​Olga Teslenko, Mary Raber, Vera Umnova, Natal’ia Svistun (Department Chair for Christian Education) and Tat’iana Filipova at Odessa Theological Seminary graduation, June 18, 2021. The three women in blue academic gowns each received a BA in Applied Theology (Christian Education). Photo by Sharon Norton.

By Laurie Oswald Robinson
Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Note: This story originally ran in the August 2021 issue of Beyond Faith in Action

NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) — Mary Raber, who recently retired from serving in Ukraine with Mennonite Mission Network, feels deeply grateful that her prayer card found a place on a refrigerator in Kansas.  

"A woman kindly wrote to me and told me my photo is on her fridge and that she prays for me every time she reaches for her daily food," Raber said. "Because she took the time to pray and to let me know she was praying, I knew that, no matter what I might be experiencing, I was being prayed for. I hoped that she never went on a diet!" 

As a result of those prayers, and others, Raber said her spirit was often filled with the "manna" of strength and peace. And the practical provisions she needed to fulfill her ministry at Odessa Theological Seminary appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Those sudden, unexpected uplifts happened frequently, as she served with Mission Network from 2009 to 2021, as a theological educator, administrator and writer/editor.  

Because prayers are often uttered in the hiddenness of someone's heart and don't always yield immediate, dramatic results, God's people can be tempted to think of prayer as Plan B. This should not be so, however, said Raber, who believes that the countless prayers of supporters, friends and staff members empowered her ministry when energies waned.  

For example, Raber's spirits dropped as she prepared to leave Ukraine and return home to St. Louis, Missouri. She felt overwhelmed by the chores of sorting out her belongings and collecting the official documents required by the shipping company in Kyiv, Ukraine.  

"This is the kind of project I am terrible at," Raber remarked. "But, then, a light bulb went on, and I remembered, Oh yeah, I can ask someone to pray for me … So I contacted a praying friend in the States and asked her to pass around my need for calm organization. It's not that everything got super easy, but by reaching out to her and trusting she would be faithful to pray, I immediately felt better, at least psychologically." 

And the shipping process turned out to be manageable.  

Raber said that, on the mission field, she learned that "there is not a blessed thing we do alone, and every detail is mediated through people. This is what our Christian creed calls the communion of the saints. We are part of a big community, and we don't always take that seriously enough."  

Praying for others is a practice that does not have to be perfect, or complex, to reach God's heart and to touch people's lives.  

"The best advice I ever heard on the subject is this: pray as you can and not as you can't," Raber said. "Don't be self-conscious or think it has to be a big deal. Make it routine. If you can't do a big prayer, do a little one. Just go ahead and do it. Those so-called little prayers have made a huge difference in my life."






​Laurie Oswald Robinson is editor for Mennonite Mission Network.



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