Laizah Baera is an energetic and excited young woman, aged 33. She has been a pastor with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Zimbabwe for the past 12 years. She shared her story about her journey in the ministry with The Weight She Carries.
How did you know you had a calling?
God speaks to us in different forms; mine was communication in various forms. From age 16, I would get dreams, sometimes visions, and mostly through prophecies from other preachers, who would confirm as well as interpret those dreams which I did not understand at the time until…after a period of three years. From that point on, it was clearer in my mind at age 19. I began to work in the church and eventually was released by my church leaders to study and pursue that calling.
What made you choose ministry over law?
It’s quite ironic because as my calling and desire to work for God intensified, everything else was also falling into place in my life as expected in the life of any teenage girl.
After my A’ levels, I had a good job with a reputable company, working in their accounts department. At the same time, my university applications came in. I was spoilt for choice actually. To top it all, this came in the days when the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Scholarship was news, hey. And guess what? I had applied for it and received full cover for all my tertiary needs with an additional needs benefit, which catered for female students pursuing law. I was [as] happy as anyone. My parents couldn’t have been [prouder].
Everything was set to sail, but God is sovereign. He has purposes for our life, and the sooner we get in line with those purposes, the less frustrating life becomes, the more fulfilling our days become. It’s simple, I reckon. You are better off running in that lane made for you. Everyone has a life assignment. The key to happiness is finding it and going for it blindly with every energy in your bones.
How was your life at Bible school?
It had its fair share of challenges and joys. At the time, ministry was not a very open platform for women, let alone young women. So, it would get intense at times with people who would openly sit me down (genuinely) and advise me to go home and find other things to do.
Every day, one or two gender-sensitive statements to discourage me would come, even from my peers and classmates. I just became deaf to it. It was a joyful time because being an academic, I really enjoyed the lectures and the courses and found most of it quite fascinating. So, there was never a dull class day, neither was there a simple, ordinary, non-challenging day.
Personally, I did not have a doubt or internal conflict. I was good because I had taken quite a long time thinking and praying through it. Challenges were external as my family did not approve and cut me off and the environment was hardly conducive and neither were finances equal…
However, when you draw strength from within, you can go through anything. And when you are sure that you are on the right path, focus is important. And above all, trusting in God always works wonders because He does not run out of solutions.
Did your family reject you after your choice? How did you cope?
We cannot exactly call it rejection…As much as I was outcast, I think it was all in an effort to stop the path I was choosing because it seemed like a very forbidden path which was unwelcome in the family.
I was given an ultimatum: to go to law school or pack my bags and leave that house. It didn’t take me long to decide because my mind was already made up and my spirit was at peace and maybe also because I didn’t think they would actually go through with it.
But to my amazement, the day I came back with an acceptance letter from the Bible college, I was literally cast out. My dad wouldn’t hear of it or support it. I couldn’t come to the house, I couldn’t receive financial support, I couldn’t receive emotional support, I [wasn’t] allowed to call anyone or come home.
During semester breaks, I would come back to Bulawayo and put up in one place or another and return to Harare without seeing anyone or setting foot in our home. I missed my mother [and] my siblings, but I could not be with them.
[This was] not because my father was a man who didn’t desire progress for us, but because as a woman, I was out of line in seeking to pursue a role that would demand that I lead or stand in a congregation and talk when men are sitting down. This, he felt, was quite the embarrassment and a symbol of his failure to raise a proper woman, so he tried all he could to prevent that.
It was a drastic measure, yes, because we all suffered from it. But I became stronger because destiny or calling is not something to trade. I got my strength and comfort from biblical characters that I studied who had a hard time achieving God-given assignments but, in the end, prevailed.
I actually did not have a support system at the time, and I really walked the journey by myself. I was hopeful and did not want to further create tensions by involving too many people in the situation, so I just kept praying and trusting.
How did you finally reconcile with your family?
I think in the three years of my confidence and effort and consistency in what I was doing, I had hit home. I was so taken up in my calling that nothing else mattered. Nothing was going to separate me from working for this God. Nothing was going to rob me of the joy of self-fulfilment and living for what my Master created me for.
I had not thrown a tantrum any day or been disrespectful. I had confidently chosen a path and stuck with it through all its ups and downs. I had cried, I had been down, but I had never given up and I had never walked out of my room with tears. I had carried my weights and borne the pains as a faithful steward to the work of the cross and gathered the strength of a Kingdom daughter, and my prayers were answered.
