"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

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Before we moved our family to Kenya five years ago, many of you asked how we thought our children would handle this change. Both being optimistic in nature, Rick and I chose (blindly at the time) to focus on the positive impact it would have on them.  And it has.  Our children have learned to decipher want versus need, to find gratitude in simplicity, to embrace dirt.  But they've also seen and experienced things we never anticipated and would have protected them from if we'd seen them coming.  Our children are blessed by their experiences in Kenya and they are also scarred.  We all are.

At our home on The Hill - a place of beauty and pain.

Most of you know Katie, our oldest.  She turned 18 a few weeks ago and is planning on attending Notre Dame University in the fall.  While we are so proud of her academic achievements, we are more proud of her character and her heart.  She is a joyful and passionate wonder, and we're humbled by her willingness to bring each experience before God and learn.  We are thankful for where God has brought her in her journey and excited about her future. This month, we want to share an excerpt from Katie's journal that walks through some of the raw issues we've dealt with living in Kenya and the way she has processed them. 

Katie and friends visiting Notre Dame in 2013

Please use discretion if reading this to young children. 

I've always known that with growing older comes knowledge and experience. But man, I was wrong in thinking that these things would lead to walking an easier path towards Eternity.

Over the last five years, I have come face to face with so much loss. I watched a girl pass away due to a curable disease simply because she 'wasn't allowed' to go to a hospital. She left a child who spent her first two years of life in a home filled with deceit, selfishness, abuse and witchcraft. The memory of Dennis continues to haunt me. Dennis was a full-of-life, enthusiastic boy who was taken home after a grand mal seizure due to epilepsy. Not two months later, another child I loved went to heaven. She only lived a month on earth, and spent most of that time on life support, desiring preciously what we all take for granted - being able to breathe.  I've battled with the memory of two infant lives which were thrown away, literally, into pit latrines.

Amid all of this, a prominent man in our community has ruined countless days for our family, hundreds of opportunities for those we serve, and stolen money, hope, motivation, and dreams from God's beloved. It hurts watching people who claim to be Christians do harmful things.

I check the news each morning and I struggle with seeing people lined up in orange jumpsuits being beheaded for their belief in Christ Jesus. Sometimes, what hurts more than the images or stories of these Christians being tortured and murdered for their belief is that it's become normal. People are no longer shocked at the continual oppression of Christians in the Middle East. A friend pointed out to me that there was more media coverage on the "Top 10 Celebrity April Fool's Pranks" than the 147 shot dead in Garissa and wrote to me, "I was seething."  It's true that the world keeps spinning, and I find relief in knowing I am distanced from the situation, but is it right to watch this on the news and do nothing? Shouldn't we be drowning in prayer for our beloved brothers and sisters suffering and enduring trials literally right before them

My own heart has suffered through the trials of grieving loss and enduring burdens. My head spins because of all this and steals space in my mind. Processing is exhausting. I'm tired, really tired, and not the kind of tired a lot of sleep will cure. Counseling and prayer have helped me regain my balance, but I am still torn over the evil in this world.

On Good Friday, we sat down as a family to watch the Passion, a movie I've seen several times, but one that always gets to me. What struck me this year was different than in the past. After Jesus had been beaten multiple times, is covered in blood, exhausted from lack of sleep, and is wearing the greatest earthly shame, He next must walk through the streets carrying His cross. The cross falls a few minutes into the scene, and despite His condition, he stoops down to pick it up.

A few minutes later, He is knocked over. His eyes are blurred red from blood and His back shoulders splinters on raw skin, yet He stands up and again picks up His cross.

This doesn't only happen twice, but several times. Wrecked, gory, and exhausted He stoops low, grinds through the pain, and keeps carrying His cross. While I know this was an artistic interpretation, it puts a vivid picture in my mind of the verse "If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. "(Luke 9: 23)

In the exhaustion, pain, and grief, we better crouch down low and pick up our cross. It doesn't matter if we're broken, bloodstained, or near the edge of death, we pick up that cross. We bear that burden. We take the shame and humble ourselves in each situation so that we carry the burden like Christ Jesus.

So, as I look around, I am reminded that we all suffer as and because Christ has suffered. The challenge now is giving up enough of myself to pick up that cross and endure the evil and pain together with Christ. The love-strong relationship found in suffering with another is unmatched, and imagine the tie we have with Christ Jesus when we choose to endure with Him in a time such as this - this time of ISIS, health issues, divorce, spiritual manifestations, deceit, Ebola, terrorism, and death.

