Friday, October 30, 2009

Life On A Different Plane

Another ministry that Debby is involved with is Link Ministries, a center for vulnerable women to learn skills and make things to earn a living. Chuck and Debby found Elizabeth, who is about 20 years old, living in a tiny hut on the street several months ago.

She was sick and weak. Her parents were killed in the genocide and at some point she was sent from her village to the city to find work. She was taken advantage of, as many young girls are in this place, and she ended up with AIDS. She didn't know she was HIV positive until Chuck and Debby started helping her and got her tested. They got her involved in Link Ministries and found her a little place to live. Another young girl is living with Elizabeth to help her and make sure she takes her medicine and gets the right nutrition. We have visited the center twice, and Debby took me to visit Elizabeth and Felicite at their house today. They live in what I would call a slum section; the very poorest houses. They live in a concrete house the size of a small bedroom. The roof is made from slabs of corrugated metal. The house is divided into two rooms, one holds two twin mattresses, the other holds a small table, two chairs, and an assortment of pots, dishes, and water containers. It is truly the barest essentials. Their house in surrounded by other similar shacks and lots of dirt, which turns to mud in the rain. No pretty view or nice manicured lawns. Not even a decent, child-friendly yard with bare patches here and there. I can't imagine living with so little, and in such dirty conditions. Yet they are happy and grateful to have even that. It is a far step above Elizabeth's former accommodations. And she is stronger, her health is much better, and she has something worthwhile to do with her time. It is amazing what little these people can make do with. Here are Elizabeth and Felicite in their house.

Here's a shot of their mattresses stacked up.

After visiting awhile the girls took us over to see another of the girls who works at the center. I will call her Grace. Grace is also HIV positive, along with the oldest of her two little girls. They live in a house built by the government that is divided into four square sections. One family lives in each room. Her room is not much bigger than half of Elizabeth's house. Her girls are five and seven years old, but they look three and five, sizewise. Grace has been very difficult for the center to work with; she does not like to work. She claims to be 21 but no one knows for sure. She doesn't know when she was born and never knew her parents. Her mother was a street girl and gave her to an old woman in the village. Grace lived with this woman until she died; then Grace went to the streets to try to survive. She must have been around 14 years old when she gave birth to her first child. Imagine not knowing where you came from or who your parents are. It's like having no identity. The way these women think is entirely different. They are traumatized by their past, by the lack of love, provision, and training. They can't get out of poverty because they have no concept of thinking for the future, saving money, or how to properly care for themselves and their children. For all practical purposes, they are still children themselves. They have not had the guidance to reach mental and emotional maturity. They seem to learn skills quickly at the center and can make beautiful things. If they had the mentality to work and plan for the future, they could make a decent living. But they can't seem to think that way. Instead of making a quantity of their product and selling it at one time, they want to take one item as soon as they make it, sell it, and then spend the money, often for clothes or other things that aren't practical or they don't need desperately. Food is not as valuable to them as other things. It's amazing, but they tell me that people here will often go for days without eating and it doesn't seem to faze them. It's just the way they live. They are hard-wired for survival and used to scraping by with very little. We don't understand how they can survive the way they do, and even they can't explain how they make it. Many of them will gladly go without food for a day so they can go to school. Or, as these vulnerable women, they would rather buy something pretty and let themselves and their children go hungry. Grace simply does not like to work hard. They have tried to get her to see that she needs to work so she can feed her children and get proper nourishment herself. They do receive a meal at the center on the days she works there. But for awhile she was very upset with the director and didn't want to come anymore. She thought she had it all figured out. She would put her kids to bed and they would just sleep all the time, so they were being good and she thought that made her a good mother. She wouldn't have to work because they would sleep and she wouldn't have to feed them. Obviously the poor kids must have been so weak from malnutrition that they couldn't do much else but sleep. The worst thing is when the children suffer for their parents' faulty reasoning and unwise decisions. Yet we don't want to just give them handouts, because they have to learn to work honestly for what they need. A lot of times if someone would give them a bunch of food or clothes for the kids, they would just sell it and buy something else. It's a tough dilemma, especially with kids involved. I believe the situation with "Grace" has improved, but she still would rather not work. She was not at the center all this week because she has been sick. Despite the obstacles, these women need someone to love them, and they need hope. We must pray that if nothing else gets through, the love of Jesus and the hope of eternal life in Him does.
Here is a parting shot of me, "Grace", Elizabeth, Judith who is the overseer at the Link Center, and Grace's two girls.

