9.14.2012

Wrecked


My friends and I have been reading the book Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into your Comfortable Life, by Jeff Goins

And so because Idelette McVicker's post inspired me, I've decided to share how this broken world has slammed into my comfortable life. 


I was first wrecked with the death of my father at a very young age and subsequently the death of a best friend, diagnosed with cancer in his 30's and dead seven days later, just one week before I was to leave for a long trip to India. But that kind of wrecked isn't what the book is referring to, so I'll just give those a mention; however those incidents were surely part of this broken world that slammed right into my comfortable life. And even though God also gave me a wonderful stepfather and many more best friends, both of those incidences shaped who I am today.

So in the context in which the book is written, here are some ways in which God has wrecked me:

I was first wrecked when I was a camp counselor for our student team at youth camp one Summer. This particular camp had a strong mission emphasis. I remember on the final night at camp I had stashed a $10 bill in my pocket to pick up a T-shirt I had been wanting all week. At the service that night the speaker told of a great need in Russia. I don't even remember what the ministry was about but I remember distinctly God wrenched my heart open about "surrender", (God and I were having a totally different conversation there in between hundreds of students worshipping). They were about to take up an offering for the ministry need in Russia and I only had $10 in my pocket that was intended for a T-shirt. 

It seems insignificant now, but there was a big battle between me and God about that $10. After a big fight I surrendered the $10 and then the talk God and I were having changed from "surrender," to "brokenness." I was broken and ashamed that this was even an issue with me. And in five minutes I became broken for the entire world. I still don't know how God did that, but He did, I've not been the same since. 

The next morning as we were loading the bus to leave, a stranger walked up to me, I AM NOT LYING, this person handed me a T-shirt...it was the exact one I wanted. I remember standing there broken to pieces with a verse running through my head... "Do what the Lord wants, and He will give you your heart's desire." Psalm 37:4. I am constantly reminded that if I'll follow after what's on God's heart, then He'll take care of me. I'm even now, still in awe that He would orchestrate this whole thing to remind me that I can trust Him.

First Time in India
The next time I was wrecked was on my first trip to India & Nepal for a summer. As a matter of fact I was wrecked about 10 times on this trip. The circumstances around the trip included heat exhaustion to our team, sickness for almost the entire team (separate from the heat exhaustion), a young man working with our team tragically killed while there, a serious airplane explosion...there's so much more, but I'll stop there. This trip wrecked me for mobilization of the church. I thought about the long term workers in many countries that we never think about. Their sacrifice and sometimes suffering and we aren't praying for them enough, we aren't supporting them with words of encouragement or acts of kindness enough or with enough financial support. I knew I had to do my part personally, but to also become a voice for them to the church. After this trip I went on staff with my home church to work in mission emphasis. 


At Missionaries of Charity
in Calcullta
The next time I was wrecked was the second time to India. I worked in Mother Teresa's Orphanage in Calcutta and Mother Teresa wrecked me. Everything about that woman wrecks me. I also got the chance to befriend a village priest and the most incredible story happened with the NEXT team that came in after our visit. And God wrecked me on how each piece of the puzzle is important, even when it feels like there's no fruit from your work, you just might be the seed planter for an incredible harvest to come. On this trip I was also wrecked by an amazing Indian church planter who taught me how to be wrecked for my own country, and for my own people. 


I apologize for the image quality. This photo has been
carried in my wallet for 10 years now (before digital
cameras) and its pretty weathered. 
The next time I was wrecked by a woman known as J.M.M from Bangalore, India (I'm witholding full names for security and on-going work).  She is god to a religion with over 9 million followers.  I was doing a research project for her about the women's rights movement within this religion in India; subsequently I was composing a research report about the religion for a mission organization so they could formulate a long term strategy within this unreached people group. So I spent much time with her talking. I watched her bless water that people took to their homes to cleanse it of evil spirits, and I saw her do many, many other things. I observed thousands and thousands of people who know her only as god. But I knew her as my friend. I remember distinctly one afternoon leaving in my cab and literally falling apart in the back seat on the way home. My cabbie must have thought I was insane with all the sobbing, but I was so wrecked over her that I was in physical pain. I wanted her to meet my friend Jesus and then because she did, maybe 9 million people would follow. 

Haiti's poverty wrecked me.

