Rebecca – A Woman of Valor

Transient

Rebecca – A Woman of Valor
By Cheryl Cash

For Rebecca, born in South Central Uganda, life was consistently backed into a corner. 

After the early death of both parents, she and her brothers were moved from their home village to a foreign one, and crowded into an uncle’s world.   Upon her completion of the sixth grade, the family’s limited money was redirected for the continued education of the more intelligent and the more male members of the family. Her schooling ended, and she was encouraged to find a job. 

I do not know the details, but at some point in her sixteenth year, she became pregnant and delivered a child. The care of the child was left to her without the honor of being made a wife. 

Rebecca was eighteen when we met.  

She was reserved and quiet as we exchanged the required information. She accepted the job I offered and became an integral part of my every day. 

Together we worked long hours. I taught her how to make sweet cakes. And how to say my name. She taught me how to prepare local dishes. And how to politely greet my visitors.  

We kneaded dough.

And carried water.

And peeled beans. (Yes, beans.) 

She spoke about her culture. Short, quiet phrases whispered into our workday. Groupings of words that would gently push back a curtain allowing me a glimpse of the world of which I was seeking to be a part. She and I were both learning a new way. 

We had walked alongside each other for a few years, when an odd mix of calamity and joy came tumbling into our world at exactly the same time:

A rebel army wreaked havoc among our district neighbors and friends. 

And my pregnancy test was finally positive. 

Battle ensued for all of us. 

The Army fought the bush war. 

My husband fought for the welfare of those he loved-me and the tribes around us. 

I fought the malaria that manifested just one week following my first sonogram. 

I became terribly dehydrated and I could not move from my bed. When my husband was out during the day, Rebecca brought me water. Boiled my tea. And cooked my toast. 

But it is the basin that I remember the most. 

There was a basin near my bed to catch my sickness. That very personal, humiliating filth.  When Rebecca would approach my room, I would scoot the basin under the bed to be attended to later, in private. 

One day I awoke from a deep sleep to see Rebecca holding the basin and moving to the door.  I insisted that she did not have to deal with that muck. She whispered,  “I want to help you.” 

 We neither one knew how to address the tears that poured from my eyes in that moment. 

She sat with me then. Beside the bed. Me silently crying. Her on the straw mat covering our cement floor.  Legs stretched out straight in front of her. Hands folded in her lap. She had a way of rocking forward when she told a story.

She began to sway and told me of the hospital on the day she gave birth. 

Because she had not afforded the fee for a prenatal visit, she was refused care when she arrived at the government hospital in full labor. She said to me, “The pain was very much and so they allowed me some floor space in a corner.” 

Floor space. In a corner.  

She continued, voice growing more hushed, “I was very afraid. Just as I delivered, one nurse came and held my hand.” 

Through her tears she whispered, “I loved that nurse.”  

Rebecca named her newborn Peace. 

We sat in silence for a long time after her story had finished. She stoically rocked while my pillow dampened with tears. 

When Jeff arrived, Rebecca quietly left. 

Over those years, she moved this way. Quiet. Serving. Smiling. Around. 

She was my friend. The one who came and held my hand. I love her still. 

Rebecca was 25 years young when she passed.  Pneumonia, the hospital would tell us. 

We were in the US on home leave, when we received the shocking news. I could not attend her funeral, but I walk out her memorial even now. Her Peace. And my Kinley, the baby girl born healthy despite the malaria scare. Our daughters know and love each other as sisters to this day. 

“Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.” -  Mark 9:41 

Surely, cleaning my basin would also qualify. 

A merciful nurse.

Rebecca.

Peace.

Cheryl.

Kinley. 

Knit. Intertwined. Plaited. Weaved. 

Leaning into each other’s loneliness. 

Bold compassion from silent corners. 

Whispered valor. 

Echoing courage. 

***

Cheryl Cash serves with her husband and four children in the town of Fort Portal in Western Uganda. She and her husband have lived in Uganda since October of 1995. Foreign missions was a consistent call in Cheryl’s growing up years, but the journey has yielded the unexpected anyway. No one is more shocked than she at the warrior’s physique shaped from years of walking these bumpy roads. She adores her children, deeply respects her man and is daily inspired by the Ugandan women she has been blessed to know and to teach. You can read some of her experiences atwww.gentlyled.blogspot.com

This post is part of our Women of Valor seriesEshet chayil—woman of valor— has long been a blessing of praise in the Jewish community. Husbands often sing the line from Proverbs 31 to their wives at Sabbath meals. Women cheer one another on through accomplishments in homemaking, career, education, parenting, and justice by shouting a hearty “eshet chayil!” after each milestone.  Great women of the faith, like Sarah and Ruth and Deborah, are identified as women of valor.  One of my goals after completing my year of biblical womanhood was to “take back” Proverbs 31 as a blessing, not a to-do list, by identifying and celebrating women of valor. To help me in this, you submitted nearly 100 essays to our Women of Valor essay contest. There were so many essays that made me laugh, cry, and think I’ve decided that, in addition to the eight winners to be featured this week, I will select several more to feature as guest posts in the weeks and months to come.

Cheryl, and the other winners of the Women of Valor contest, will receive a flower necklace that is hand-made by the artisans of Hill Country Hill Tribers, a non-profit helping Burmese refugee women in Austin earn supplemental income and learn marketable skills. The necklaces and other new products in their fall line are available on their website  on August 28. I enourage you to  read the stories of these women of valor in their Artisan Profiles and find out how you can become a Hill Triber Patron to support the artisans in their work. 

photo by Charis Dishman

photo by Charis Dishman

Read the rest:
Mrs. Foster - A Woman of Valor by Jenn LeBow 

I hope you will consider writing a tribute to a woman of valor on your own blog this week. If you do, leave a link in the comment section so we can all enjoy. I'll be sure to tweet/share some of my favorites.

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