"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

Monday, November 7, 2016

Broken and Hungry...

By Katie Smith

What in the world is God doing with all of these broken hearts and hungry souls? This is the question on my heart and in my mind. When I travel, I see them - the child searching hopelessly for love, the woman aching with pain from abuse, the old man starved of hope. When I am in the U.S., I see them as well – the middle school-aged child running away from home, the driven college student chasing grades, the lonely kid on a Friday night who doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere.

I think there is this strange dynamic around the world consisting of two groups of hungry people; one group (usually the more Westernized group) is hungry for purpose. They chase drugs and sex and alcohol and violence, hoping that something will fill their hungry hearts. The second group is literally hungry. They beg, grow thin, and starve hoping that something will fill their stomachs or someone will provide shelter to protect them at night. The first group has resources but no joy because material possessions leave you joyless. The second group has a glimpse of the love-strong relationship found in suffering with Christ and, shockingly, lives with more joy. But they don’t really live; they “get by” because of injustice and poverty.

And I can’t help but think... 

What if the first group reached out to the second group? What if the empty people found the hungry people and were able to recognize that there really aren’t any differences, that we are all in need of Something Greater than this world can satisfy? What if the people who are empty in the United States gave to the people who are hungry in the Third World and we were all filled with God’s holy joy and purpose for our lives? This is the banquet dreamed about in Luke 14. This is the dream behind the Greatest Banquet – filling each other. 

What if the millennial generation used their blessedness to be a blessing? What if we full-heartedly embodied Christ’s love, the starting point for change and the wrapping paper for all of God’s other gifts? Not only would the hungry begin to receive food, shelter, healthcare, education, and a chance to break free of the cycle of poverty, but the empty would begin to be fulfilled because they would experience the joy of giving. 

It’s my hope and my dream to see the millennial generation rise up and take a stance against evil by embracing the love God has given them. Imagine what the world would look like if we took what our generation is called, Generation Me, turned it 180 degrees around, and become Generation YOU. Imagine the joy and peace that would abound if we live for each other instead of ourselves. Are you hungry? Reach out. Fill and be filled by Love. 

I wrote this in my journal on a cold day last December after all my classes were unexpectedly cancelled. God placed a dream inside of me to see young people reach out to the needy around them and create change simply because they are so in love with God.

Although I didn’t know what would come of it at the time, I felt like this dream involved uniting the people I know and love in Kenya who are in desperate situations to the people I know and love in the United States who are eager to serve in various ways. 

This dream came true for me last week. 13 students from 11 different colleges applied for passports and visas so they could fly to the land full of fresh chai, lush gardens, and 196 orphaned children I consider my family. 

We journeyed through the country, tirelessly engaging children, peers, and adults in conversation and soaking up the richness of relationship. We filled ourselves up with the love of God and learned what it means to intentionally and immediately love those around us. But mostly, we said “yes” to God whenever He changed our plans or prompted us to move. 

We danced ridiculously in church with an entire community instead of eating lunch alone as a team. We cleaned toilets and made each other laugh to the point of tears instead of getting a good night’s rest. We embraced the joy of adventure instead of anxiety when we got lost in the dark on our team-bonding hike. (Let me tell you, we bonded.) 

So, I’ll tell you what I think God is doing with all these broken hearts and hungry souls: I believe He allows us to be broken by our sin so He can knit us into a tapestry of love, redeeming us by His mysterious and powerful grace”(Colossians 2:2-4). He allows us to hurt so that we can unite with and impact others, and through impacting others, experience Him more fully. 

I saw it these past two weeks: how the soul-hungry reached out to the literally-hungry, and we all found joy. We found joy because when God asked us to go and make disciples of all nations, He meant it; and, the only true fulfillment we will ever find is in God’s calling for our lives. 

We give, serve, and love not only because it’s what God has called us to do, not only because it meets the needs of others, and not only because we find tremendous joy in doing so, but we do it because we are so ridiculously blessed by our Father in Heaven. 

Do you ache to see a world that smiles, is full of compassion, and is so empowered by love that it conquers evil? Are you ready to fill and be filled by Love? 

Thanks for being a part of our lives... DREAMS CAN COME TRUE!! 

Monday, February 1, 2016

To SEE...

Every morning as I crawl out of bed, the first thing I reach for is my glasses.  I want to SEE, definitely not myself, not at 6am. But, I want to see. I want to clearly see what’s in front of me, and I want to see my people.