Haitian Orphans (scanned image)

I apologize for showing this photo,
my intention is to not exploit but
to depict how I was wrecked by this
The next time I was wrecked was in South Sudan in 2002. Sudan was still in the middle of a civil war and at that time it wasn't yet on the celebrity radar as it is now. I was there a month and was utterly wrecked that no one noticed Sudan, they were being ignored. I was wrecked by a USAID Worker that I rode a bus with and amid conversation found out that these particular USAID workers didn't understand a poverty mentality, which therefore rendered his work useless. As we taught villagers to boil their drinking water on the fire from the streams, I was wrecked by the most extreme poverty I've ever known. It's indescribable. I was wrecked by stories of war crimes, displaced family members and how tribes of Africans have lost significant cultural traditions because of an extremely long war and displacement - a lost identity. Totally, absolutely, wrecked.


Also in South Sudan I was wrecked 

by these girls

These girls have a special piece of my heart
My world got bigger, and smaller that year as we worked in Sudan together. An American, Czech, Ugandan, Dutch & German, working side by side. We were scared for our lives, especially at night, but held each others hands through it. We are bonded for life. 

then...

Go mama!! :)
I was wrecked in Trinidad by my mom pushing past her comfort zone to serve others in another country. (I still can't believe I convinced my mom to go with me - She's a girly-girl and those were pretty tough living conditions - well, by girly-girl standards). 


Drilling
Beautiful people - Cooking for us










In 2005, a water well wrecked me in the mountains of Guatemala with the Mayan people. I worked with Living Water International to dig a clean water well. We worked for days and days with an entire community surrounding us, excited to finally have a clean, healthy water source. After days of drilling we hit volcanic rock, and without a diamond bit that Living Water did not own, there would be no water for this community. I was wrecked with disappointment - everyone should have access to clean water. 


In 2006, another water well wrecked me on the coast of Guatemala, 
near a school for young children 

This one was successful :)



The next time I was wrecked was in Belize working with boys who should have had no chance at education or a skilled trade, but given one by a bunch of big hearted friends from Mississippi.


God be with her
I was wrecked by Prisca, a little Zambian girl, orphaned by parents with AIDS. She changed how I deal with my helplessness of in-your-face poverty, starvation and mistreatment of someone I have grown to love dearly. She taught me that I can never be OK with that, but when there is nothing I can do to change the situation, that I have to trust that somehow God is enough. 


My friend Kaye
Checking on the eggs
I was wrecked in Oaxaca, Mexico, by the idea of animal husbandry and how something simple and thinking outside the box can change an entire community's well being. I also was wrecked by Kerry Johnson, a beautiful example of how keeping a broken heart is THE motivation needed to make a long-term difference. 


My beautiful friends!
I am wrecked by my Batwa friends in Burundi, Africa. 
     I was wrecked by their marginalization. 
          Then the idea of sustainable community development wrecked me              (thanks Claude & Kelley). 
               The idea of long term friendship wrecked me. 
                    The idea of dignity and justice and mercy wrecked me. 
                          
Now the Batwa wreck me almost daily when I hear stories of entire communities changing by the work of their own hands fueled by friendship and partnership. I'm wrecked that God let's me be a small part of it. (series of posts about that starting here)

BUT....


The place that I am continually wrecked is the issue of female infanticide in India. For the last several years I've been utterly devastated by it. I can not go one single day without thinking about it. I know God has a work for me in it. I'm seeking His plan. I once had a friend doing this work in India. I got to spend some time there and the experience of holding a little girl that would be dead if you hadn't intervened is a feeling that I will never be able to describe. My friend has passed away from an illness and there's a giant, empty space now.




What am I to do? God, show me. Show me how. Show me when. Show me what. I am wrecked. {tears}

Isaiah the Prophet, tells us, "If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a  full life  in the emptiest of places — firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You'll be known as those who can fix anything...YES! God says so!" Isaiah 58:10-14



8.21.2012

You Memorize Me

You know when I rise and when I fall
When I come or go, You see it all
You hung the stars and you move the sea, 
And STILL, You know me. 

And nothing is hidden from Your sight
Wherever I go, You find me
And You know EVERY detail of my life
And You are God and You don't miss a thing. 

You memorize me...


I am overwhelmed that wherever I go, He is there. I am astounded that He knows EVERY detail of my life.  The One who hung the stars and moves the sea, memorizes me.

Thank You God that You know every intimate detail of my life and that Your plan for me is great, even when I don't understand, and others don't understand how You are working in my life...You know every detail. My trust is in You!