Please pray that the love of Jesus will be real to these young women and their children and that everyone here who are trying to help will be His love channel and know the right thing to do in each situation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I'm not feeling profound today, so I decided to give you some candid shots to trip your cute meter. These kids are the most fun thing about my stay so far. They absolutely go berserk when you take their photo and then show them! It's like the funniest thing to them! I imagine some of them have never seen their own photo, unless lots of other crazy camera-toting muzungus (white people) like us have driven through their villages. Even the adults think it's the greatest thing, except there are some who don't want their picture taken. I know we provide them quite the entertainment! Anyway, enjoy! I love these!
These are some kids who were playing around by a soccer game that we went to watch. One of the Baldwins, guards, Theo, plays on this team and we wanted to see him in action. I didn't follow the game too well, though. I kept getting distracted flirting with these kids, taking pictures, and drawing in the dirt with them.

These are some of the village kids that live near Jotham's Center. Usually when we go there they are hanging around outside the gate, trying to see inside, curious about what we're doing in there.

And here are some kids from another village we were in today. We went to visit a place where they teach organic gardening and farming, and we met these cuties up the road a ways. It started with two and more just kept coming. These kids would laugh and squeal at their pictures and then beg for "another photo"! There were about three of us taking one picture after another and they just really got into it, showing off and everything! The one kid is quite the acrobat. He was walking around in this position for a bit, but he also did a handstand and a flip! Oh, if you notice the one woman in the background with the little feet sticking out at her waist? She has a baby tied on her back. That's how they carry their babies.

Everywhere I go, the kids trip my trigger. Can you blame me? They are so precious!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rolling In Fun

Our second visit to the boys at Jotham's Center was a blast! I took matchbox cars that I had brought for them from the States. But first Debby wanted to give them a lesson on road safety, using a little road scene she had drawn. They knew beforehand we were coming, so when we arrived they were ready with a couple songs they wanted to do for us. It was so cool; I wish you could have heard them! They have good rhythm and great voices! They even danced on one of the songs; I would post video but we haven't figured out how or if we can do that yet with the slow connection. So you'll have to be content with snapshots for now.

We went on to the lesson, and the boys were very attentive. They just couldn't seem to quite get the point Debby was trying to make, though. She wanted them to understand what is the safest way to walk on the roads. Of course they are far out of the city right now so they had to imagine being there with the busy roads. Debby used a few of the little cars for the visual. But the boys kept wanting to move the cars at first when she asked them to demonstrate how they would go. They didn't understand she wanted them to show how they would walk in relation to the cars.

We still aren't sure if they really got it, but she sure tried hard! Then we got them in on the action. Debby gave them crayons and two more sheets of paper to draw more roads and anything else they could think of to fill the picture with scenery. At first no one really wanted to volunteer, but after a few of them agreed to try their hand, it wasn't long until most of the group was into it with gusto!

Here is the finished product! Also a closeup of my favorite page. They have some real talent.!

In the meantime I was having fun taking pictures and showing some of the boys their images on my camera. They thought it was the funniest thing and and abslutely loved it! At one point I was sitting down with a whole crowd completely encircling me and pressing in to see videos of themselves singing!

Finally we got to the goodies... I handed out the matchbox cars. We also had a couple useful things for them: a bag in which to keep their belongings and a jar of vaseline lotion, which they use on their skin and hair for dryness. Oh, and we mustn't forget the cookies! You would have thought it was Christmas!

