Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Holy and Sacred...

They came out of the woodwork of wrinkled mountains.  They came in ones, twos and threes.  All 18 of them.  Cloaked in heavy blankets and surrounded by hundreds of sheep.  Badisana is their name.  "Little caretakers of sheep" in Sesotho, because truly, some of them started shepherding as children.  

They emerged weekly from the nooks and crannies of this harsh land to a lone standing building that served as a church, an elementary school, and a parsonage for a Mosotho pastor who knew their names.  They came because he had told them of a Savior, one who loved them more than they would ever know.  This love drew them in.

Sam and I drove 2 hours with missionary friend, Jayne, to come to see the badisana's Bible lesson on Saturday morning.  We had no idea what God actually had in store.  But these boys did.

You see, 8 of them knew what it meant for their eternal hunger and thirst to be quenched by the love of their own Shepherd.  Their lives had been changed.  And they were ready.  Ready to go public.  And we just happen to show up in time to see it.

Gorgeous smiles flashed at us between their blanketcoats and winter caps as they trod past us on the withering grass down to a rocky riverbed.  "Lumela!".  Good day.  Indeed, a good day this was going to be, we realized, as the Mosotho pastor and a South African missionary explained to us what the shepherds had asked them to do today.  We followed in powerful silence.

These shepherd boy's knowledge of their Heavenly Father, their Almighty Shepherd, was so basic, so simple, so pure.  Yet they had tasted the sweetness of His love and they knew they loved Him back.  You could FEEL the sacredness in the air.  

The boys stripped off their blankets.  The wind was crisp but their skin displayed no goosebumps.  Mountain air was their home.  As they pulled off their rubber boots, I saw what they used as socks.  Burlap bags tied around their legs to stop the boots from rubbing on their skin.  One by one, they untied the bags and began to wade out into the river and into the arms of the Mosotho pastor.  He asked about their decision to follow Christ and lowered them to new life in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Their comrades who had not yet made an eternal decision stood and watched in reverent silence.

All I could think and pray was, "This is holy.  This is sacred." 

Jayne prayed in closing at the end.  
After the baptism, we sat in on their Bible lesson about how sin entered the world.

I asked this friendlie to show me how to crack a whip :)

A few of the badisana and the chief's wife

This guy's name was "Tsehla" ("Yellow")

Jayne and her two friends drive 2 hours to do the bi-monthly Bible lessons for the badisana.
And this little guy just wanted his picture taken :)

Heading back home

"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death
in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the
glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
Romans 6:4

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Village Visit and the Bread of Life...

5 days in a village in Lesotho is hardly enough time to glance at language and culture through the eyes of a newbie.  But God can show you a lot about Himself and the people He loves in 5 days.

Remember Jayne, the AIM missionary who Sam and Sawyer installed solar panels for in October?  We asked if we could spend some time in her village for more exposure to Basotho language and culture.  We walked away amazed by her love for the people, her love for the Lord, and God's love for His creation.  Jayne started pursuing missions when she was 57 years old, finally fulfilling the call she felt as a little girl.  Over the last 7 years, Jayne's love for Christ and for the Basotho people has made her beat all odds.  She speaks Sesotho with fluency and the people in her village of Molumong have embraced her as their own.  We learned so much about the fulfillment of immense possibilities if you set your heart to what God is calling you to do.

Jayne set up for us to work with students from a local vocational school on our second day there.  Sam worked with the young men on a shelter for Jayne's truck to keep snow off of it during the harsh winter months.  I gave my testimony and read from John 6 before teaching some new recipes to the 35 girls who are learning how to cater.  We talked about what Jesus meant when he said, "I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty".  It adds a whole new dimension to explain this to friendlies who DO have hungry tummies.  How can Jesus be telling the truth if he says one won't go hungry?

We talked about hunger in the tummy and hunger in your soul, the type that makes you hunger to know why you exist and what your purpose in life is.  That type of hunger, for me, was satisfied when I was 16 and Christ changed my life.  Yes, my tummy may be hungry.  But my soul is not hungry for the answers to those questions anymore.  Christ satisfied that life hunger when he saved me and when he made it abundantly clear to me when he said, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." John 6:63.

MAF pilot, Justin Honaker, hooked us up with a smooth flight out to the village. 

Jayne's home and her truck, Tarzan.  Jayne has no running water and gets her drinking water from a spring behind her house.  The solar panels on her roof give her enough power to run her fridge and charge her computer.
Jayne's guest house has sometimes been shelter to the neglected and homeless.
Making my mama's rolls! 
Creating Tarzan's shelter.