I have the phrase, "endurance, not indulgence" written in my planner at school, on the wall next to my bed, and sometimes on my wrist as a reminder that life with Christ requires the endurance of hardship so that bright Love can be spotted amid this darkness. Indulgence is taking the easier path so that I may forget pain, succumbing to myself and throwing out the opportunity to carry my cross- but then, I forget that He is using it to refine me. 

I am realizing that the best way I can walk this path towards becoming more like Him is by picking up my cross daily and following Him, because that's what He did - that's what He does together with us. I love and serve those around me, even those who will never love me in return, because that's what Christ does.

 "Love does not necessarily mean bless or agree with - 
 it means sacrifice or suffer with. 
 (This is how we) practice resurrection. 
 This is unspeakably hard. 
 This is unspeakably holy." 
 - Ann Voskamp

As you prayed for rain, we ask you to pray for spiritual protection of our family and the orphaned children we serve.  There are many struggles we are currently facing which are not against flesh and blood and we would appreciate your joining the battle alongside us in this way.


Joan Woodall said...

Katie,you have shared the reality of what your heart has endured, while carrying your cross for Jesus with honesty, love, and sorrow.....as Jesus did while serving His Father on earth. Bless you for your courage to share how good and hard missions can be. More stories like yours need to be shared, you have inspired me....God's blessings to you and your next steps with our Lord!! Joaie

Andy Steere said...

Thank you, Katie, for sharing your experiences. You have a perspective and wisdom beyond your years in working through the difficulty of suffering. I pray that your scars will lead towards resurrection in your own life, as Jesus' did in his. I read your thoughts through tears, as I recalled my own experiences wrestling with suffering, and thought of my children's own journeys in this area.

I find that developing a Biblical theodicy (theology of suffering) takes time...I have found NT Wright helpful as a trustworthy teacher in this area...his "For Everyone" commentary series on the NT is one of the best accessible but also scholarly Protestant evangelical resources in my experience...I was actually just reviewing some of his thoughts on 2 Corinthians this morning, and thought I might cut and paste them here for you:

(from 2 Cor 1:3-7)

"Paul’s theme throughout this letter is the strange royal comfort that comes through the suffering and death, and the new resurrection-life, of Israel’s Messiah, Jesus, the Lord of the world. This is the letter above all where he explores the meaning of the cross in terms of personal suffering—his own, and that of all the Messiah’s people.

But what we have in this opening passage is the lens through which Paul was determined to view all suffering, all the troubles of the world, his own included. It is the lens of the gospel; and here the gospel is turned into prayer.

He repeats the word ‘comfort’ in one form or another ten times in five verses. To say that this is obviously what’s on his mind doesn’t put it strongly enough; it sounds almost like an obsession.

Actually, the word he uses is a bit more many-sided than ‘comfort’. It can mean ‘to call someone to come near’, ‘to make a strong appeal or exhortation’, or ‘to treat in an inviting or friendly way’. The whole idea of the word is that one person is being with another, speaking words which change their mood and situation, giving them courage, new hope, new direction, new insights which will alter the way they face the next moment, the next day, the rest of their life. And when you put all that together in a bottle, shake it up, and pour it out for someone who is in the middle of deep suffering, the best word we can come up with to describe the effect is probably ‘comfort’.

If we said ‘console’ or ‘consolation’ that would pick up one aspect of it; but when you ‘console’ someone you simply bring them back from utter despair to ordinary unhappiness. The word Paul uses here, over and over again, does more than that. It meets people where they are, and brings them right on to the point where they are strong enough to see new hope, new possibilities, new ways forward.

At the heart of this prayer, and of the gospel, is the fact that what is true of the Messiah becomes true of his people. This is a central principle for Paul, not simply as a powerful idea and belief but as a fact of experience. The letter returns to this again and again, in what some have called a pattern of ‘interchange’: the Messiah died, so his people die in him, sharing his sufferings; the Messiah rose again, so his people rise again in him, knowing the power of the resurrection to comfort and heal, already in the present time, and cherishing the hope that one day they will be given new, resurrection bodies like the one the Messiah himself now has. This is basic to a good deal of the letter."

Wright's thoughts on the 'clay vessels" passage from 2 Cor 4:7-12 are equally insightful.

Bill & Jennifer Hildebrand said...

Katie, I have watched and admired you over the past 5 years. Your ability to help lead worship, speak in front of intimidating audiences, be an amazing friend to my son, play, tickle, hug, and love uncountable numbers of children. The list can go on and on. But I think what has captured my heart the most about you Katie is the depth and authenticity you show to everyone. Suffering isn't pretty, or fun, it's gut wrenching and just plain hard. I am praying for you sweet girl. I can't wait to see what God is going to do in and through you. I love you!