I wonder if my brothers ever got as much joy out of their large collection of cars as these kids did over one single car. They just don't have such things, so the smallest gift is pure delight for them. And what a joy for us to be the givers. Yet what they truly need is not anything we can give them. They need the solid hope and faith that comes from God. If they get ahold of Him, it doesn't matter whether they are ever able to make a good life for themselves in this world or not. That is important, yes, but not eternally significant. The dilemma that Chuck and Debby are facing and that all of us, if we truly care about the needs of the world, will face, is how to know people's greatest needs, how to go about meeting them rather than simply giving handouts, how far to go in giving help, and how to balance that with effectively pointing them to the One who is everything they need. Perhaps we will never feel capable of this or know if we have been successful. But God knows. He doesn't need us to accomplish His will on earth, but He chooses to use us. Remember the pot? It is not our job to worry about success or results or to obsess over whether or not we're doing things right. Our responsibility is to stay in tune with our Maker and submit to His use. He knows our hearts. If we truly love Him and desire to be used for His purpose in the world, He will have His way with us, whether we are aware of it or not. I know that's easier said than believed: trust me, I'm preaching to myself here. But I believe it is the truth and the more we focus on the truth vs. what we're seeing and feeling the stronger our faith will grow. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." Heb. 11:1 We are used to substances that we can see, touch, and hold in our hands. Faith is the substance of things we cannot yet see or hold. But they are nonetheless very real promises that we will one day receive in full. If we could see and touch them now, there would be no faith in it! The faith is in our hoping for something that is promised but not yet delivered. If you've ordered an item from an online store, do you sit around moping because you don't have it in your possession and therefore you are certain it can never be yours? Of course not! You know that you paid for that item and it has been marked to be shipped to you and it will arrive at your door in a matter of days or weeks. In good faith you believe that the item is yours, even though you cannot yet see it and hold it in your hands. I know that sounds simple; I think that's because it really is! It is only that deception has so clouded our minds and hearts that our natural reaction to God's promises is doubt rather than faith. That is a battle we will fight as long as we walk this earth. But praise Jesus, the battle's already won and our enemy's days are numbered! That is why God stressed the importance of keeping our eyes on Jesus, for He is the Author and Finisher of our faith! In Him, it is finished! There is no doubt, there is no question. I pray that all of us be given the grace to look to Him today.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

African Melodies

Kigali is alive with sounds. It's not what we are used to in American cities. Yes, there is traffic noise, but as you go higher up the hills away from the center of town, that becomes muffled. You can hear children playing and laughing almost any time of the day. Add to that other sounds of activity, such as hammering, chipping, conversations: the Rwandan people seem to thrive on social life. I see people hanging around, often in groups, talking on the city streets or around houses. They are also big into loud. Meaning whatever is going on, a church service, a soccer game, a wedding, the radio.... they like it loud! At different times I can hear singing, speaking, clapping, cheering from places somewhere in the valley or in the neighborhood. If it's quiet enough or I'm near a window, I hear the Muslim prayer call, which goes out several times during the day. It's a hauntingly beautiful melody, and yet saddening to realize how so many people are led astray by the Muslim religion in our world. Today there is a wedding celebration going on at a house above us. You can't see much of things going on inside the compounds because of the high walls everywhere, but we can see the pointed tops of the tents they rent for such events. We have been hearing speaking, music, and conversation for several hours. Chuck and Debby said that this is the quietest celebration they've ever heard in all the African countries they've been. I guess they are usually much noisier. And they would often go on for several days! I'm not sure if they do that here; I guess I'll find out. It sounds so festive, though. It would be interesting to see what goes on there. They usually have their weddings on the weekends. Then you have the music of nature. The birds are in abundance and their songs are brighter and more musical than the ones I'm used to at home. And at night... there is something we suspect is a frog that sounds just like blowing bubbles in milk with a straw! Oh, and there are roosters and dogs everywhere and sometimes I can hear cows and occasionally the bleating of a goat. I wish I could capture the sounds for people at home to hear, but you will just have to imagine it. I like to just listen sometimes, especially when I'm looking out over the city at night, over the lights dotting the valley and then twinkling up the hills like living things. To be honest I prefer the quiet and space of the country. But Kigali really is a neat city and unique in the melody it makes. Take some time today to stop and listen to the music around you. It does something good for your heart.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Daddy's Favorite

