Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Will you please sign my name?

Brad was honored to be invited to a community civic meeting...
Helping to educate the poor before elections, informing them of their rights, and hearing their voices...

He sat in the back.

The community made space for him - "Welcome, Baba Sam".

You are one of us.

He happened to sit next to a mama we know. 

The meeting was deep... 
the poor voiced their hurt...
their lack of representation...  
their longing for justice...

But the moment that stood out...

Was when the register was passed around.

With a humble look, a Mama passed Brad the pen.

"Will you please write my name here?"

 - it showers shame
- it limits employment
- it dooms a mama to poverty
- and most often, it spells the future of her children as well...

My heart aches for this Mama - and so many others who don't know how to write their own name.

God knows your name, dear mama... 
He knew you even before you were born!
And He loves you dearly!

Monday, May 15, 2017

If only I had a million dollars...

If only I had a million dollars...

Those words actually came out of my mouth yesterday.  I'm not even sure I've ever thought those words before!  

... But the overwhelming grip of need overtook me 
as I walked back away from a visit.

Earlier, I had been chatting with a group of mamas, helping to wash chairs - a Saturday rainy season job - so that when people come to church on Sunday, they will have a clean place to sit.  

A mom and her friend walked past us, then stood in front of the church.  The somber mood immediately drew my attention to them.  I noticed the bundled package of 2 month Abrahim was the focus.

I left my "chair washing task" and joined the ladies.  Abrahim was sleeping.  He'd been sleeping since noon the day before  - which was the last time he had eaten.  30 hours!?!?  He was limp as we raised his arms.  Unresponsive.

I was already picturing a late night hospital visit ... or worse yet, another infant's death in our community (there were 2 that I know of only last month).

Together we entered the church.  We must get this boy to breastfeed!   As a group of mamas, we gathered, coaxed and prodded.  After awhile, Abrahim awoke and ate a little.  We cheered. 

We sat together.  Because sometimes in moments like these, that is what we do....  It's not all about words - it's about being... being together.

After I stepped outside, I was told - this mama herself has not eaten in 2 days.  She and her 4 children (including Abrahim) have been in a desperate place for some time.  The local church has been reaching out to them.  They have been responding to that love! 

But when there is no food, then mama doesn't have much breast-milk... depression sets in... and babies get sick... and the desperate cycle spirals down and down all too fast...

Mama Abrahim in front of her home

So... this is when I wished for a million dollars.  Because this is not the only hungry family that we know!  Actually, there are quite a few precious kids out of school too - they lack school fees!  And a church that needs some repairs.  A victim who needs rent money...  The list is absolutely overwhelming to us - every day!  We could probably blow through a million dollars pretty quickly!  Maybe I should be wishing for 2 million!

I've continued to ponder these painful stories.  And my response.  

You see, as I left Mama Abrahim, I had not given her food.  But I sat and prayed with her.  I encouraged her that God loves her deeply.  I actually wept on that visit. I long for her to find HOPE and GRACE even in her time of need.

(We did send the church some money to make sure the family would eat that night!)

But my brain is joggled.

Could money REALLY solve these problems?  If we bring food and pay school fees yet don't bring HOPE in Jesus, what have we really done?  

My heart aches as I pray.  As I look into a mama's hungry eyes - who I know ache more for her children's hunger than her own...  As the words come out of my mouth that Jesus knows and cares about her pain.  That He loves her deeply.  That He wants her to long for Him as much as she longs for food and safety.  

I wonder... is that even possible?

Honestly?  If my children were hungry would I be able to turn my heart and longings toward GOD?  To find His peace and joy in the midst of my situation?

Our prayer is that as we walk with the local church that walks with this mama,  we will see her find His PEACE and JOY  and HOPE.  She has been invited into our women's Bible Study group - which will also bring her the opportunity to learn beadwork and many other practical skills.  

But, God please protect us always from the temptation of solving earthly desperation with earthly solutions (a million dollars would be great!)... without addressing the enormous eternal desperation with God's GRACE and HOPE which are the truest, deepest answers!

Abrahim's big brother

Today, my prayer for myself is this:
That I learn to DESPERATELY long for Him.
That I recognize Him as more important than anything else in my life.
That I see HIM as a more valuable gift to others than a million dollars would be!

Psalm 63:1-8The Message 

God—you’re my God!

