Luke 24:13-32
This is Jesus heartburn(I have to credit Dallas Willard for this term!)...31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

Monday, September 20, 2010

I Worry

Yesterday, for the 2nd time, I invited any of the children who wanted to talk more about the day's Bible Story to stay behind. The first time I did this I didn't really expect that any would stay. I thought maybe 1 or 2 who are hungry for God might be there; because the other option is free play time. What child would really choose Bible Study over football?!? But I had forgotten for a moment that these children are different. They depend on Jesus in a way that I can only hope to learn; that dependence leads them to want to know as much about Him as they possibly can. I think we ended up with about 12 who came with their Bibles ready to talk more about what they had heard.

The conversation with these kids is amazing and challenging. There is the language barrier and much of what is said must be translated; and then there is the difficulty of them not knowing simple things that I would usually expect children of their ages to know. Like how plants grow…they start from seeds, need soil, water and light, etc. But somehow (and I am sure it was the Holy Spirit) the conversation lead to one of the girls saying that she thinks about bad things happening (like the building collapsing) and she wonders how to stop that. Which lead to many of the kids sharing what they worry about. We acknowledged that bad things happen; there is a reason they worry about being hungry—"I worry about my belly" said one boy—because he's been more than just hungry before. They worry about people they love dying; because their parents are gone. They worry about what is happening to family members because they haven't seen them for months and don't hear from them. We all worry! I worry about falling down the hill outside the house again and if the food I am eating here will give me parasites. I wonder if the people I love are healthy and happy. I worry about the kids here growing up…will we be able to provide for them the best education, nutrition, and opportunities. We talked about all of this and then this amazingly, sweet, Biblical thing happened…each child and Uncle Andrew and I were invited to sit in the middle of the circle and each was prayed over.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:6 & 7

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Beautiful Mess

This evening I am sitting on the balcony overlooking the ocean (the sun is setting! WOW!), the ex-presidents peacocks, the roof of the orphanage and the houses large and small that cover the hills around and I am thinking about a book I read some time ago entitled a Beautiful Mess. Today I need to remember that God makes beautiful things from chaos and disorder; that the Kingdom of God is everywhere and He is often most present in the mess because that is when we need Him most.

Like now I hear the kids across the way screaming "Goal" and laughing because Andrew is playing football with them and it's beautiful; but yesterday the screams were from an all out preschool brawl in which 7 of our precious 3 and 4 year olds decided to riot in the hallway! I would pull one out of the pile and another would jump in. Oh how I am trying to turn the screams into joyful ones at all times! Our children a beautiful mess.

And then there is one of our 3 year olds--E (I will not put her name her in order to protect herJ), she is such a beautiful girl…but do you remember that rhyme…there was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead, and when she was good she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was AWFUL! That's E. All week she has been kicking me, throwing rocks at me, poking and pinching and biting me. One day last week she peed on me. But today she sat on my lap and looked into my eyes and said "Aunty Cari, I love you!" and I replied, "If you love me don't kick, bite, pinch or hurt me and I love you too!" She is a little mess! BUT with time and attention and lots of prayer, God can make something beautiful out of E. She is a beautiful mess.

And Lucy…I always manage to visit her at lunch time and she is covered head-to-toe in rice and green kasava leaves and drool but I have then she smiles! And I forget all about the mess and see only the beauty. Lucy is our beautiful mess whom God has great plans for!

I visited the old building today…what a mess! There's dirt and water and shoes and broken things everywhere and I was reminded that sometimes we need to make a mess in order to make things beautiful. They are in the midst of painting and that means they are making a mess but when it is all done the building will be beautiful again and the next occupants will be blessed by it. AND then I came back to our new facility and it is so fine! Wow, God has blessed us with a new space to mess up with the stuff of childhood…curious boys who take things apart, little girls who have never used a crayon before so how would they know not to write on the wall, rice on the floor from 3 meals a day, and dirty laundry everywhereJ

Freetown itself is a beautiful mess. A city filled with beautiful people living in some of the worst conditions you can imagine. I see their struggle and the daily suffering but I also see their smiles. Their friendship of one another and the community they create. God's Kingdom is here, in the midst of this chaos and disorder and there is great beauty all around.

And then there is me…most days I feel like a mess beyond description. I have fallen down so many times in the last few days that I have scrapes on both knees, one elbow, and one arm! As well as one gash on my forehead and a bruise by my eye. I am always sweating and I have a sunburn. At any given moment I am not sure what I am doing or why! And although YOU might not be as big of a mess as me, I am sure that God sees us both as beautiful and through us, WHEREVER we are He can bring his presence and create beauty out of chaos.

Monday, September 13, 2010

School Shopping

Today we went school shopping…imagine 7 pre-teens all with their own ideas about what they like! It would be difficult enough to take them to the mall all at once but shopping in Freetown is an experience in itself. We started by walking to the closest market where we found backpacks. The staff kept telling me they were so expensive as I shelled out $5-$10 for each of them. "Auntie Cari, tell them in America to send for us some backpacks!" So here is my plea…send for us some backpacks! Every child at the center would LOVE to have one if it were possible. The ones we bought today were cheap for a reason! I will be impressed if they last until Christmas, but then again I might be surprised!

Then it was off to the center of town to buy shoes. We went to "payless" which was a block of shoe vendors with every type of used shoe imaginable. Mostly you look for your size first and then see if you like it. If you are lucky they might have 2 sizes of the same shoe but mostly you just wander until you happen upon something. So we shoe shopped for 3 hours. Eventually after what seemed like walking for miles we had 7 pairs of black shoes.