I feel bad that I haven't posted in several days, but everything I want to write about really should have pictures to go along with it, and I'm not real savvy on the picture thing yet on a different computer, so I'm waiting for assistance. I will try to get more up real soon! But until then I thought I'd share about something God is working on with me right now. I am doing a devotional of the book "Hinds Feet On High Places". This is an excellent book; I've read it several times and every time I read it I get a new and deeper application. It's an allegory, and I absolutely love allegories because they're full of analogies, and I love analogies! The comparison of familiar things that we can see and touch and experience to spiritual truths can really connect things between the mind and the heart. It's the story of a girl named Much Afraid, who could be any of us. She lives in a valley where she serves the Chief Shepherd (Jesus). But she comes from the Fearing family. She has a bundle of depressing relatives: Gloomy, Spiteful, Pride, Craven Fear, Self-Pity, Resentment... you get the picture. They are her "demons"; we all have them. She is also crippled in her feet and disfigured. She loves the Shepherd but is still bound by these fears and blemishes and so He invites her to take a journey to the High Places in the Kingdom of Love where He will give her hinds feet and cause Love to grow and bear fruit in her heart. The recent devotional thoughts in the book have talked about our Father's love, acceptance, and grace even as we are under the enemy's attack and paralyzed by our weaknesses. Today's reading invited me to stop and just think about God's love and acceptance of me until I am resting in that security, to talk to Him just like a child to their father. So I began telling Him honestly how I feel about the whole acceptance and approval thing; I know what the Bible says, that God made me accepted in the Beloved, through His grace, and I can agree with the truth in my head all the time, but I've been telling Him that my actual beliefs, based on my feelings, are another story. I always think that i have to impress God. If I want to Him to actually be pleased with me and favor me, I have to get things right. I have to get in the Word and meditate on it enough. I have to pray enough with fervor and passion for everyone and everything. If I really want to know God's will and follow Him and be a faithful servant I have to study and get amazing insights and fast and cry out and get serious enough that God will be impressed and take me seriously. I just can't let go of the belief that if I am going to break out of my fears and everything that holds me back and have God's power let loose and know my life counts for God's kingdom, it depends on me. Basically I have this misconception that I have to pass some spiritual test and prove myself to God. But you know what God showed me? I'm on the same bandwagon with those guys in Hinduism or whatever religion it is where they whipped themselves, laid on beds of nails, cut themselves with knives, and made pilgrimages to some faraway holy place walking on their knees! In fact it's the same mindset that every religion on the face of this planet lives by and thereby condemns themselves to death. The unchangeable, unstoppable, untameable, indescribable God Who is God alone, Who sits on the throne over all principalities and powers, He is not a religion. He is a living, breathing, loving, creating God Who holds all things in His hands and Who longs for a deep, sizzling, personal relationship with you and me because that's what He made us for!!! That is my Father. I hope He is yours, too. He approves me and favors me not for anything I do or don't do, but because when He looks at me, He sees His beloved Son. Jesus Christ has clothed me in His righteousness and filled me with His own life; how could God ever love me less? Do you feel the weight of what this means? If you are born again by the incorruptible seed of the Holy Spirit, God loves you exactly the way He loves His only begotten Son; you are His favored one! Now my Father loves me so much He went beyond that and gave me a picture; take a look at this.

This is a brand new me in my daddy's arms. Every time I look at this photo I get this incredible feeling; I feel cherished. I feel special. I feel like Daddy's favorite. You can see the wonder and the tender love in his face, in the way he's cradling me. Now just a note to my siblings: this is not saying that Daddy loves me best. Yes, there is a special distinction to being the firstborn, the first one to elicit such awe. That's just to make up for everything else I've put up with! :) LOL; love you guys! But seriously, to a father who knows his children are gifts from God, each one of a kind, every one is his favorite. There's no rational way to explain it, but a father's heart always has room for one more. And his love is just as deep for number 9 as it is for number 1. I know not everyone has had an earthly father who cherished them. I would never downplay that pain. But God is the one Father who has room in His heart for every person in the world and every one of His children is His favorite. He looks at you with with that same unconditional, adoring, amazed love. Not because you worked hard and earned it. Not because you deserve it. Not because you're more beautiful or more intelligent or more gifted or more anything than anybody else. Did I do anything to merit such love from my Dad? Did I work to become me in the womb; did I bring myself into the world; did I have anything to offer to my Mom and Dad when I arrived? Nope. Only a helpless, needy, demanding person, totally at their mercy. It's simply because you're His. You are one of a kind, created to love and be loved. You're God's favorite you. I'm His favorite me. But most of all it's because you and I bear the image of Jesus Christ, the Beloved Son. That will never, ever depend on what good we have done, or what evil we have conquered, or anything we could make of ourselves. That depends on the FINISHED work of Jesus on the cross; He is the firstborn from the dead, the forerunner of all God's new creations, and because of what He did for you and me, if we've received His grace (undeserved favor) through faith, we are sons and daughters of God and partakers of His inheritance! Hallelujah! Now I'm excited! Just think about it people; really think about it! Ask your Father to show you if it's really true. He will not let you down! Man, if anybody's seen Fruitcake and Ice Cream by Louie Giglio, you'll understand that I'm going a little bit crazy right now! That's God! He's so cool! And I pray for each of you tonight that God will show you how MUCH He loves you, that you will be able to comprehend (and believe) with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height; to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory...forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:18-21) And that's all for now...from Daddy's favorite. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Stand Up or Stand By