One day, a realisation struck in my dad: there’s neither male nor female; Kingdom assignments are as God gives. And he reached out, which I’m very thankful for. God really came through for me at that time in the simplest way imaginable. He is, after all, the only one who can turn the hearts of man…
Reconciliation came one day, after three years of no contact that my dad visited me at the school. I gracefully received him warmly and did not even raise the topic. From that day on, communication and contact came back. I did realise that from that time, quite a lot had changed, and I praised God because only He can turn the hardest of hearts around. And I especially was thankful that my strong will in my calling had made my dad into a better believer who, I must add, later on became a minister of the gospel before he [passed away].
How did your choice affect your dating life?
Any life change or upgrade does affect courtship for anyone, but ministry, that takes the cup.
Over the years, I have watched young men who are called into ministry date and get married. One thing to notice is the clamour that comes among the young girls for that one pastor; it’s a survival of the fittest. The older pastors and their wives do everything to find the perfect girl who is pastor’s wife material. In no time, deals are sealed, even monies are put out in that effort, which is quite the ironic opposite for female pastors.
When I received my calling, I was actually dating someone who seemed quite supportive. But after enrolling at the college, our communication did not last two months, not because I had particularly changed anything, but because he just felt he could not handle my profession.
My choice affected my dating and courtship especially in two different relationships, which may be seen as the ones that were serious. When these relationships got to a stage where we would go for introductions issues were people would ask the partner if they would be able to stay with a pastor…
This was a setback as women pastors are stereotyped as individuals who cannot submit. Most guys would just be taken aback and would not proceed.
People do not understand that even when one is a pastor, you get home to cook, etc, which is a biblical mandate really for women to be good homemakers. The title of a pastor does not remove femininity.
I have, as an individual, decided that one should be able to weigh temporary things and eternal things and place value where it is due. Shall I give up my calling because relationships are not working out? By all means, no. My faithfulness is to God first; all other comforts are secondary and temporary. The wise secure their lives on eternal things and [do] not give them up for temporary gratifications.
How did you manage the transition to being a pastor?
The transition from congregant to pastor of the congregant is something that is always a struggle regardless of gender. Mine was awesome, so to say. In terms of age, I completed my B.A. in Theology and Ministry when I was 24. Being this young and being a female, I did have quite an interesting set of experiences.
On one hand, I had my peers, who didn’t take me seriously at all. They still could not believe it, and they just did not feel the need to appoint that level of respect to me. I also had the overzealous members who deliberately wanted to over-bestow reverence to me, with a touch of sarcasm, I must add. But then again, I had the moderate gang who were going with the flow, supporting me and appreciating the transition for what it was.
In reality, when dealing with these three characters, a lot of mistakes, conflicts and misunderstandings are bound to take place. And yes, they all become learning curves – tough ones, I must say, which is what then matures and grows us to be thick skinned [and] at the same time, tolerant and able to love everyone no matter what lane they have picked to run in.
The toughest journey is in social relations. People somehow just all scramble away, I suppose out of assumptions that they will be judged and always be preached at every second of the day should they stick around. I have learnt that that’s a ministry inevitable you just have to embrace. After all, societies do have cliques according to common behaviours and/or professions, so ministry is no different. The only challenge is that we do have a handful of us lady ministers who, I hasten to add, are single.
Do you have advice for women who have different callings that are a weight to pursue?
For us women, it is quite essential to strike the iron while it’s still hot. Make hay while the sun shines. We have a reality of other roles we have to play as nurturers of the dreams in our children and the visions in our husbands, which we should not neglect. Therefore, ours is a double race which should commence the moment you know the direction.
The end result of procrastination is unfulfilled dreams, and this becomes the biggest frustration. Yet when you have a calling, gather strength from it and it will work itself out. What you need to do is play your part and be faithful. Be determined and be a resilient hard worker. Eventually, it will pay off. Pray always.
No matter what, continue moving as there is more fulfilment in doing God-given purposes and in ensuring that what was deposited in you is guarded jealously and is, by all means, shared into the world. God has placed value in all of us. It’s up to you to spread it in the world, otherwise you will die full but unfulfilled. What good is treasure unused?
We need to die empty, having lived fulfilling lives. If we have to carry weights while at it, let’s do so. God’s grace is always sufficient and His love immeasurable. No one can understand His ways, but our assurance is that no one can love us like Him.
He knew you and me before we were born. And be not confused: when He made plans for us, He was not gender blind. He knew exactly the manner of the vessel He was placing Kingdom riches in but still poured His grace and desires. Arise, Daughter. You can make it. Heaven is your backup.
You can contact Laizah via:
Facebook: Laizah Baera
WhatsApp: (+263) 0775180857 (Rabonni)