April 24, 2012

The Big 4-0!

3-6 It is only when we obey God’s laws that we can be quite sure that we really know him. The man who claims to know God but does not obey his laws is not only a liar but lives in self-delusion. In practice, the more a man learns to obey God’s laws the more truly and fully does he express his love for him. Obedience is the test of whether we really live “in God” or not. The life of a man who professes to be living in God must bear the stamp of Christ. ~1 John 2:3-6 

Marcela's house

I recently became a member of the 40 Club. Officially Over the Hill. It should be easy from here on out, since it's all downhill from now on, right? I should rejoice that I'm still alive - and that I still fit into my jeans from High School (ha, don't hate). These are both miracles.

For my birthday weekend I wanted breakfast in bed, and to not wash a single dish or pick up a single toy. I'm really not that hard to please, really. I mean, really. How hard is that? You don't even have to spend money on me! I also wanted to go visit our friends in the slums, then visit our little friends in the children's home. Somewhere in between there my daughter and I tried to catch a meteor shower. We laid out under the stars in lawn chairs {in our winter jackets and scarves, boots, and gloves} well after midnight in search of shooting stars. It was partially cloudy, so we didn't see any of this spectacular meteor shower they had told us about. Tony came out for a bit and we searched the skies for the Southern Cross and the Three Mary's [aka Orion's Belt].

Good memories.

It was a birthday I will always remember. We spent most of it visiting: Saturday, the slums. Sunday, the children's home.

I don't like birthday parties. I just don't. Don't ask me why, I still haven't figured that out. I don't like going to them, I don't like throwing them, and I don't want one on my birthday. I prefer the quiet life, I guess - or to do something that is actually fun, instead of standing around small talking over cake. I'm not anti-social, just selectively social. B-day parties are not my gig... although I always get sucked into about a dozen a year or so.

So I managed to keep my birthday fairly secret, and off we went. I am often amazed how open people are to the gospel here. This weekend was no exception. When we arrived up in the slums, I sat in the car waiting for the okay to get out. We have a little thing we do: Tony pulls up, looks around, gets out, and says hi. He goes in, chats, and gets a feel for whether it is safe and whether we are welcome. As we pulled up Saturday, Cefe and his brother-in-law were just walking back to their shack. They were returning from buying beer. Tony talked with them for a bit, saw that they weren't drunk or on drugs at the moment, and then waved that it was okay to come in. We spilled out of the van, locked it, and went it.

It really is depressing how they live. It was chilly outside when we walked into their one room shack. The heat and claustrophobia hit me as I ducked in the place where the door should have been. It was so crowded with people and kids and animals that I couldn't even fully come inside. Tony said good thing I had a cold because it smelled like rotten food and animals. Little Sophia was sitting on the dirt floor in her filthy bare feet, her older brother Mishel was only in his underwear at the little table, Marcela and Cefe were there with her niece, her brother, and three or four of her kids, plus one nephew, several cats, and a dog. In a one-room shack. The wood stove was inches from the kids, blasting heat. Marcela says it get very cold at night when the stove burns out. I'm sure - it's getting down into the 30s right now at night. Brrrr...

Since I could barely stand in there, I went outside to watch the kids. Marcela's kids' bare feet are calloused over and they miraculously don't get cut up, but my kids, even with shoes, always seem to get hurt somehow. Marcela followed me out and we stood in her small, dirt front yard, just a patch of desert sand littered with trash and fruit peels and scrap metal and wood with nails sticking out of it. We talked. I really like Marcela, she is very friendly, warm,  and open with me. She began telling me how she can no longer take her brother and niece living with them, her husband's drug addiction, the kids home all day with her, or this emptiness in her heart. I told her it was normal to want to have some privacy, all families should have their own space. I shared how Tony and I used to have problems, big problems, in our marriage. She looked at me in disbelief with that, "Oh, not you" look. Oh, yes, me. I have a quite colorful past. There's a lot I don't tell people. Been there, done that. When she talks to Tony she thinks, "How does he do it? How is he okay all the time? Where does this peace come from that he seems to have?".

It's only God. That's all. That's the only difference.

I was able to share with her that that peace we have comes only from Jesus. We have just as many problems as they do, just different ones perhaps. I told her my story, I told her Tony's story. It was a blessed moment. A holy moment. God was there with us in the slums. Right there with us. She just looked at me. Like she understood. Like she wants that, too.

We talked for a while. She said she doesn't find purpose in life, no reason to get out of bed in the morning, she thinks of suicide often. No, don't do it, I said. Think of your kids. If Cefe has a drug problem, who would take care of them if she killed herself? I reminded her that Tony is more than willing to come up and help them finish raising the walls of their new house. Winter is coming. It's already very cold at night. Once the house is up, she could move into it with her own family, leaving the shack to her relatives. Think of how nice that would be! She's too depressed though it seems to find the motivation to raise the walls herself. I understand that. I probably would be too if I were her, living in that place, with no Hope. We left, telling her we are praying for her and will see her soon.

