"And if you SPEND YOURSELVES on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday."

"The Lord will continually guide you. He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."- Isaiah 58:10-11

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Gold" Relationships

We are back safe and sound on African turf and are so grateful for the opportunity we had to visit friends and family in the States during the month of December!

One of the things that struck us so profoundly during the time we spent in America was the contrast between the two countries. We felt that disparity, as everyone who visits does, in coming to Kenya, but for the first time we felt it from the other side. We had forgotten how many “things” we have in America…and were reminded how insignificant “things” are and how valuable good friends are.

Two days before we left Kenya, I was invited to visit the home of a friend. She lives in a mud hut – one of the nicer ones with a tin roof. I sat with her in the ‘living room’- if that is what you would call the space we shared. We relaxed on one of her rickety wooden couches, cushioned by thin foam pads that were overlaid with a sun-faded sheet to hide the holes. Her makeshift curtains, which served as doors to the two small bedrooms, kept blowing open with the breeze, and I could see the shabbybedrooms, “carpeted’ with cardboard to keep the dust down. The blankets were clean but permanently stained from washing in the muddy river. The twin bed for the children sleeps three. Her own bed was covered with a patchwork blanket that must have been a wedding present. There were a few clothes piled in the corners of the rooms, no dressers, and a small radio blasted the latest Kenyan hits. Really she has nothing in the way of “things”… except a few aged greeting cards hanging on the walls for decorations, some old newspapers cut out like snowflakes and hung from the ceilings and a calendar from 2008.

As I absorbed the simplicity of my surroundings, we chatted and laughed and talked of nothing and everything. All the while she absolutely spoiled us. She made us chai. She even made special chai for Caleb without milk. And, it was sweet chai, even though sugar is very expensive in Kenya now. Then, she used an entire bag of flour to make African pancakes for all of us. As we enjoyed them, we knew her children would not eat well that night and maybe for several nights because of all she spent on us… But our time was rich in conversation and rich in community. She went out of her way to make us feel loved. And we did. We felt loved and valued, and we left so grateful for her sacrifice to make us feel special. Where we sat and the “things” that surrounded us didn’t matter at all. What mattered was the time spent together building our relationship.

Not a week later as we visited America, I had another experience but in a much different environment. I sat in the beautiful home of a good friend. The details of the decorating in her home were exquisite. Every aspect had been carefully thought out and planned. I love beautiful things and well put together corners and walls. It’s a form of art to me. So, I thoroughly relished the creative works of her hands and appreciated the thoughtfulness in the details. It took me a while to absorb the sheer amount of beautiful things in her home, and then it became overwhelming to me. I felt like it kept coming in waves and was almost drowning me, my senses on overload because there was so much. All the while, I couldn’t stop thinking of the last home I visited.

But then something happened. We settled our suitcases and children and sank into her couch. She filled my hands with a warm cup of tea and we began to talk. Where we sat and the “things” surrounding us faded into the background. As the words flowed, we laughed and caught up and related and reminisced for hours. It felt familiar and comfortable to sit deep with her. I became profoundly refreshed and encouraged.

There is a saying I love:
Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver, the other gold.

As Rick and I have processed through this together we both have again been so grateful for the friends with which God has blessed us. We love that God designed friendship so we could understand what it is like to have a relationship with Him. Maybe it’s because we were so starved for relationship that we experienced it afresh in America; but, as we sat in the midst of our ‘gold’ friends and family and were encouraged, prayed for, and listened to, we tangibly felt God’s encouragement, His listening ears, and His understanding through the time spent with others.

So thank you for the time and energy invested in our family through your presence and through your letters and e-mails! We love each one of you and appreciate your investment in our lives!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Good Cry

Typically, I’m not a very emotional person, but I cried today. It was a good cry. Not for myself, though I admit I’ve had a selfish cry a few times before. Today I cried for a little girl who I’ve grown to love. She came here not long ago and instantly increased the level of joy in the place. She was delighted to be here – loved the food – loved the bed – made lots of friends right away. She’s a great kid. She’s easy to love – everyone loves her.

But today I cried for her because today we found out she was HIV positive. She doesn’t know yet. She won’t know for a while – she’s only six… She’s only six! Dear sweet child of six, how can your life have already been so hard. You watched your baba and mama die, you were left alone and now things were going to get better but they will still be hard for you. Oh God why?

And as I cried, I heard a strong familiar voice soothing me. ‘Yes my daughter, cry for her, cry hard for her. That fact that you are crying for her means she is loved. That’s why I brought her there – to be loved, to be rescued, and to become My daughter as well. Care deeply for her. She is Mine.’

That was it. The fact that anyone would cry for her was the story of her audacious rescue by an adoring God. A small, beautiful, insignificant child hidden in the bush of Kenya dramatically rescued by God, who couldn’t let her out of His sight. A few months ago, no one might have known. She could have become sick and died and no one might have cared really. But now, she is truly loved and has hope for her future.

I’m going to talk to her sponsor tomorrow and they will cry too…we will cry together. But really, it will be another good cry because it will shout the significance of her life – the significance of every life.

Thank you God for the opportunity to cry today.