Missionary teaches friend to pray by name, miracles happen
    January 2 2015 by Susie Rain, International Mission Board

     A crowd gathers around the bamboo strip bed to watch the community health nurse in action. The dirt-packed courtyard is never this busy or interesting. Even the men gambling under the mango trees stop what they are doing to investigate.
    Before Nancy Potter* can even examine the sick woman, a desperate mother pulls her squirming 15-year-old daughter through the crowd. She stands the squealing girl in front of the International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, her eyes silently pleading for help.
    People in this Southeast Asian village believe the teenager is demon possessed. She runs up and down the paths naked and has random fits of screaming and convulsions. Most steer clear of the girl but today they squeeze in closer to see what the nurse practitioner will do. One neighbor reaches out to calm the scared teenager. Maly Lim* whispers a few soothing words, then nods for Nancy to begin.
    “When did the symptoms start?” the missionary from Oklahoma asks in an attempt to rationalize the girl’s odd behaviors.


    IMB photo by Hugh Johnson
    Maly Lim* and Nancy Potter* prayer walk a Southeast Asian village. Potter trained her friend to "pray by name."

    She peppers the mother and daughter with questions about general health and nutrition then proceeds into the spiritual realm. They are like most in this part of Southeast Asia; they have a deep fear of spirits and death and practice an animist form of Buddhism. The nurse’s nose crinkles as she thinks through a clinical diagnosis. Finally, Nancy looks to Maly and gives a verdict.
     “The only thing we can do right now is to pray for her by name,” the missionary says, digging out a worn, spiral notebook from her bag.
    Maly pats the mother’s shoulder reassuringly and slowly spells out the teenager’s name, “T … U … O … N … G.*”
    The Southeast Asian woman is no stranger to the Potters’ prayer notebooks. She and her husband, Sovaan,* have had their names entered multiple times. In fact, her name first appeared a few years ago when Maly met Nancy at a pregnancy clinic. That was long before she and her husband became Christians. It was a very different and trying time for both women. They were struggling in their own worlds.
    Maly was nine-months pregnant and found a lump on her breast. Her husband drank and gambled away their money. The young mother had no way to feed her two children, get cancer treatment or take care of her unborn child. She saw no hope and was simply waiting to die.
    The missionary had hit a crossroads in ministry. For eight years, Nancy and her husband, William, tried every approach possible in reaching the rural villages surrounding them – preaching, water projects, food relief and community health clinics. Sure, they were doing “good works” through these human needs projects but hardly anyone came to faith. Nancy lay awake at night wondering what to do differently in their ministry.
    But then it happened … the turning point they’d been waiting on. It came in the form of a simple question – one that changed the lives of both Maly and Nancy.
    “Why didn’t you pray for him?” a local Christian asked the missionary after they visited a sick man.
    Nancy stopped in her tracks, realizing her mistake. “I didn’t even know his name!” the missionary recalls. “God knew his name and his spiritual needs. I only knew his physical problems.
    “If I’m honest, I always saw myself as a hard worker but not a prayer warrior. I just thought that I’d send emails home and have everyone else pray,” the missionary admits. “At that moment, though, I knew that I needed to work just as hard at praying as I was at meeting physical needs. I needed to pray for people by name. “
    There was one slight problem with the new plan. Nancy is horrible with names! By the time a pregnant Maly waddled into the village health clinic, however, the missionary never left home without a notebook.
    The Potters and local Christians spent hours each day praying for Maly and the other names in the notebook. The combination of meeting human needs, teaching Bible stories and praying by name began to reap a harvest. People were coming to faith, being baptized and churches starting.
    “The increase comes from knowing every single name in that group,” Nancy says. “We know where they are spiritually and physically. We are on our knees every single morning devoting prayer for them. That’s when we see huge strongholds fall and a lot of miracles.
     “Sometimes it can take years of praying, though,” Nancy says looking thoughtfully at her friend. “For Maly, she struggled … she struggled hard.”
    Maly explains that when she couldn’t feed her children, Christians planted a garden next to her small, village home. Community health workers checked on the mother as she went through chemotherapy. Maly survived the cancer but that didn’t stop the prayers coming her way.
    For about a year, Nancy and Christians from another village listened to the woman’s struggles, adjusting their prayers along the way, until one day, Maly accepted Christ as her Savior. Soon after, Maly’s husband left her and the children in a drunken rage. She asked Nancy to put Sovan’s name in the book. They prayed for the man together.
    “God has done great miracles for my family,” Maly says, smiling at her husband. He returned home and became a Christ follower four months ago. Now, the couple trains to lead a church meeting in their home.
    “I’m not good at preaching but I have a story to tell and I know how to pray,” she says, looking at the courtyard filled with people. “One day, they will believe like I do.”
    Tears well in Maly’s eyes as she thinks about the number of neighbors who do not know Jesus. She knows Nancy will pray for those recorded in her notebook but Maly must do her part, too.  She doesn’t need a “cheat sheet.” These are her neighbors … her friends. She not only knows their names; she knows their needs.
    Maly knows that Tuong and her mother are desperate and scared of the spirits. So, the Christian prays for their family by name. For weeks, she walks the dirt path winding through the village to their home. She listens to their struggles, cares for their needs, tells them stories of Jesus and … prays.
    Soon, the teenager, thought to be “crazy” or demon possessed, can hold normal conversations. She’s no longer running through the village in fits. Instead, Tuong sits still, listening to the sermon at the house church. She sings praises to God. The entire village is amazed by the miracle but Maly just smiles.  She expected nothing less.
    Now, Tuong has a story to tell … and she knows how to pray.
    *Name Changed
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Susie Rain is a writer who lives in Southeast Asia.)

    1/2/2015 11:29:16 AM by Susie Rain, International Mission Board | with 0 comments
    Filed under: IMB, missions, prayer

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