Introduction to Sarah’s Laughter

Deborah Goldfeder

Genesis 18: 12a: “So, Sarah laughed to herself”

Sarah and Abraham were by the oaks of Mamre when three people approached them. Abraham welcomed them, gave them water, arranged that they might have their feet washed, invited them to rest, and fed them. Sarah sat in the tent out of sight of the visitors but she could hear the conversation and, when Sarah, an old woman, heard of the LORD’s plan for her, she laughed to herself.

The Rublev Trinity icon shows this visit to Abraham and Sarah. The persons at the table are the three Persons of the Trinity but the table is left open in invitation to us to join the table hospitality. I prayed with this icon while discerning a call to ministry and especially when deciding about a call to mission in the Diocese of Lui in southern Sudan. There is a tree in Lui that has sheltered worshipers when their cathedral was bombed during their civil war and which now shelters students eager to learn. I have been invited to share their hospitality.

When I first heard the invitation, I, too, laughed. Perhaps a normal response to an outrageous call is to laugh. After all, by Sudanese standards, I am an old woman, too. I am fifty-six so I was caught short when I saw that the life expectancy for women in Sudan was less than sixty. When someone I love said, “Why does this bishop want you, an old woman, to come to Sudan?” I had to pause to consider my response. Why me? I think the question must be answered by saying that it was because I said, “Yes.”

I believe that we hear calls all the time but we do not say, “Yes, send me.” There are many reasons for saying, “…but thanks for asking.” I am married to a wonderful man; I have family responsibilities and a delightful church congregation. I, like Sarah, have no children but I do have two geriatric pet cats. My husband is caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease. He will not be going to Sudan but he knows my heart so when I received this call he, too, said, “Yes.”

It won’t be easy for either of us but I will be leaving for Lui soon. I plan to be there for six months: Advent to Ascension on the church calendar. I expect this to be a life-changing event in my life. If all technology works as we hope, I will be making postings throughout this time. I ask for your prayers and that you always pray for the people of Lui.

The Invitation

In September 2004, Bishop Bullen Dolli came to Missouri from the Diocese of Lui, Sudan. He was available to preach at our church (Church of the Advent, Crestwood, Missouri) on one Sunday so I volunteered to drive him. He learned that I am a nurse with a divinity degree. I learned of the needs of the people of Lui. His invitation to me came via the Bishop of Missouri at our cathedral eight months later. We were there for confirmation. The psalm that day talked of other trees planted by streams of water which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither (Psalm 1). The tree by the cathedral in Lui has survived bombs and droughts but continues to flourish. May we be like that tree.

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