I can’t get enough of you!

I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God, 

traveling across dry and weary deserts.

So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open,

drinking in your strength and glory.

In your generous love I am really living at last!

My lips brim praises like fountains.

I bless you every time I take a breath;

My arms wave like banners of praise to you.

Because you’ve always stood up for me,

I’m free to run and play.

I hold on to you for dear life,

and you hold me steady as a post.

Monday, May 8, 2017

May this story change me... may it change you too!!!

I want to tell a story... but I'm struggling a little.  

While this story is interesting, I don't want anyone to hear it just because it's interesting - that would somehow be disrespectful to the enormous ways that lives were impacted yesterday...

I want to be changed by this story.

I want you to be changed by this story.

Saturday night, a stark text broke into our home... a 10 year old girl had been raped by her step-father.    The pastor in that community took the girl home for the night.  But there was no rest.  

You see, amongst the poor, there is often no justice... so the community will take it upon themselves to administer their own "justice".  

This crime was bound to be paid for.  An early morning - desperate call from our pastor friend...  this man will be killed - please, can you help us find some police!  As Brad arrived at the scene - only a few hundred meters from our home, he encountered an enormous mob of hundreds of men.  In the front, leading the way were 2 policemen - armed with machine guns... and a shackled criminal.  

The mob followed - chanting "rapist... rapist...rapist" as he was paraded through N'gando.  The pastor was in the crowd, holding the hand of the 10 year old victim.  Brad followed along - staying to the side - out of the way.  

The mob made sure that the man was deposited in the cell at the chief's camp - many stayed, some dwindled back to their day.  

The "cell" is just a corner of the room where the girl and her mother (remember, she is "married" to the criminal) are questioned about the whole story.  Hours passed, while Brad waited outside - with mamas who were friends of the lady - children who had followed the crowd - men who were determined to see that justice was done...

Once the full account was recorded, the policeman came out.  Brad had taken our car (which seats 5) down to the chief's camp - ready to drive the girl and her mama to the hospital. 

The police informed him that he would also be dropping the criminal off at the prison.  

So, our car carried - all together - the rapist - in the back luggage compartment.  Two police, armed with their machine guns.  Pastor.  And mama with her baby girl who had already been through so much trauma.  (That's 7 people crowded in!)

When they left the police with their charge in the prison, Brad was asked to give fare for the police to get back to Ngando.

Now the girl and her mama were finally attended to.  The hospital they went to is sponsored to treat rape victims for free... but the first thing they did was to demand 1000 shillings before seeing the girl.  (This 10 dollars US may seem small - but it would have been prohibitive to this mama, whose rent, that she struggles to pay is 15 dollars).  Brad questioned this charge - reminding them of their claim of philanthropy and they immediately dropped the charge.  Once again, we see the poor being left out - if there is no-one there to stand up for them, they don't see justice.

Mama was handed paperwork to fill in - the look of humble bewilderment immediately revealed that she didn't know how to read.  Pastor gently took on the task for her.

And this story will go on... 

A girl - wounded for life - may she find GOD'S love in this church that has so carefully reached into her pain.  (Hatua is praying for a counsellor who would be wiling to walk with her and so many other victims in our setting)

A mama - now a single mama - struggling to provide - may she find hope in the GOD who saved her from an absolutely devastating place... may she reject the cycle of abuse and harmful men in her life... may she learn to read so that ultimately she can provide... (Hatua is praying for funds to launch a literacy program for desperate mamas like this one)

A man - whose life is now ruined by the alcohol and poor choices he had made up until now... 

A community - who want justice - who want to protect their own - who need Jesus to flood each home.

A church and a pastor - who faithfully walk in the middle of this pain... who tirelessly stand, give, love, and long to see lives change - because of the love of JESUS.

Brad and I see it as a privilege to get to walk into these stories... we pray that we can be faithful... that each horrible situation gives us a chance to help churches gain credibility in their settings and position to disciple people.

So, how does this story change me?

How can this story impact you?

I have no application... to be honest, Brad and I are still feeling that this is all surreal... right now, this story has only made me more determined to be faithful.... to keep perspective.... to focus on the eternal.... to love well...

(This little girl was a part of our Bible Clubs all last week!)

Let's all reflect together... 
let's let suffering change us... 
to help us become more like Jesus!!!