I just finished watching Hotel Rwanda. If you've never seen it, you should. It is not overly graphic and does not give you the big picture of the horror, but still the visual makes a stronger connection with your emotions than what you may have read or heard. I doubt many in the West have read much about the genocide, and those in my generation are too young to remember or perhaps never even knew that such a thing happened. I did not know much about it until I came here to Rwanda and started reading some books that tell stories of survival. I just wonder how our country, along with many others, could stand by and watch such atrocities take place. But then how many people even knew the truth of what was happening? I want to blame the outside world for not being quick enough to stop it, and yet I cannot be the judge. What could ordinary citizens have done? Our governments did not send in armies to stop the killing. Could a few people taking a stand have made a difference? Maybe some did stand up and speak out, maybe some petitioned our leaders to do something. I do not know. I cannot be the judge of people's hearts, especially when I had no knowledge of it at the time. It just breaks your heart to see in the movie when all the internationals were pulling out of Rwanda and the feeling of hopelessness for the people who were left with almost no one to defend them. To feel the callousness or perhaps the ignorance of American and European governments, that these people being slaughtered were not worth saving. Now maybe that's not the whole picture. And I've heard that the story of Hotel Rwanda is not completely accurate from the people's viewpoint. They say the man who saved all these people was doing it for money, not out of true compassion. I think we may never see the whole picture. We have to believe that God does and He is still good. History carries many other examples of such evil. Look at the Holocaust. How many German citizens and people of other nations simply stood by and ignored what was happening? But how many stories are there, told and untold, of brave people who risked speaking out or reaching out to those being hunted to save them from death? I keep asking myself: what would I have done? What would I do now if such a thing were to happen somewhere? What about the wars, death, and suffering that is going on all over the world? Has it even affected me? Does it break my heart? What am I doing? What does God want me to do? NO, I cannot save the world. I cannot feed every hungry child. I cannot care for every orphan. I cannot help every disadvantaged person find a better life. I cannot stop wars, disease, famine. I cannot lead every lost soul to Christ. But I can make a difference to ONE. I'm sure you've heard the story of the starfish on the beach, and the little boy who was throwing them back in the ocean. You and I can start with one. And our God is a multiplier. Think loaves and fishes. We may think we have nothing to give. All He asks is that we give ourselves. Jesus Christ in you and in me will do the rest. Debby was sharing with me today that her heart wants to help everyone, and yet she's learned through her years on the mission field that giving handouts may make you feel good, but it's not what people really need. If they can concentrate on helping a small group of people, individuals here and there, concentrating resources to really help these people get on their feet, it will make a lasting change for them and hopefully they will be able to go on and help others. It is hard to keep your focus on a select group when there is a myriad of need all around you, but the body of Christ is made up of many, many individuals. If each one of us reaches out to someone else and it is passed on and on down the line, we can reach the world. All it takes is love. God's love. We must lose ourselves to His love. We must ask Him to transform us with his love, for if I have not love, I am nothing. Without love I cannot even find it in my heart to reach one. But when Love comes, He casts out fear and endures forever. If you are wondering what you could ever do to change the world or even leave one corner brighter, I would encourage you to pray along with me and ask God to give you His heart and then use you to make a difference to just one person. Let's ask and see what He will do. Perhaps this is the very best way that we can stand up and fight for life. For it is only in real love that we have the power to lay down our lives for another. May it be so.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Come As A Child

A few days ago we visited Jotham's Center, a home for street boys. It's further up in the mountains in a rural area. People stare at a white person everywhere you go, but in this area we are even more of a novelty. You frequently hear them using a word which means "white person". I quote from the movie "Friendship's Field"... "Now I know how Marilyn Monroe feels."
There are 24 boys living at Jotham's Center. Their living quarters is very simple and primitive. They have two bedrooms for the boys, 12 in each room. 3 Bunkbeds in each room. The boys double up on each bunk. When the center was started back in January they had to sleep on the floor, which is now concrete but used to be dirt. The boys keep their few belongings and any extra clothes they have in feed sacks which they hang around the room. We brought shorts and t-shirts that had been sent or Chuck and Debby had bought. The t-shirts are throw-aways from the U.S., stuff the Goodwill stores won't use. They buy them in huge bundles, all different sizes. To these boys who are wearing the same clothes for months, dirty and tattered, our "throw-aways" are like new. They were so excited! Here the boys are lined up outside, waiting to go in two at a time to pick out their new clothes.