7.09.2012

Forgiveness & Restoration: Are They the Same?


From the looks of cryptic facebook status updates and conversations with people, I get the feeling that most of the time people think these two words are synonymous; that once you forgive someone, then the relationship should be the same, or otherwise you didn’t really forgive them. 

Oh, how I have watched so many people with deep hurts struggle with this. Until recently I have thought these two words meant two different things, I never really struggled with it, but going through a deeply hurtful situation caused me to struggle and to spend quite some time re-thinking the whole thing.

The fact that someone I love dearly, who deceived and hurt me deeply, was hurt so much by the fact that the relationship just couldn’t be restored in an instant, troubled me. I have struggled for months and months in what I believed about forgiveness and restoration, studying it, praying about it, and questioning it. SIDENOTE: Sometimes restoration isn’t the answer (unhealthy relationships - that’s for another post later).

When I’ve forgiven someone there is something inside of me, in my spirit, that changes; it’s how I know I’ve forgiven someone.  I’ve been able to forgive people who have never asked for it, because forgiveness is for me (not for the other person). I like this definition of forgiveness: “To cease to feel resentment against”.  Once I’ve forgiven someone I don’t feel angry towards them, I’m able to let go…it changes me.

With this situation it took me a week or so to forgive.  Until that moment I was angry and hurt and mad, but as soon as I chose to forgive them, that all went away.  But here’s where the struggle came in.  I wasn’t angry and I wasn’t mad anymore, but I was not ready to go back to “the way it was.” The love was still there, but the friendship, the closeness couldn’t come back. The main reason: There had been no restoration. The offender had made no effort at restoring the relationship.

One time I had a friend (we were in our early 20’s) who let a big group of people down.  I remember him standing before the entire group immediately after it happened with an “I’m sorry,” and then a reference that as Christians, “We have to forgive and move on.” Even then, I thought, wow, it’s just not that easy.

With this more recent situation I thought, I’m a Christ-follower, I should forgive and move on, why am I struggling so much. Then I started questioning myself, if I’m supposed to be Christ-like shouldn’t I just move on with this?  But then I started exploring and remembering that Jesus forgives us completely when we ask, but there is always consequence to sin.

Then one day a wise friend told me to look at the story of Zacchaeus. So I pulled down Luke 19 and read it. I’m going to post it here for you to read because it’s short and sometimes we get tangled up in the stories that have been told about Zacchaeus in which details may or may not have been biblical.
  

Luke 19
19 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.



When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”



Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.



Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

My friend was very wise.  When I look at Zacchaeus’ story, I see that he is changed by Christ and chooses to work towards restoration.  He says, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” He could have just asked forgiveness from Christ, and he would have been forgiven and had to endure the consequence of sin in his life. He could have just left that between him and God.  But instead, he chose to restore his wrongs to the people he wronged, and not only paying back just what was owed, but paying back MORE than what was owed. I admire that. I feel paying back four times was his way of acknowledging the depth of the wrong he had done.  Just giving back what he took wrongly would just be a payback, but giving back four times I think means, “I’m very sorry, I acknowledge how much I hurt you and the side effects of what I did to you.”

I believe that is restoration.

I wish I could hear “the rest of the story,” with Zacchaeus. I bet he became a beloved person even to the people he wronged and the relationships were deeper because of it.

So dear offenders, one thing you should know: the level you are able to hurt someone is equivalent to the depth of love they have for you. Please don’t ever forget that.  You are SO loved.  You cannot deeply hurt someone who doesn’t love you dearly; they just aren’t affected by it. 

And you are probably forgiven. But there’s some work to be done for restoration to happen between those who love each other deeply.  And that’s ok. And it’s ok if it takes you awhile, but the ball is in your court.

Offendee’s (this is my made up word), I can only imagine how hard it will be for the offenders to make that first step towards restoration. So be open, let them know you are open for it. Let them know they are loved even from a distance.  And if you haven’t forgiven, then forgive; your heart will be set free. 

7.08.2012

Nathaniel's Words on the 3rd Anniversary in Matara

Exodus 12:14 - "This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD - a lasting ordinance." 

Nathaniel's Words:  "The Jewish people came from Egypt, from severe oppression.  When they arrived in the promised land, Moses stood up and said, 'Remember what God did for you in Egypt and never forget His name.' And they had a passover feast to remind them of that day. They ate with their neighbors, coming together as one.

