Saturday, December 26, 2015

Life, Abundantly.

The experience has become so normal to me that I often forget what a privilege it is. It’s hard to believe that it has been almost 7 years since I first set foot on the island of La Gonave, and entered the village of La Source, Haiti for the first time. I was a senior in high school, loved traveling, working with kids, and adventure. I knew I was going into another culture. I didn’t know however, what that seemingly small first step would lead to- such a love for the people of a little village that some days it makes me want to weep, and other days, makes me want to burst with joy for the blessings they have been in my life. It has taken time to go from the happy-go-lucky girl who wants to help people to one who has a better (though far from perfect) understanding of positive, lasting, sustainable ways to go about that helping. It has been a process. I have not done it all right, and would never claim such. But I can say, that in these 7 years of growing up, and all that it has entailed, there is one thing that I have learned is a theme of my life, work, ministry, and purpose-it is to be pro-life.  
Over the years, I have come to understand more and more about what partnering with a third-world people group looks like- and that is what it is, a partnership. It is not about handouts or Bible-thumping- no one needs that and that has never been what we as Christians were called to do. It is not an “us and them” mentality, or a view of “I’m going to help someone, look at me taking my missionary selfie.” Instead, I like to think of it as being “pro-life.” We hear it all the time, “I’m pro-life,” or “I vote pro-life.” But do we understand what that really means? Because if we say we are pro-life to support an unborn baby, we must also be pro-life when that baby is born, and as he is growing up, and in his awkward teenage years, and when he becomes an adult. For me to be pro-life means more than just support for someone to be living and breathing- it means I am pro-quality of life. When we see the world through the eyes of one who has been transformed by our Father, his work for us, and his inexpressible love for his people, we begin to see people, not as mere bodies, but as people with souls, people with hurts, people with gifts, and people with stories. Being pro-quality of life in La Source, and in many other places, looks like grace- living out grace in the words we say, the way we listen, and the way we relate to people. It looks like development of jobs, and teaching leaders to lead, and holding someone’s hand as they tell you of their child who recently passed away. It looks like investment- long term, committed investment. On the flip side, it also looks like allowing people to pray for you, serve you, and love you well- because you know you are just as in need of Him as the next person.
Countries like Haiti don’t need help from people who come to hug a baby, take a selfie, and walk on out. They need people with grace-filled eyes and hearts, who understand the need for balance of justice and mercy, who can encourage men, women, and children to live with dignity because of who they are in Jesus. They need people committed to investing in their quality of life, and that of their family. They need people who can admit that they are messed up too, and need Jesus just as much. Maybe they do need a selfie or two in their lives, because they are people too, just like you and me. But, they need people with a mindset of promoting quality of life- a mindset of self-worth in Jesus, of joy, and of hope.  
People don’t just need to be alive, they need to live, and live in the joy and peace that comes from a loving Father who is always faithful to keep his promises to his people. I say these things about Haiti, but it could easily be said about any type of ministry or intentional focus. For many of us, these people, the ones that we are committing to being pro-quality of life for, look different. For some, it is our children. For some, the students we teach. For some, the neighborhood kid always looking for a safe place to play. And still for others, it is people in places like the village of La Source-teaching a woman to knit, or listening to a father’s story about his children. Jesus has never called us to happiness or hand-outs. Instead, he called us to grace, to peace, to love, and to rest in who he is and his promises to his people.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Redeeming the Broken

"The significance of one's life is determined by the story in which they believe they are a part of."                                                                                                                                                Wendell Berry

Nothing really prepares you for the moment when a child looks into your eyes and says, "we're not gonna get to go home, are we?" I think my heart stopped for a minute. I looked at him and saw a boy who had already seen too much in his 4 years, who understood way too much of what was going on, and I simply said, "no baby, not today." As he resumed coloring, I looked at my coworker across my desk- our eyes met but there were no words. I couldn't think of any child-appropriate words to say in this situation. The boy who came in every morning to our child development center and slept- because he was finally in a place where he felt safe, who told me that he stayed awake to keep watch over his twin sister and younger brothers all night- he knew what was happening. Tears trickled down my face. A caseworker came in and asked me if I was okay. Earlier that day, I had learned some information that required me to make a judgment call that would uproot these children from everything they knew. And I knew this wasn't the first time they had faced this. With my stomach in knots, I just said, "I've never had to do anything like this before." And it was true. I've had to do some hard things in the past few years. I've had to make some tough calls, trusting that the Lord's hand was somehow working. And this day was no different. But it was hard. It was hard to say goodbye to children and not know their future- but know that we would not longer be a part of it due to their life circumstances. We hadn't known them long, but we loved them deeply. And so, as they hugged our necks, buckled into the police car and were driven away, I felt both immediate peace and anxiety. Peace knowing that our Father was watching over them, and anxiety in questioning if this really had to happen. It is easy to question yourself, to listen to the voice telling you that this is somehow your fault, and that these kids lives are uprooted because of you. But that just wasn't the case. The fact of the matter is that this world is desperately broken. People are broken and relationships are broken and sometimes innocent children bear the burden of that all too much.

This world is desperately broken. And yet He is in the midst of it all, redeeming it. If I truly believe that our God is a redeeming God, then I have to believe that He is working in the midst of situations that end in tears, in rejection, in heartache, and in suffering. He is in the midst of it all when there is no "happy ending." And so whether I spent my days as a Director tying shoe laces and wiping up splattered milk, writing newsletters and sending emails, talking with my staff and living life with them, or making seemingly unbearably hard decisions that greatly affected my students' lives, what I did was significant not because of the work itself, but because of Who I did it for. My Father is redeeming this world. As His children, we are a part of His story. And in His story, He "Makes everything beautiful in its time."(Eccle 3:11). In His story, He says, "Let the little children come unto me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 9:14). In His story, He is "Making all things new" (Rev 21:5).

This good Father has continued to redeem these twins' story. A few weeks after all this (and more drama) had happened, I got a text from a friend. "Hi, do you know _______ and ________? I think they went to your school and I'm with them right now. Do you have some time to talk?"
They were safe. They were being cared for. They were playing. They were eating. They were sleeping. They were able to be children. They were LOVED. As I began to share what I knew about the twins, what they liked and disliked, what I had noticed about their personalities, emotional & social development, and helpful ways that we had found to get them to communicate with us, I realized what an opportunity He had given me. Not only did He graciously allow me to hear how the children were doing after I thought I would never see them outside of my office, He allowed me to stay updated on their progress. And a year later, although they are now with another family, and still have some deep struggles in their lives at the age of 5, He is still good to them. He has not forgotten them. His love for them spans far beyond what my staff and I could have ever had for them. He is redeeming their story, because of who He is. Join me in praying for these sweet loves. Pray for redemption in their family. Pray for their safety. Pray that they will always know the love of our perfect heavenly Father and his peace in their lives. They turn 6 soon- wherever they are, may it be the most joy-filled birthday they've ever had.