Each boy received a new pair of shorts and two shirts. We also handed out chewing gum.

They really don't speak English, but they know "thank you" and they all used it. Afterwards we took pictures of all of them in their new clothes.

Then they prayed to thank God for the clothes and to pray for us. I wish you could hear them. I don't know where each boy is in his faith and relationship with God, but they have next to nothing and the only thing they can have for sure is faith in the God who loves them, sees them, and wants to be their Father. With the simple faith of children who are living off the bare essentials and depending on others to help them survive, they prayed earnestly to the God they are learning to know. They all pray at once and it is such a beautiful thing to watch and to hear. They are not looking around to see what others are doing or if anyone is watching; each one is caught up in his own sincere heart cry to the Father. They may not know much, but I have a feeling they have greater faith than we may ever have in our material comfort and self-dependence. May our Father, our Provider, our Life bring us into total dependence on Himself. For it is only in knowing our poverty that we can become truly rich.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Who Am I?

I am humbled. I do not see myself as a minister for God. I know all my weaknesses, everything that holds me back. I know my own lack of love and concern for souls. It is incredibly humbling to know that as I have opened up my life and this new experience to my friends through this blog, there are many people "watching" me, and not just people who know me anymore. Now my limited musings are being shared with others who I have never met and have the potential to impact their lives! Oh, I don't mind people sharing it with others who would be interested, but to be honest it scares me a little. Just to know that the only impression some of my readers have of me is whatever I choose to express in these writings. And I don't see anything spectacular in my life or in what I am doing with it that would be able to draw others closer to Jesus. But on second thought, it's better that way. If I thought I was anything it would be pride and God would not get the glory. So let me assure you, if you see anything here that touches or impresses you, it is Jesus Christ! May He keep me constantly in the mind that I am nothing but His vessel, created for His use, just as we would use a chair, a fork, or a pair of scissors. I was thinking about the beautiful but dusty red roads of Kigali. It reminds me of the dust from which we were made and also the clay that is used to make vessels. I am simply an ordinary clay pot. "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." 2 Cor. 3:7 I do not really know what I am doing here, but God does! After all, does your pot know what you are doing with it? Do you suppose (if it had a mind), that it might wonder if you are going to make soup today or if you are going to boil a chicken? I don't have to know what my Maker is doing! He is going to do what He has planned and my weakness is not big enough to stand in His way! In fact, my weakness makes room for Him to work! I am reading a book written by a survivor of the genocide in Rwanda. As he is telling about how God began to use him in the years since the genocide, he makes an awesome statement: "When I offer up my lack, there is much more room for God to make up the difference." It doesn't matter what you or I lack; it could be anything. If I lack love, wisdom, understanding, and the ability to relate comfortably with people, then God is able to bring in His strength in direct proportion to my lack! So the more we can come to the brokenness and humility of our own desperate need and shortcomings, the more God can move and become visible in our lives. Thank you, my friends, for listening! It really helps me to have to think through these things so I can try to put it in words for you. It is a sort of accountability; after all, no man is an island. This trip is not just something for me to experience in the safety and privacy of my own thoughts and perspective and keep it to myself. It is a testimony to the work of God that needs to be shared with others and, in turn, others can encourage me with their perspectives that see things I can't see, and that will help me to grow more. What a blessing to have relationships! We need each other! As the body of Christ we are to encourage one another and build each other up as we grow up together into Christ, who is the head of the body. So thank you all so much for being there! I have much more to share but it will have to wait for later, and hopefully I'll be able to get some pictures up as well!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Down Rwandan Roads

