Monday, January 20, 2014

We Never MEANT to Start a CHURCH!!!

Walking to church this morning.

This morning,
With no fan fare
No bells and whistles
In the center of Ngando,
At our GIRLS WITH VISION center,
A CHURCH was born..

We never PLANNED to start a church!
We had no idea HOW to plant a church...
We still have no formula
No method
Just following JESUS... 
And inviting ladies to join us in following HIM... 

When we first began at Girls With Vision, we honestly thought if we could just help ladies to earn an income, throw in a little Bible study because we knew that was important too - then, of course, lives would turn around.

Quickly, we realized, that the issues holding ladies in the poverty cycle had little to do with income opportunities.

Without inner, spiritual transformation, opportunities, more often than not, resulted in failure.  (and we have experienced many of these!)

Our focus completely changed.

Now, we begin with Bible Study.   

For at least 3 months, we learn together... Who is GOD?  Who is MAN?  How can MAN have a relationship with GOD?  Why would GOD even care about MAN?

We face tough questions and wrestle with TRUTH.

And we watch GOD change hearts and lives.


But we never imagined a CHURCH!

We were faithful in what we knew GOD had called us to - we discipled ladies.  Their relationships with GOD and with each other began to grow.  Their husbands began to join us.
They asked for a church!

This is not our church...
Not our plan...
But, we are so grateful that GOD has led us HIS way - 
so much better than what we ever dreamed of!!!

Mortals make elaborate plans,
    but God has the last word.
 Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good;
    God probes for what is good.
Put God in charge of your work,
    then what you’ve planned will take place.
Proverbs 16:1-3

Friday, January 17, 2014

Instead of Feeling OVERWHELMED ... We BOUGHT More CHAIRS!!!

And, this is how those chairs were delivered... isn't Hosea - the cyclist, amazing?
As we approached 2014 as Girls With Vision, we weren't sure what to expect.  

In many ways, the month of December had left us worn down...

And so, as we trudged down to our center, 
we steadied ourselves for the start of our new Girls With Vision season, 
we faced ahead with some FEAR... 
a lot of HOPE... 
and sheer DETERMINATION...

This was the meeting where we would meet the new ladies who were interested in joining our group.   
Truly, we had no idea what to expect!

We welcomed 48 ladies... FORTY-EIGHT!?!!!

As I looked out into their eyes, I just smiled.  

I wondered about their stories.  
Their hurts.  
Their past.  
And most of all, their FUTURE... 
How would these next months, 
of getting to know our GOD of GRACE, 
impact their HEARTS?

We knew that GOD had brought them to us... we would walk with them faithfully.

The 3 of us... together since the first day of GIRLS WITH VISION - Dear friends and fellow prayer warriors!

 And so, while we face the fact that our group has almost doubled overnight, 
we can only smile

We see at least 3 well known prostitutes, 1 bartender, 1 who actually brews the alcohol, and many alcoholics looking back at us... a touch of hope in their eyes... 
and we can only smile! 

We face the fact that we have NO idea how everything will work out, 
and we can only smile!

Not because we don't feel a little nervous...  
Not because we aren't seeing some big challenges facing us...

But ONLY because we are well aware that  NOTHING good that has happened already at Girls With Vision has come about because of our competence. 
Each story of GOD'S GRACE has only been HIS work.

And, so, as we look toward the biggest challenge we've ever faced, we just KNOW - the same GOD that has led us this far...
LOVES these ladies, 
KNOWS their issues, 
and BROUGHT them to us... 
HE will guide us down this path.

Ours is to remain FAITHFUL!

Instead of giving in to that overwhelming feeling...
Asking all those crazy questions of HOW...

We went and bought more chairs!

And we are THANKFUL!

And, this is how those chairs were delivered... isn't Hosea - the cyclist, amazing?

No, we didn't welcome these cows to join our group - but I did laugh when I found them all gathered in front of our center!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

After We Had Given So Much, She Came to STEAL!?!

It's hard to even know how to relate this story.

I guess I'll just start at the beginning!

We met Shiku about 6 months ago now.  Broken.  Desperate.

Read SHIKU'S background story HERE... 

 And we prayed for her!  
Many of you prayed with us!

We watched her FIGHT.
Then get up and FIGHT again.

And we rejoiced!!!
And we prayed WITH her!