So today, we will remember this goodness.  We are celebrating 3 years of being here at Matara.  God used people and has done miracle after miracle to bring us to where we are today. We are on our own mountain. Today, we thank God.  Thank you for saying yes, Community of Faith.  If you could look into my heart, you could see joy that goes beyond understanding.  God bless you for being our friends, and we will see you here in year 4!"

As I spent 3 days in Bubanza first this year I was able to see the conditions of life there more intimately. Knowing this is where our friends from Matara came from it gave me a new perspective. The day before going up to Matara I was wondering if after 3 years would I see signs of forgetfulness; forgetting what God has done, so I made a mental note to look for it. 

I saw anything but that. 

From a little impromptu chorus of children singing to me, "What have I done to deserve all this," to Nathaniel's words above...I feel confident our friends will never forget what God has done for them.  

My friends in Matara challenged me. How easily I forget. How easily I take for granted everything God has done for me. I need to wake up every morning with the song in my heart, "What have I done to deserve all of this." 

I'm hearing it in Kurundi right now... Here's just a tiny clip of it.... (more later)...


6.25.2012

Benjamin's Words

From Benjamin (from Matara):

"This week marks three years in Matara.  Before we came here we were like modern-day slaves.  Growing up it was common knowledge that Batwa did not know how to build a house.  We only knew how to build grass huts and we were never able to grow food. 
We owned nothing, so when our slave master told us to go away, we were able to go within minutes.

It was only a dream that one day I could live in a real house.  By God's grace I was selected to come here, to Matara. Our friends helped us get this land. Now look at all these houses (he is pointing all around Matara where everyone has their own home). These are OUR houses,
 these are not for someone else, these are for us. 

Before we came here we looked very different. Now all our kids are in school...something we were never able to do.  Now when we are sick we can go to the doctor because we have ID cards 
and birth certificates for our children. 

One thing I will never forget about being a slave is that you work all year for nothing and every generation lives like that.  That story seemed to never end. I had decided to never get married because I did not want to bring a family into this situation. Now I have six kids! Today I go to work and when the day is over I go home to my family.  We are citizens like everyone else!"

Then everyone sings a song.  When translated, they were singing, "Even the angels would be surprised the Batwa have arrived." My heart smiles...thank you God for letting us be a small part of this!

6.15.2012

Hope is Sprouting Here

I have spent the past two days in Bubanza. If you know the story of our Batwa friends you know that several years ago we took 30 families from Bubanza and moved them to Matara. Check out these blog posts if you want to catch up on the story.

We Are Family
No One Has Died This Year
Our Names Are Written Down
The Ones We Love Have Come 

With the success of Matara (with 30 families), we have now begun community development in Bubanza, which is with over 600 families. If you have visited Bubanza’s dry, dusty land then you might think we have lost our minds. The project seems insurmountable. But we are willing to take up that challenge, our friends are worth it; however, we go into this knowing that it will be a long, hard journey.

Last night Kelley asked if we had one word to describe the day what would it be. For me it was hopefulness. I have learned that most often the root of all poverty is hopelessness. Hope is the beginning of what it takes to make a change. When I gaze out over Bubanza I can understand the hopelessness, the lack of basic human rights such as an ID Card or Birth Certificates, no possibility of ownership to land or a good job because of discrimination, no access to proper healthcare or education, and on and on the list goes.

But today I see little seeds of hope all over Bubanza. If you don’t look closely you can miss them. Over the past 2 days we planted 750 trees around the small part of land that we have attained a deed for in Bubanza. Just as the little saplings were planted I thought, “This is the start.” (That’s for you Martha). This is the start of something new; this little sapling will grow into something huge if it is tended to and watered every day. I think it's the same with hope, it’s here, but it may need to be watered every day, as generations of poverty will be hard to overcome.

Yesterday I was able to sit down with Ntazina (The one whose name means “No Name” whom Mark first talked to on his first visit here). Ntazina was the leader of the entire village of Bubanza. I can tell from having a conversation with him exactly why. I was able to hear his story of the Bubanza from many years ago, up to the first encounter with Mark & Claude, through our visits over the past few years, and now to today. He is very encouraged and hopeful for his people, he says, “You might not be able to see it now, but we are on our way, hope is here.”

This makes me smile, because once hope is here, poverty will soon begin to disappear. There is much work to be done, but as Ntazina says, “We are on our way!”

The story Ntazina shared with me is powerful - video coming soon.