Thursday, November 27, 2014

The cost of one's own substance...


She wakes up early and works tirelessly with little ones whose mamas cannot care for them during the day.  They are so young, they don't even know how to thank her.  She is a ready hug with beautiful crows feet from a face well smiled.  She is the face that matches none of her sisters at work but whose tongue speaks Zulu like a champ because love compels her.  She is alone and she is tired

but

love compels her.

He is another story.  If you google his name, there will be many so pages, it would take days to filter through them.  He comes from a most extraordinary background and has become a most extraordinary citizen.  He's a coveted speaker nationwide.  He could go anywhere and do anything.  But he'll sit and have tea with you, a nobody, because he's not easily impressed by credentials and engagements.  He'll tell you, "Never forget the little people.  Never forget to invest in the ones who can add nothing to your life."  Isn't that what Jesus Christ did for us?  And you know this man hasn't forgotten the little people all along this coast because children who are now grown still call him "Uncle" and tell stories of how he came to their school with his guitar.  Just to sing praises with them.  And somehow each one of them felt loved in that sea of children

because

love compels him.

She has a story of her own.  Perseverance, endurance, and faithfulness are this woman.  Piles of papers and legal documents cover her desk and demand her time.  But her eyes are on the underdogs, the forgotten ones, the abandoned ones.  They moments from eternity and just need a clean bed upon which breathe their last breath.  She'll complete the pile of papers with excellence because love compels her to maintain an excellent facility for these forgotten ones.  But love compels her also to leave her desk in this moment, sit by a patient's bedside, hold his pale, trembling hand, hear his story, and whisper the hope of a Savior into his ear.  Exhaustion knocks at her door but she plods on

as

love compels her.

These are some of the saints we work with.  They are not saints because of their own effort or any perfection on their part.  They are saints in the flesh because Christ has loved them, transformed them, and lavished His grace upon them.  They have savored Christ who now compels them to be salt and love to their neighbor.  With the dawn of Advent near, these saints remind me of Alfred Delp's depiction of Advent candles as a symbol of the Christian journey:

"This is a peaceful, reticent, but constant shining.  This is giving light at the cost of one's own substance, so that one is consumed in the process.  Anyone who wants to comprehend Christ's message of light...must comprehend this one thing: the mission, the duty to shine, to draw others, to seek, to heal, to do good at the cost of one's own substance." (David Timms, Sacred Waiting)




Friday, October 10, 2014

"If you could do anything"...

"If you could do anything with your life, what would it be?"

My friend paused and closed her eyes.

"I love to help people.  I love to share love, joy, and hope.  I want to share those things at a job.  I have always wanted to be a home-based care giver."

She has worked as a house-cleaner for the last 10 years.  She is intelligent, sweet, inquisitive, and determined.  One of her first weeks in our home, I asked if she wanted to have coffee and do devotions with me before we both started work.  It became an anticipated weekly tradition.

My heart just about lurched out of my chest as she shared her dream with me.  A home-based care giver?  Lord, this is all making sense now!  The Lord is infinitely wise and sovereign.  Her dream wasn't outlandish.

It just so happens that the Genesis hospice runs a 6 week home-based care training course to meet the increasing demand for care-givers in response to the local HIV and AIDS epidemic.  Trainees spend four weeks in a classroom setting learning about sanitation and care-giving and then two weeks in a practical at the hospice.  Upon completion, they receive a certificate and can seek employment through local hospitals or individual care.  On a deeper level, trainees are invested in by a staff who loves Christ.

Within a matter of weeks, my friend's dream was being recognized and we were able to connect her with the training program.  She got 6 weeks off work (in hopes of never returning to house cleaning).  Sam and I get to see her on Genesis campus where she is in her 2nd week of training.  For those of you who support the Genesis outreach efforts, her story is one of many.  I will miss our weekly time together but rejoice that the Lord is providing her with something better.  Thank you again for sending us here in support of these efforts!
First day of training!
"Not to us, O lord, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness."

Psalm 115:1










Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Where men may flourish...

Yes, please, try to convince me that ballroom dancing for rugby boys has a place in ministry.

The boys who come to the Genesis Vikings Christian Rugby Academy represent a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds, life skills preparation, and educational privilege (or lack thereof).  After a year or two of intense physical training and spiritual discipleship at Genesis, some go on to a much different life than they came from.  

The men who spear-headed the rugby academy have a heart not only to see these boys grow spiritually and physically.  Christ's compassion motivates them to see these boys flourish.

"What if these boys get invited to a wedding someday?  They better know how to dance!", mused Pastor Trevor Downham.

Indeed.  What if their success in rugby launches them into an entirely different world, as it already has with some of our boys?  Won't they need to know how to attend a fancy dinner, balance a check book, and be good stewards of their money?  What life skills can we, as a church, build in these boys to see them FLOURISH?  Doesn't "loving your neighbor as yourself" go beyond the big things and seep into the little things in life?