And saw her come out of prostitution to work on beads instead...

And we rejoiced!

We saw her move into her own place.

And we rejoiced!

We saw her struggling to quit drinking and drugs.

And we rejoiced.

And even more importantly, she rejoiced!

The transformation was tangible... visible...
The community began to take notice. 
A woman they all knew - in all the wrong ways - was changing!
GOD'S WORK in her life was so REAL!!!


Reading to us during our Bible Study
From living in an abandoned bathroom stall
To a place of her own

And, I wish the story could just stop there...

But, here's the truth.

Giving practical help is easy...
  DISCIPLESHIP takes time... 
  and walking with hurting people HURTS!

And so, Shiku's story continues...

Just a few days ago, I left Abby at home alone - while I walked over to our Girls With Vision Center.

She was sound asleep, and I didn't want to lock her in the house - so I carefully closed each door and gate - making it look like no one was home.

Abby awoke to the sound of rustling right outside her bedroom door.

Shiku was there - carrying a bag full of food she had already gathered to steal - thinking that noone was home.

She was very high.

Abby was very shaken.

We were all shocked  - and most of all, deeply disappointed!

So much progress... then, Shiku not only fell back, but came to steal from us - the ones who had been loving her through this process!

It felt personal.  It HURT!

Giving practical help is easy...
  DISCIPLESHIP takes time... 
  and walking with hurting people HURTS!

But I wanted to share this story... because we all hope for quick, healing, deep change.  The truth is, nothing in my own life ever changed that quickly!  Things I struggle with don't disappear in 5 months! 

And the next time I saw Shiku, as frustrated as I was with her, I still just had to give her a big hug.  Because although anger and rejection are how I felt like approaching her, I have to recognize all the times that God welcomes me back...  

And, LOVE is the only thing that ever changed me - LOVE is the only thing that will ever change Shiku.  

So as difficult as it is, I need to reflect that forgiving LOVE and GRACE that God extends to me - every time I make a mistake!!

Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin! 

 So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God.  
There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help.

Hebrews 4:15-16

"Our perspective should be less about how we are going to fix the materially poor and more about how we can WALK TOGETHER, asking God to fix us both."
Brad Matlack


Saturday, January 4, 2014

We Found Her, Unconscious... the Sole Print of Her Husband's Shoe Etched on her Face

Love sinks in SLOWLY when abuse has deep roots...

Some days are just plain UGLY...

Early one day last week, a Girls With Vision member ran to find us...  Ruth had been beaten by her husband!

When we arrived at her house, the neighbor ladies were all anxiously gathered around her holding buckets...

Ruth was soaking wet - unconscious.

Her panicked friends all trying to revive her.

The WORST - her husband's sole print was still etched on the side of her face.

Ruth, with her family picture... memories of a peaceful day in a rocky relationship.
We have been walking with Ruth for over a year now... 
grappling with impossible questions - 

"What if my husband is a THUG?"  - and 
"I have NO food for my BABY!"   (click these links for more of Ruth's story)

An 18 year old mama, married to one of the well-known thugs in our community.  

How we have loved her!

Making EVERY attempt to show her - even more importantly - that GOD loves her!!!

But, LOVE sinks in SLOWLY when roots of evil ABUSE run deep...

My favorite picture of RUTH with her baby boy, RAMSES.
How I wish this were different! 

Yet, even as I look back at my own, sheltered and loved life, I see many instances when even I struggled to grasp GOD'S UNCONDITIONAL love!

So, how can I be surprised - when women who have been rejected and abused their entire lives - can't wrap their hearts around SUCH LOVE!  This process will be a slow one... with many disappointments.  

And we know that even a lifetime is not long enough for ANY of us to come to a full understanding of GOD'S UNCONDITIONAL love!

And so, I pray a prayer - one of my favorites - that has been prayed over the centuries... Because even Paul of the Bible knew it sinks in slowly.

For Ruth, for my children, and for each of us - 

"And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in ... 
the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love
Reach out and experience the breadth! 
Test its length! 
Plumb the depths! 
Rise to the heights! 
Live full lives, full in the fullness of God."
Ephesians 3:14-19 

Because LOVE is the ONLY thing that ever changed me...
LOVE is the only thing that will ever change Ruth!

May this unimaginable,  unchanging LOVE truly sink in and CHANGE each of us!!!