The next day, my birthday, we headed down to the children's home.

 I don't like cake that much and I never want cake for my birthday, I even get somewhat annoyed if anyone wastes money on one I don't want to eat anyway (I know, such a party pooper. Tony says 'no fun'.). So I thought if we took my cake, the one I didn't want anyway but they always seem to buy no matter what, down to the kids' home, it would make the useless cake okay. Kids like cake. Our kids like cake. I like the children's home, but don't like cake. Problem solved.

We met some of the youth at church (they brought more cake), all piled into our van, and headed downtown. Played soccer, ate cake, talked to and hugged the kids. The kids all sang happy birthday to me. To me? I brought my cake for them, not for me. It was the sweetest. What a birthday present, these kids singing to me... it's so sad to think that their parents don't want them, or can't take care of them, or abused them. One of the girls ended up crying in a corner by herself. When we asked her what was wrong, she said she feels invisible. No one comes to visit her, no one loves her, she's so sad. It made me cry, too. My daughter came over and asked what was wrong. They know each other outside of the home - they both go to the same gym class (sports are free here in the city - one of God's many blessings). I explained to my daughter why her friend was crying, that she doesn't have a mom or dad that love her or take care of her. She looked at me like she didn't even understand that concept - no mom or dad, no love?? So, honey, Why don't you hug her and tell her you love her and you are her friend?

So she did. And we all cried some more.

Even though our time was up and we were supposed to leave, we continued talking to her, reminding her of God's promise, "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up." Psalm 27:10.

We shared the good news of God's love for her, and explained that although He does love her, God is gentleman. He wants to make her happy and to give her everything, but He will wait until she is ready, until she accepts what He wants to give her. We talked some more, and then she said she was ready. Keren prayed, she repeated. It was hard for her to get the words out, but she did it.

"...we are not to save souls, but to disciple them. Salvation and sanctification are the work of God’s sovereign grace" ~ Oswald Chambers

sunset on the way home from the children's home

 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. -1 John 2:6 NIV

A blessed birthday weekend. In more ways than one.


Anonymous said...

Good thoughts from a missionary colleague. Still praying daily as God enables! Blessings, Jane F

Desperate, Breathless, Dependent Parenting

 Some people tell me it is brave to raise my kids in Africa. They could get malaria or be bitten by a poisonous snake. They don’t have a Sunday School class. They can’t eat gluten-free foods. Their friends are Muslims. They live far away from cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents.
My initial reaction is to be tempted to say, “Well, I think it is brave to raise kids in America.” I know my heart, my soul-shriveling tendency to love the world. I know my kids, how quickly they could be sucked into the idolatry of a nation whose church is the shopping mall and whose God is the latest iPhone.
But this kneejerk reaction is wrong because it assumes brave is the right word to use to describe parenting, whether in Africa or in the United States.
Brave is the wrong word.

Life As Fasting

Living overseas is a form of fasting. Fasting from the comforts of a would-be heaven on earth where there are hot showers, dishwashers and clothes dryers, fully-stocked grocery stores and someone else to teach piano lessons. Living overseas is fasting that says, “this much, O God, this much, I want to know you.” And, “this much, O God, this much, I want you to be known” (Michael Oh).
I want to know God deeply and I want him to be known so much that I will risk scary diseases, fast from my beloved family and worldly comforts, and teach my children to engage with neighbors of differing faiths. But to live and fast like that, to raise my children like that, isn’t brave.
When I think about mothering my three children who love this steamy, desert nation, I don’t feel brave. I feel dependent. Helplessly, desperately, breathlessly, clingingly dependent.


Any mother, anywhere in the world, could receive a phone call in the next five minutes about a car accident. A child could decide Jesus is an imaginary friend and reject truth. Another could fall into immoral living.
There is nothing brave about loving little people who will grow up and could choose to abandon the things of God. But for dependency on the promises and character of God, there is terror and anxiety.
Being dependent isn’t just for mothers living in Africa. The only way to parent is with faith that God is able to keep and hold our children. The only way to parent is to be dependent on his sovereign plan and tender care for them. Dependent on the strength of the everlasting arms to hold us, to hold our children, and to keep us in perfect peace with our minds stayed on Him.
No, brave is not the right word for parents.
Dependent is!

Chris said...

Awesome, Jane! Thank you! Do share the blog - I would love to read it!

Thanks for these encouraging words. So. TRUE.

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