The catering students take a break :)
Each day ended with a 2 hour language lesson from Abuti Lebohang.  He was an excellent teacher! 
Goodnight, Molumong.

"For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him
shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:40

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Art of Staring...

The art of staring is one quite lost on developed nations, or fat nations as new fads insist.  Staring is, "rude, uncomfortable, judgmental, self-absorbed".  We even have sermonette slide shows online to explain this concept to the less fortunate who don't know how to behave themselves according to our tacit rules.

Staring, in not-so-Westernized areas, is the gift of drinking deep of the only education one has...the education that stands in front of one's eyes and must be intently studied and exhausted on all sides.

Immense liberty lies in the ability to look intently upon another person with no obligation to speak in exchange for looking.  There is a calmness, a peace, a mystery, a power to discover one's world when we can stare into each other's souls through the portal of our eyes.  I discovered this at age 8 when I moved to Cameroon and became the object of unveiled curiosity in my age-mates au village.  Mes amis had a profound ability to study by way of staring.  Void of judgment.  Bursting with healthy curiosity.  They just wanted to KNOW.  Barriers of "stranger" were broken.  Words didn't need to be spoken.  Our eyes were enough.  They stared.  I stared back.  We lingered in that moment of processing the beauty of each other at every angle.  I found deep satisfaction and comfort in letting them stare without having to explain.  I found rest and peace in being able to stare back and let my mind slowly wander over the pleasing aesthetics of our similarities and differences and content myself with the joy that is "discovery".

The peace and comfort of lingering to discover other beings and souls was jolted out of my reality when I moved back to America and had to rush rush rush to discover people through words, but never eyes.  Staring is wrong, they might think ill of your intentions, don't do it.  Rush rush rush.  Use words only.  ASK them what they're thinking.  ASK them why they are the way they are.  EXPLAIN to them why you are who you are.  But never stare.  It leaves too many unanswered questions.  Never drink deeply of another being, quietly and peacefully.

I did find a few who beat the odds and learned to linger.  Staring was ok and safe for them.  These people KNEW me and I KNEW them.  But my heart hurt for the lonely ones, the rushed ones, the ones who were taught so young that remaining in a moment with your eyes could be viewed as judgmental.  Curiosity robbed.  Deep satisfaction never fully achieved.

I found this with so many students in my classroom.  I LOVED my job.  I LOVED being around them day in and day out.  I drank deep of the energy they brought into my classroom.  So much positive, curious energy.  Yet.  So many seemed lonely.  Not lonely and sad.  Lonely and busy.  So many friendlies whose eyes were never taught to linger.  to remain.  to rest in the moment.  to drink of God's world.  And oh, how I wanted them to stay. sit. watch the world.  be quiet.  don't explain yourself.  don't ask questions.  just look.

I'm back in the world of staring.  It is glorious.  My own daughter was 8 when she moved to Lesotho and I am having to re-educate her on the art of staring.  Void of judgment.  Bursting with curiosity.  I'll have to re-educate her yet again when we return to the States, but for now, may she linger long and soak up the joy of looking, not talking.  Because really, it's a beautiful world.

"Let all things praise
    the name of the Lord,
    because they were created
    at his command.
He made them to last forever,
    and nothing can change
    what he has done."
Psalm 148:5-6

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Unlikely Lily...


My unlikely lily should be dead.  By all rights.  3 lilies were planted.  3 lilies were chewed up and spat out by puppies.  One lily stub remained.  It should be dead.

I know nothing about gardening and kill everything with either too much love or not enough.  Plants in my presence are determined on the course of death rather than be cared for by the likes of me. Lesotho was a new start, new plants, new soil, new beginnings.  I was going to make this whole garden thing HAPPEN, goshdernit.  I bought new plants, soil, compost, and had a friend come over to help.  Yet, my roses withered in the Mosotho sun, my puppies harshly dominated all things green, and my efforts seemed in vain.  "What a waste of water", I thought as I stared down the lily stub that refused to show signs of health.

Yet you see above what awaited me in my garden yesterday morning.  

My father-in-law is God's gift to plant life.  He came in December and talked those plants into choosing life over death.  Rosebuds and hibiscus opened their sleepy eyes in the sunlight and grew in luster but I still thought the lily was a goner.  

Somehow, that ol' lily clung to life.  It wasn't beyond the struggle.  It just had to learn the secret of the good fight.  

