The power of prayer
When stress was high and money was low, Shurnett Caines turned to prayer.
She and her husband Michael faced one of their most trying times when their four children — Shereen, Dwayne, Wayne and Travis — were in college in the 1990s.
They had no clue how they were going to pay their tuition and keep a roof over their head.
“Sometimes it was hard and we didn't know where that money was coming from,” said Mrs Caines. “Sometimes you know that the only source you have is to depend on God. You see the bills are high and the body is low.
“At one point my daughter was at Andrews University working on her master's, [the twins] were in their final year at Oakwood and my youngest son just started college. We looked at what we had coming in and my husband said it's going to be rough. I told him, ‘It will be rough, but we have to do it. If you think education is expensive, you try ignorance'.”
She held down three jobs and clung to her faith; God saw her through it.
“We did everything necessary for our children because we said the only way they can take their place in society and do well is to be educated and ready,” the 69-year-old said. “I told my children, ‘You're getting an education, not just for you, but to help other people too. When much is given, much is required'.”
The experience cemented her belief in the value of prayer and standing firm on God's promises.
Mrs Caines will be the guest speaker at the International Women's Day of Prayer at the Hamilton Seventh-day Adventist Church next Saturday at 11am.
She'll be speaking about the woman in the Bible who touched the hem of Jesus's garments. The purpose of the message is to encourage women to take their issues to God in prayer, but also be confident in walking out their faith.
“Women need to reach out, move and not just sit still, because God has a plan,” Mrs Caines said.
“Prayer is so vital. You cannot gain or reach your potential without really depending on God and prayer — that's our source for which we hang our hope on to.
“But in our lives many times you see that asking just isn't enough. You have to keep on asking and pushing to get what you need.”
Churches around the world have observed the International Women's Day of Prayer since the 1990s.
“It's typically held the first Sabbath of each March,” said local organiser Venetia Stirling. “It's a special day where women have the opportunity to strengthen their spiritual bonds as they pray for and with each other.
“It provides an opportunity for women to unite with God and with one another. There'll be millions of women around the world praying on that same day, creating a spiritual network of empathy and understanding. Although the central purpose is for prayer, the event also provides women the opportunity to strengthen their ties with other Christian women on the island. We're expecting about 250 women to attend.”
The women's ministry co-leader said the church had noticed more people than ever were struggling and hurting.
“Prayer is one of the most natural things we can do, still it's not so easy for everyone,” Ms Stirling said.
“We tend to have to fall first, instead of looking to God and realising that He's the answer. He already knows all things. He already knows what we've done, but He wants us to express that to Him so he can work within us and so we know it was by His power, not our own.”
Mrs Caines knows this to be true from her own experience.
She grew up in a Christian household in Jamaica. Her mother, Lovina Nathan, wanted all her nine children to contribute positively to their communities.
“I watched my mother struggle to educate all nine of us but she pushed, and every one of my brothers and sisters is now educated,” Mrs Caines said.
“Growing up in that environment I got to see how God moved in our lives. One time we all came back home to visit my mother and there were nine of our cars parked in the driveway. She looked out the window and said, ‘God, you are good and you are real. From nothing came everything.'
“My mother told me the quickest way to disappoint her would be to not give back. Even now if I go to my brothers' and sisters' homes they always have people around and are helping and giving. My mother was a giver and a doer and I watched that play out in all of our lives.”
The retired nurse has volunteered with the St John's Ambulance Brigade, the Jamaican Association Bermuda and many other organisations since she moved to the island 50 years ago.
Through her mother's example she learnt you can count on God no matter what the cost.
“He is there no matter what and I've seen Him come through for me on all these occasions,” she said.
“The lesson I want people to come away with after next weekend's prayer event is, it doesn't matter where you've been or what you've done, God is there and He is real. It's not a make believe thing. It's something that's real and tangible. You can see and feel His power in everything you do.”