I am here! I arrived in Kigali safely and all in one piece. I feel like I've stepped into another world. There are so many thoughts and feelings I don't know where to begin! Then there is this issue with the electricity. Some days it is fine; some days it is on and off all day. As goes the power, so goes the internet connection. So my posts will have to be kept brief for a better chance of getting them up here!
This place is a strange mixture of progress, beauty, and poverty. Everything is built on hills surrounded by more hills. The roads in the main part of the city are paved, then turn into stone and then red dirt as you go up to Chuck and Debby's neighborhood. All the houses are surrounded by high walls. Because of this they say you don't really get to know your neighbors; instead you meet people out and about and then find out where they live. The walls are to prevent thievery. The street kids and others who are struggling to survive will pick up anything they can find and get away with. But they are not out to hurt anyone, they simply want to survive. Most people also have watchmen, especially at night, which discourages anyone from sneaking in. The weather is amazing, coming from cold Ohio! It gets down to the 60s some mornings and up in the 70s and 80's by afternoon. everything is so different here. I will do my best to keep you all posted but as I said internet availability is touch and go. So long for now and thanks for the prayers!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

God: The Awe-inspirer

Well, my friends, the time is almost upon me! In just about 14 hours from the time of this post I will be in the air for Africa! I thank God and all of you for allowing me the privilege to have this incredible experience... and I have no doubt it will be incredible! Today I consider myself to be one most blessed... I have felt such love from the people around me and I have been showered with blessings just because I'm taking this journey. I wish all of you could go with me, but you will be with me in my heart and your prayers are the most important part of however God chooses to use me and what He works in my life through this experience. I want to share a Scripture God spoke to me a few days ago. I was reading in Exodus 33, starting with verse 12 where Moses is talking to God about leading the people of Israel and He basically says, You told me to lead these people, but how? and God tells Him, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Then Moses says(my paraphrase), Lord, if you don't go with us, don't make us go at all. How else will people know that Your favor is on us, because this is what will set us apart from all the other people on earth. And God tells Moses that He will do what he asks and He reaffirms to him, "you have found favor in My sight, and I know you by name." This passage was special to me years ago when I was preparing to go into a training program to learn to mentor troubled kids. I was scared and feeling that I had nothing to offer to these kids, and my heart echoed Moses' words: God, if You don't go with me and put Your hand on me with power, don't make me do this at all." And I claimed God's promise to Moses as my own. I can't say there were any shining results from that time or that I came home any better qualified for discipling people, but I know God walked me through it and taught me a lot just in the experience and in seeing Him uphold me through my weakness. So I went back to this passage because I was thinking about how it applies to this journey in Rwanda. Again, I wonder: How can I possibly relate to the Rwandan people and what they've been through with the genocide 15 years ago and all the residual consequences and pain of that time? What do I have to offer them? How can I hope to make a difference to anyone I encounter, even as I'm traveling and then during my stay in Rwanda? After I looked at the verses I continued skimming the chapter and turned the page to chapter 34, and these words caught me: verse 10: And the Lord responded: "Look, I am making a covenant. I will perform wonders in the presence of all your people that have never been done in all the earth or in any nation. All the people you live among will see the Lord's work, for what I am doing with you is awe-inspiring." That last phrase went straight to my heart and I sensed the strong assurance of God that what He wants to do in me during this adventure is something that will inspire awe in the people around me. And people will know that it is God's doing. And it's just so unbelievable that God would want to show His glory through me in awesome ways, but isn't that the purpose for which He created each and every one of us? And He desires to transform us into the image of His Son, that we may be true to His original intent. Isn't that wondrous? I just had to share it!
Thank you again to each one of you who are taking this journey with me and will be covering me in prayer as I travel tomorrow. By the way, comments really should work now. I thought I knew how I wanted the settings, but it wasn't working that way, so I changed it and it turned out to be okay. It worked when I tried it, so comment away! Love to all!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Just wanted to see if I could make the photo post work. It's sure gonna be slow trying to do it in Rwanda! This is a shot of family last Christmas. don't mind the guy in front in the red shirt. That's just David being typical David. He was upset about something, didn't want to stand for pictures?

Are You Living On Purpose?

For anyone who tried to post on here and it didn't work, it should work now. :)

I thought I'd share with you a song that really hit me between the eyes a few months ago when I realized that so much of my life and my walk with Jesus had become lifeless compliance... I was just going through the motions, trying to get by, to keep my head above water each day. Since then the words of this song have been the cry of my heart and I know that this trip to Africa is one step in making a change. But praise Jesus, He's already made some major changes in my heart and now I truly desire to live on purpose. I'm not saying I've learned yet, but His faithfulness and love in getting the truth from my head to my heart has given me new reason for living and I want to live it to the fullest! I know Jesus and I are walking together, no matter what! The song is called "The Motions" and it's by Matthew West.