We eventually found underclothes, socks, and sweet n' condensed mild sandwiches to complete our shopping trip. The kids were so grateful and it was fun to shop with them. I was wishing we had done it one at a time though.

All this shopping made me think about 2 things…1st, how isolated our kids are from the world around them. There was just as much new and interesting things for them to see and experience today as there were for me. They are being raised in a bubble, which is sweet and good for now, but how to we make sure that when they leave the bubble they can interact with their own culture and do simple things like going to the market and finding transport. These are things that parents teach their children mostly by example; so I will be looking for more ways to get the children outside of the bubble and into the world.

The other thing that truly struck me anew today is the amount of people in the world and God hears them all. This morning we had 30 adults in one room all praying out loud and to my ears it sounded like a horribly, chaotic mess and yet God hears every word of every person at every moment. Then in town the amount of people that are there selling and buying and going about their business was crazy…and God hears each of them and knows each one by name. It's not really a new thought, just one that made me stop and be grateful today that our God is big enough to hear all of us and know all of us and love all of us! WOW!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Poda Poda

This morning we left the familiar, isolated walls of the compound and went out into the city. Because the vehicle wasn't working we hired a poda poda. Amazingly this van with its metal frame and wooden seat benches and broken windows was a very nice poda poda compared to most others on the street. And with only 13 of us in it (I think it comfortably sits 15 or less) we experienced the luxury that those who take the poda poda everyday never experience—most of them are loaded down with at least 20 or 30 people. I found myself wishing that I could truly experience life as a Sierra Leonian today and at the same time grateful that I didn't have to. Even the poda poda ride was a luxury compared to what most people live with everyday here.

It took us many hours to get to the children's hospital where I had the opportunity to interact with one of the head nurses and ask her questions about what her job is like everyday. What an inspiration! Last time I was there I only saw the sick and starving children; today God showed me the women who work everyday to educate others on how to care for their children. In the midst of her sharing her heart and work with me she asked me if she could ask a favor…here we go, I thought, it's always something; she's going to ask me for something I can't provide or something that will not bring sustainable life here…I nearly wept when she asked me for a digital camera. She wants to take pictures of the malnourished children when they come into the hospital and pictures of them when they leave healthy and well fed, so that the new moms who come will see what hope looks like. They will know that their child can be saved and that these nurses can help. It wasn't about something big or expensive or crazy it was a request for a way to bring hope. I will figure out how to get Nurse Fatmata a camera and I am humbled to be a part of providing just a bit of hope to her.

In the ICU, where I usually see the chaos and the desperation and want to help but cannot; I saw a new friend from the Bible Study I go to, gently explain that they were using every resource available to them to save and sustain life. She works everyday with the knowledge that she can only do so much and the rest she has to leave in the hands of God and those whom she is training to work with the patients. I was reminded again that it is not me that saves…it's not TRS that saves…we need to trust that it is God that saves and I just need to be faithful.

Faithfulness is what it keeps coming back to for me these days. Trust that God will take care of the rest.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Imagination and Faith

I am back in Sierra Leone. It was quick trip home and the days just flew by and suddenly it was time to get back on a plane and come back again. I have to admit that this time around it was much harder to say "see you soon" to everyone that I love and miss so much. Being home made me realize several things including that even though I am so busy here that I don't notice it, I'm lonely. I knew before I left that I was feeling that loneliness creep in but I didn't realize the extent until I was back in a place, surrounded by friends and family, where I could have long, deep, meaningful conversations with people who know and understand me. I realized how much I had taken for granted in having those special friendships and relationships and how much I need to cultivate those here, even if I am only here a short time. 2 years once seemed like a very short time, now it is starting to feel like forever! I also realized AGAIN, that God has called me to work with children…the vulnerable, the mistreated, the forgotten and abused…and it doesn't matter where they are or where I am, I can be Jesus to them. For right now, my work is with these precious orphans in Sierra Leone and coming back to them has renewed my desire to see them grow and flourish here.

Tonight was another step in the journey of my faith as God continues to confirm things in me. I went to the monthly international worship service and the speaker's words were just for me. She talked about faith and imagination. She used the words of Jesus in Luke 17:5-6 The apostles came up and said to the Master, "Give us more faith." But the Master said, "You don't need more faith. There is no 'more' or 'less' in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, 'Go jump in the lake,' and it would do it.

I was struck by the thought that it's not about how much faith we have…I always am asking for more…or how much you believe; it is about allowing God to work in us and open our imaginations. No one would think to ask God to move a tree; that takes imagination. Humans imagine ways to torture and hurt each other; God imagines a place where the lion lays down with the lamb. The world imagines that there is no hope in poverty; God imagines a world without poverty—and world where there is ALWAYS hope regardless of how much you have or don't have—a world where the amount of money or education or "success" you have does not matter; what matters is are you loved and known by God.

My prayers recently have often been similar to the disciples request…Give me more faith…but tonight I heard the Spirit speaking in me…you have enough faith, it's not about more or less. Now it's time to begin to imagine with God what it might look like to live and move and minister as if His will in heaven could truly be done on earth.

Tonight I'm back in Sierra Leone…with crappy internet access, cold showers, bugs, no electricity, rain, jetlag…have I complained enough yet?...and I know that what I need is not more faith, not more knowledge or wisdom or whatever else, it's just to rest in the Lord, knowing that he will reveal and equip and use me EVEN when I'm crabby!