And so life skills were added to the physical and spiritual training of the Vikings Rugby boys' regimen.  From banking to ballroom dancing.







  

Monday, September 8, 2014

PAM bags

It was 10am and we were ready.  We had an international skype date set up between 3 of us stay-at-home moms, from the cold mountains of Lesotho's capital city to the sunny coast of South Africa.  We smelled a micro enterprise development in the future for one of our friends and you could FEEL the energy and anticipation in my living room.

By 11:30, skype and facetime still weren't working.  Gak, 1st world problems.  We weren't giving up! We felt led to pray and the Lord provided FB chat as our improvised line of communication.

It all goes back a few months when we still lived in Lesotho.  Remember the soccer boys we worked with?  I learned early one of the boy's moms, 'Me Puseletso, had a sewing machine.  I took her a reversible cloth bag and asked if she could imitate the pattern.  She did a fantastic job using Lesotho's seshoeshoe material and even added her own flair.  I showed the bag to my friend, Carolyn, who then put in an order for a different style of bag, also made of seshoeshoe (pronounced "seshwayshway").  It also turned out beautifully!

'Me Puseletso's bags quickly gained popularity with the international community in Lesotho and she began to fill orders and perfect her patterns and quality.  After moving to South Africa and seeing an even larger pool of potential clientele, I began to pray about what God may have in store for 'Me Puseletso and her sewing machine.  You see, 'Me Puseletso fights against all odds in Lesotho.  She's a single mom and is otherwise unemployed but has an impressive hand in her urban garden and in raising her boy.  Her son faithfully attended my after-school French and homework lessons.  I can tell you there is something to this kid.  I believe God has a plan for him.  She is trying to offer him a better future.  One with hope and continuing education.   

As I prayed for her and her son's future, I began to see how God had plans to be HER Jehovah, her Provider.  He made her a brilliant seamstress.  She had the skills, she had the desire, and she had the work ethic.  She just needed the clientele.  So, Puseletso had the skills, Carolyn had the facebook chat to make our communication possible, and I had the international network that wanted her products.  3 stay-at-home moms.  Micro enterprise.  God's provision.

One digital date and much planning later, 'Me Puseletso is now working on her first stock of 20 bags to send me to be distributed here in South Africa.  She's not sure if they are going to sell.  I'm pretty sure she soon won't be able to keep up with the demand :)  She came up with the product name, "P.A.M.'s Bags".  P.A.M. stands for Puseletso Asteria Mathetse...the woman who started a business by sewing a bag.

'Me Puseletso and Carolyn in Lesotho during our FB chat.
Me in South Africa
Bouncing around ideas
A few final products


Beautiful seshoeshoe material from Lesotho
To find out more, visit the PAM Bag facebook page. PAM products will be available by direct order through 'Me Puseletso in Lesotho and select local shops and hotels in the Ramsgate/Margate area in South Africa.  Private message with any questions.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Your Mother Tongue from a Foreigner...

10 "There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me."

19  "Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue."  -taken from 1 Corinthians 14

To place Paul's words in their true context, he is writing to the church of Corinth about speaking in tongues.  On a broader level, he is coming straight out of defining LOVE in the previous chapter and moves here to address encouraging the church and revealing God's message to people in words they understand so that the church may be built up, so that instruction can be carried out, and so that unbelievers will fall on their face and worship God.  The point is that God be revealed to mankind in words that have meaning.  In words that convict.  In words that build up.

But God, I'm tired.  And my brain might be full.

I'm losing my French.  I miss Pidgin.  I miss the familiar sounds of Nooni.  I tried my hand at Sesotho last year.  Now I'm learning Afrikaans and Zulu at the same time.  And Lord, some days I just want to go back to a language I already know.  One where I don't feel like I might be stuck in toddlerhood for the rest of my life.  

What's that you say, Lord?  

Love never ends?  

Never.  

So we never stop trying.  We never stop trying to reach people with the meaning of His love in a language that is richer to their ears than my own, so that possibly, just possibly with 5 words that make sense, a side of God may be revealed in a way that thousands of words of English could never unveil.

And yes.  English is spoken here.  But the words of your mother, your mother tongue, penetrate deeper and richer than the language of a foreigner, even when these words stumble forth from the foreigner's tongue with the awkwardness of a toddler.


Extra Afrikaans lessons with Mevrou DuPloy after school

Faith gave me my first Zulu lesson last week.
Because there are people here who I really, really love.

"And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
    that shall not be destroyed."

Daniel 7:14

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Insane Stability...

Everest and Budu not shown.  Everest has kittens in the oven and is as grumpy as ever.
Budu's a snake and I don't want him anywhere near me.
Perhaps it IS a little much.  3 dogs, however many cats, a snake, and the 4 of us.  It's been called, "the Danforth Farm" and "the Danforth Zoo" and we love it. 