This might hurt, it's not safe
But I know that I've gotta make a change
I don't care if I break
Atleast I'll be feeling something
Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna live one more day
Without Your all-consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything
Instead of going through the motions

No regrets, not this time
I'm gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole
I think I'm finally feeling something
Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life

Take me all the way (take me all the way)
Take me all the way (I don't wanna go through the motions)
Take me all the way (Lord I'm finally feeling something real)

That is what I want Him to do. Take me all the way. No more of this half-hearted commitment. No more living for the things that will pass away. No more quailing before the enemy's lies. Oh, I've only just entered boot camp and I don't want anyone to think I've become some spiritual super warrior. As Paul said and I'm sure I'll still be saying 50 years from now(if I'm still here), "Not that I have already reached the goal(to know Christ intimately) or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also HAVE BEEN TAKEN HOLD OF BY CHRIST JESUS. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus." Phil. 3:12-14 By the grace of God I'm going to stand up and fight and I'm going to spend the rest of my life seeking and loving Him with all I've got! Why? Because He chose me and called me to be His before I even existed! Because He loved me first and He took hold of me! Thank you my Prince Jesus!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Why Am I Me?

Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be somebody. Anybody. As long as it was somebody great, somebody special, somebody I admired. As far back as I can remember I wanted to be someone else. Often it was a peer or an person of my own imagining out of a compilation of different people. I dreamed of having all sorts of talents, abilities, adventure, and charisma. I could be anything I wanted, do anything I wanted, look however I wanted in my imagination. This didn't stop as I grew up, it simply grew with me. Discontent, comparison, envy. Even though I learned all about self-acceptance, I just couldn't make it real for me. I've believed so many lies about myself that have colored how I think God and especially other people see me. The only cure for self-rejection is the Truth of God applied directly to the heart. I think He's starting to get through.
Recently I was on a weekend retreat at a beautiful West Virginia farm with some other ladies. There was a certain hill on this farm where three crosses have been placed. The owners of the retreat home arranged a hayride to take us up to the crosses. We had a beautiful evening, but as I met the owners and some of their family and watched them the familiar feelings crept in. I admired them: their warm personality, their knack of hospitality, the gorgeous setting they live in. I felt myself wanting to be like them and to live that life of the mountain country farm. As I got alone later that night I kept thinking and wondering why I couldn't have a different life. Why did God make me who I am; why did He put me in the life and the place I'm in? Doesn't He care that I would have fit so much better in something else? And then it hit me. The lie I've believed all my life. I believed that I don't fit. That God's special purpose for me is not real. And because of this I'll never be anything special. The pain hit the bullseye in my heart. I began to pour out the lies to God. And as I asked my deep questions, searching for meaning in the life I'm living, He spoke to me. Ten beautiful words, straight from the Word. "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." It was like God's arms went around me and He touched my pain with the soothing balm of His love. It made me cry. Especially since these words are from a passage that was special to me years ago, when I was a young teen with a new hunger for the Word of God. It comes from Jeremiah chapter 1. God speaks to the young man about being chosen and set apart for a unique calling. He's basically saying, I chose you before you even existed to be Mine! He goes on to say that before you were born, He sanctified you, or set you apart. That means being created and called for something very specific and very special. Whatever God sets apart for Himself is holy. It is of the highest value. It cannot be worthless. It cannot be meaningless. It cannot be left to chance. And His purpose cannot be derailed by our human frailty. Isn't that awesome? God appointed Jeremiah to be His spokesman and to rule over nations through the unerring truth of God's judgment and mercy. He has appointed me to be someone. He has appointed you to be someone. Just think about the fact that God created us in His own image! That alone makes us something incredibly special! Even if I would come to the end of life having done nothing of consequence in the eyes of the world, I would still have been a showcase of the glory of God and a delight to His heart. He made us for relationship with Himself and to simply express His glory. We don't have to do anything spectacular to fulfill that purpose. We have only to seek after Him with our everything. I choose to believe that I do fit in God's amazing story of grace and He has a special way just for me to show Him to the world. The wound is beginning to heal.