I recently read a story in the Old Testament about an African girl who was taken from her village and forced to work as a slave for a prominent family far from her home country. The man of the house impregnated her against her will.  She was legitimately angry and became rebellious.  This didn’t sit well with the missus, who verbally and physically abused her, causing her to run away into the wilderness.  Alone, destitute and heavy with child, she sat to rest by a spring.

Inexplicably, as she sat there, God Himself appeared and spoke to her. He told her to return and serve this abusive lady and to do it with a change of attitude. God even told her she was carrying a son, who would grow to be a pain in the a** (the actual word used was donkey, but the point was clear). She was overwhelmed and humbled by God’s visit to her and His interest in her life. She gave Him the name Elroi, “the God who sees.”  This is the story of the slave girl Hagar from the Old Testament.

To see – really see - beyond the visible, into the heart, illuminating the darkness has penetrated my mind’s eye as I’ve read about Hagar. God sees. It’s one of my favorite things about Him. He sees our true condition, our affliction, our joy. God sees and He acts.  He spoke words of truth, words of direction and words of encouragement over Hagar, and He does the same for us.

Last week, we took Isaac to the hospital. That statement alone is a miracle, and I love that his name hearkens back to the story of Hagar. Isaac is a new little guy at The Shelter.  He came with his younger brother, from whom he’s been separated since they were orphaned two years ago. Coming from a polygamous family, his stepmother, who was also widowed when the boys’ father died, couldn’t care for both of them along with her own seven children. She sent Isaac to live with a pastor, but he struggled to provide food, let alone schooling, for Isaac because he had twelve other orphans in his care.

Isaac had been having some pain and trouble with his bowels, but did not complain because, as far as he could remember, this was normal.  The keen eyes of the Shelter mama found him stressed in the bathroom and the bowl full of blood. She alerted us, and we acted immediately. Thankfully, under the watchful eye of the doctor at Tenwek Hospital, the source of the problem was uncovered and repaired, and he was sent home to heal.

God sees.  He sees His children.  God saw Isaac when no one else did, and He acted.  He brought Isaac to The Shelter. The mama saw him and brought his issues to light. His sponsor and the Angel sponsors saw him and provided the means to receive medical attention. The doctor saw him and brought him healing.  His problem has been seen, known, and addressed. 

Even more than that, Isaac is receiving loving care and his physical, spiritual, social and educational needs are beginning to be addressed.  He’s only five, but he’s so thankful. He’s thankful for food and a bed.  He’s thankful to be with his brother again.  He’s thankful to be healing.

We too want to see.  In 2016, we want to see the way God saw desperate Hagar, the way He saw suffering little Isaac. We want to see into issues more clearly, more completely and more compassionately.  I’m thankful we were able to see this story unfold.  I look forward to sharing what God shows us this year.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Beautiful Mess

It is a holy experience, when God brings a needy child into our path. There’s something in those moments, similar to a birth or an adoption, where the presence of God is tangibly felt as He entrusts the care of one of His seen children into our hands.   Words aren’t enough because it’s deep and precious, and bold and outrageous. Thinking back, there’s a knowing, that God was there, and deep soul emotion stirs on remembering because of it’s significance on many levels.  And over time, as that child becomes known, the significance grows.

That is how it was the day I met Anna, Sammi, and Eman*.  The moment and the meeting was steeped in God’s favor. There wasn’t smiling, laughing or embracing, just an awareness that God was moving and that we were supposed to get involved. It was a holy moment.

Their story is heart wrenching and messy. They have the same mother, but unknown fathers. Hurting and broken, mama had turned to drugs and alcohol to mask her pain, and prostitution to support her addictions.  In an unnatural moment she locked them in a house and left. Screaming with fear and hunger, the children were found by neighbors and brought to the hospital suffering from severe malnutrition and dehydration. Eight-year-old Anna was hungry, but physically ok.  She had never been to school. Two-year-old Sammi and seven month old Eman were near death, weighing less than 10 pounds and less than 5 pounds respectively. They are lucky to be alive. The hospital social worker asked us to take the children to the Oasis home when the month long search for the mother came up empty. 

We’re still looking for their mama.  She also needs help. Further investigations are also ongoing to determine if there is other family who could or should be involved but until then, they will remain safely at the Oasis home. 

Anna started school this month and was thrilled to have a uniform, her first new clothes ever. Her smile was radiant. The boys are improving slowly and have just begun smiling. What God will do with these three, only He knows but I am thankful to have been invited into their beautiful mess. 
*names have been changed for privacy