Mighty be Our Powers:How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War
Authors: Leymah Gbowee, Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, with Carol Mithers
Why I picked up this book:
I’ve been mulling over ideas for my next book project for several months now, nearly almost a year. It’s hard to believe since my first book has not even been released yet. But the truth is I have questions and want some answers, and so I prepare to research and then write. Words from this book’s title jumped out at me from the Barnes & Noble shelf. Sisterhood. Nation at War. Mighty. Powers. Nobel Peace Prize. I quickly concluded that there must be something for me to learn here.
Who Should Read Mighty Be Our Powers:
This book is a memoir of Leymah Gbowee’s life, her family, her country, the Liberian civil war that tore it apart, and what the women did about it. It is s riveting tale that speaks of the mentoring of women, the devastation of war, and the sacrifices someone makes when they feel called as an agent of God, no matter how flawed, to become an agent of peace and deliverance to a people and country that has lost hope.
What’s in Store for You:
Since this is a memoir, and I don’t want to destroy the journey by unfolding the entire story for you. Leymah’s life is worth the read. I will share some of the highlights that are more commonly known as a result of her Nobel Peace Prize win, and a few of the personal events and settings that shaped her life story and advocacy work. The climax of the story surrounds the First Liberian Civil War from 1989 to 1997. This story puts women on the front lines of the resolution for the journey to peace in a war torn and murderous country. In the face of over 200,000 murders, these mighty women of valor did not lose faith or hope.
The makings of Leymah: Raised in a large family of Lutherans, in a supportive community that encouraged education for girls and boys, Leymah had a bright future ahead of her and she dreamed of becoming a doctor. Her father and mother were both hardworking people from the same tribe or people group, Kpelle. They fell in love and had four daughters, Leymah being the youngest of them. From humble beginning, they were always welcoming of others, especially children.
The government breakdown: As Leymah was graduating from high school, Charles Taylor, staged a take-over of President Doe. Both men were powerful, corrupt, and violent. A tribal war ensued. Men, women, and children died; families were broken. Taylor started to recruit orphaned boys into his regiment and they became child soldiers, often killing their own family members and loved ones as a sign of their loyalty or fear. There was no peace in the land, and Leymah reports her struggles to continue to believe in or pray to God. Why talk to Him when things are so dark, and it doesn’t appear that anyone is listening?
In addition to sharing her nation’s hardships, Leymah opens up about her personal struggles growing into womanhood and finding her way, suffering through grief and depression, faith, men (divorcing her abusive husband) and entering a long-term relationship with a married man, and raising her family. The more she devoted herself to standing on her own feet, financially supporting her family, and leading the women of the liberation movement, the less she was available to her children at home.
This book is a lesson in peacekeeping, social justice, power and politics (national and global). It is also a story about learning and growing, listening and understanding, and the value of sisterhood and family. It is about strategy and organizing, and education. Reconciliation and forgiveness. Finally, it is the story of women who stood up to fight a war the right way. “Why were women, who bore the brunt of war, expected to remain quiet while men debated how to make peace?”
My personal take-aways:
This book was a powerful read about the importance of reconciliation, and the difficult reality of becoming a peacemaker. The Apostle Paul writes:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live a peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friend, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:17-19 NIV)
This passage lets us know that doing what is right, and maintaining a good reputation is important even when times are difficult. It also reminds us that working for peace is an intentional action that may not be reciprocated by others. When those who seek peace are not met with peace, this passage says that we must continue to love and leave room for God to respond in justice.
I read messages like these in the Bible and it is sometimes difficult to lay its truth on top of situations like what Leymah faced, where she was surrounded by death daily. Through her story, it became clear to me that pursuing peace was the only option for her. She wrote:
Peacebuilding for me isn’t ending a fight by standing between two opposing forces. It’s healing those victimized by war, making them strong again, and bringing them back to the people they once were. It’s helping victimizers rediscover their humanity so they can once against become productive members of their communities. Peace-building is teaching people that resolving conflict can be done without picking up a gun. It’s repairing societies in which the guns have been used, and not only making them whole, but better.
In reading these words, I understand more clearly that we have much to learn as Americans and as people of the American Church, where death and violence is happening all around us daily, but we have the luxury of ignoring or shielding ourselves from the violence. The work of peacemaking is actually a commitment to value the image of God is every single human being, and to ensure they understand that value about themselves. Only in understanding that value can our lives and communities be truly restored. We have a lot to learn. I have a lot to learn.
What do you know about the pursuit and power of peacemaking?
Next Up on this Topic:
I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2015