prayers of women are very powerful: a woman can pray just once and achieve what a man cannot achieve with 30 days of praying.
I was surprised by his quite brazen focus on wealth. When Luphurise herself talks about wealth on her podcast she puts it in the context of being able to contribute more to kingdom work, not being greedy and helping others. And each of the panellists emphasised hard work combined with prayer as the key to success.
Luphurise gave a short talk as well about the characteristics of women who stretch, inspired by the daughters of Zelophehad in Numbers 27. According to her, a woman who stretches:
- Knows the correct place to take her problems: God.
- Believes that there is something inside her which can be used to bring change.
- Is surrounded by people who will support her.
- Believes that it is God who will bring her success. This allows her to be less anxious and to be focused in what she pursues, not seeking the praise of others.
- Is changed from the inside out. She said, You will change yourself for a man – why not for Jesus?
I only heard a little from the final speaker, Pastor Grace Kapswara from Zimbabwe. (I’d been there for 10 hours and left at the advertised finishing time in order to get home before the little boys went to bed.) She said her expectation of what was ahead was that cancers would fall, money would be found, and marriages healed because whatever looks impossible can be done in God’s power even before you leave today. Before she got to preaching, however, she spent a considerable time affirming various women who had been a part of the day and encouraging us to celebrate and dance before the Lord as East African women.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.