Why this craziness?  With all the transitions we've been through in the last year, why add animal insanity to the list?  

As Children of Change, Transient Ones, MKs, TCK's, Purple Kids, whatever you want to call it, life has been one big move for Sam and I.  An exhilarating adventure for sure, but with lots and lots of moves.  Multiply that by marrying one of your own kind, planning your entire adult lives around getting back overseas and BLAM, you've got the perfect environment conducive for non-pet people.  

But somehow, our parents did it.  My parents let me get a dog.  And a cat.  We took that dog all OVER the place with us.  All of us kids piled in the back of the Nissan Patrol and the dog scrunched under my mom's feet as a faux co-pilot.  My dad would have less wrinkles and gray hair if he had had his way and been dogless.  But those added wrinkles and early gray hairs from Scout are a sure sign of self-sacrificial love for us kids.  And being a mom now, I can tell you how much I would NOT go for a big lab squashed under my feet for a quarterly 10 hour drive to the capital city.  But my mom is my mom, the planet's sweetest servant, what can I say?  

Sam never had a dog or a cat, but let's not even start on his crocodile farm, pet python, bush baby, owl, rabbits, guinea pigs...

But back to why in the world we choose this insanity, not in tidbits, but in Jolly Giant size.  

Who owns pets?  Stable people.  Stable people with stable lives and stable jobs whose 5 year goals for success make sense and who clock in and out of work to achieve that end.  What do pets actually mean?  Stability.  Or a grasp at it.  I don't know that our lives will EVER make earthly sense as long as we're serious about following God wherever He sends us on this crazy planet, but we do grasp at earthly stability in this transient life.  So we're up to our eyeballs in animals.  What may seem like insanity to someone else is for us a sign of stability, permanence, and a choice to put down roots in this place He has called us to.  As long as God has us here, we're here to stay, folks.  Bring on the zoo.










Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sam the Maintenance Guy...

Someone asked recently, "What does a typical day for Sam look like at Genesis?".  We have not yet had a "typical day" and this line of work is definitely not a "clock in, clock out" kind of deal.  BUT, here is an idea of work at Genesis for Sam the Maintenance Guy.


First, a little background on Genesis.  6 years ago, Pastor Trevor Downham (our pastor here) found the body of an AIDS victim on the steps of our church.  His heart was broken and he asked the church, "What would happen if our church doors closed tomorrow?  Would this community even know that we were ever here?".  That spurred a whole movement within the church to start taking "church" outside the walls of our building and INTO the community.  They began by responding to physical needs, the greatest immediate need being AIDS victims who were dying rejected, alone, and without hope.  The church started an AIDS and TB hospice.  The staff at the hospice introduce each patient to the Lord and many come to know Him.  It's an incredible outpouring of Christ's love to the community, especially to the most neglected of people.  The church began to look beyond this immediate need and started thinking about how to invest in the community through preventative care.  

Genesis now has several community centers within half an hour of each other around the area.  The centers exist in response to needs in the community with the primary purpose of using these platforms to share the Gospel.  The centers have things like a gym, music academy, training center (teaching women to make crafts to sell), library, VBS, youth groups and Bible studies for urban kids, a hospice, computer training, leadership training, a school for autistic kids, a rugby academy, etc.  Each ministry we have seen so far has been effective at maintaining its focus on Christ.  The people who come are introduced to Christ and are mentored, discipled, and invested in on both a physical and spiritual level.  All of these buildings have no one to maintain them, so that is Sam's job.  He's the Genesis Maintenance Guy.  He loves his job because he gets to work at each center and SEE how God is at work through our local church.  Some of his jobs are really simple, like fixing broken windows, and others are more complicated, like reworking the entire water system for one of the centers.   

Murchison Center windows 
Sam doesn't have a "typical" day.  For example, the other day, he met in the morning with our pastor to figure out the direction of a new ministry that is being started at Genesis.  Then the hospice called him because they were out of water.  He worked on their water system, got it running again, and met with a few of their staff to try teach them how to conserve water more diligently.  After this, he got a call from one of our more rural centers where there had recently been riots.  A few of their windows were broken, so he drove out there, got the materials, and repaired them.  

Hospice and Youth Center water system

Some days, he fixes cars that are used by our food programs to deliver food to poverty-stricken families. Other days, he meets with our pastor and others on the Genesis team as they work on the direction of various ministries.  Sometimes, he works on the toilets at the hospice centers.  One day, he removed and rebuilt a wall in one of our buildings to create a more effective working space.  It can sound a little chaotic, but basically, his job is to keep these buildings functional and efficient.  It has relieved the staff of each of the centers who until now have had to outsource the work and has eaten up their funding that we would rather see used for further ministry.    
Genesis vehicle