In all vagueness of terms, I am learning the same secret of the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12).  The harsh realities of missionary life can easily dominate my view and I am now that withered stub.  I may need to catch my breath here as the stub and LEARN to LIVE Nehemiah 8:10, "The joy of the Lord is my strength".  I may need to sit here and let my roots gather up the Living Waters deep underearth that will pump eventual life to my utterances so I KNOW the meaning of "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit".  I may need the Gentle Gardener to whisper to my soul, "My dear brother, we must not mind a little suffering for Christ's sake" (Charles Simeon). 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Gotta Recommend...

The recent reads in the Danforth household are worth promoting. 

"The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good" by Peter Greer (President and CEO of Hope International) is the most invasive book I have ever read.  Invasive on my pride, that is.  If I had to recommend one book, other than the Word of God, for anyone involved in Christian service, this would be it.  It exposes the truth that none of us want to face.  As Christian workers, especially overseas, we often use God as our V.I.P card for self-promotion to the public.  This book invades and challenges our private motives about whether we do what we do because of what it does for us or whether it is in a genuinely joyful response to God's love.  

Have a look:  "Here I was, on the front lines, personally handing out blankets and helping families that had lost almost everything.  Noble cause.  Noble mission.  Noble actions of a 25 year-old relief worker.  A photographer snapped pictures, and I smiled wide for the camera as I did "God's work."  And the thought running through my head was not about the people receiving the blankets.  I thought, I can't wait until the people back home see these photos of me.  When I saw the photos a few weeks later, I trashed them.  With a flaky smile plastered on my face, I could only see the photos as incriminating evidence of an unhealthy heart condition.  Captured on film, I recognized myself as playacting for people far away.....I had just discovered that there are spiritual dangers to doing good." (p. 22-23). 

"The Spiritual Survival Handbook for Cross-Cultural Workers" by Dr. Robert S. Miller (Pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship and President of the Identity School for Christian Ministry) is incredibly concise.  Dr. Miller organizes 7 imposing obstacles in missions and offers preparation for challenges in ministry.  It too exposes dangerous mindsets on the mission field.  

Here's a taste: "The mindset of advancement is exciting, but there is a cost.  In order to advance, you must be willing to leave the old and let go of the familiar....But there is also a significant cost that comes with a mindset of non-advancement.  While you are working hard to protect and maintain the status-quo of your life and ministry, your heart is dying a slow death - the death of non-adventure that comes from breathing stale spiritual air...Be willing to advance to wherever he calls, avoiding the status-quo life and ministry at all cost.  Stop spending your time protecting what you have.  Instead, give yourself away." (p.79-80).  

"The Roots of Endurance" by John Piper (Pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church) articulates the invincible perseverance in the lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce.  A common theme among these men seems to be a keen awareness of and gratefulness to God for His hand in their radical transformations.  

Take a peek: "Newton gives beautiful, concrete expression to this conviction as he watches the dawn outside his window.  The day is now breaking: how beautiful its appearance!  how welcome the expectation of the approaching sun!...The Life of grace is the dawn of immortality; beautiful beyond expression, if compared with the night and thick darkness which formerly covered us; yet faint, indistinct, and unsatisfying, in comparison of the glory which shall be revealed." (p.71).  

"Wakeful endurance was a life-and-death matter for Simeon.  He dared not have a casual, sleepy-eyed approach to ministry." (p. 98).

"Galatians" by the radically transformed Apostle Paul is a book for grace in the face of legalism.  Paul's reflection of his own justification by faith in Christ may have prompted him to challenge the binding religious legal requirements put forth by overly zealous believers in the early years of Christianity.   My own father's life verse is found here.  

Check it out: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (ch.2 v.20)

"The Daily Bible in Chronological Order" as put together by F. LaGard Smith, lands me in a combination of 2 Samuel and Psalms.  Due to its chronological nature, I am gaining new insight and understanding on the depth of what prompted King David's psalms.

See the added power when following the chronological train of thought:  (Story of David's adulterous affair with Bathsheba and his hand in the murder of her husband, Uriah in 2 Samuel 11)  David's response is found in Psalm 51: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin...Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit  within me...Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."

"Abraham Lincoln" in the Fact Tracker series of Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Osborne, was this week's fun "on the side" reader at Little School in the Mountains with Elaina and Sawyer.  They learned about President Lincoln's growing up years, his presidency and home life, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, and the fight for freedom and a unified country.  

A little American history on Lesotho's soil: "The Gettysburg Address said our ancestors believed in a nation where all people were created equal.  It also said that the deaths at Gettysburg were part of an unfinished struggle to give America 'a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth'" (p.94-95).

Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

So, I go to school in Africa...

So, I go to school in Africa.

My teacher says I have to master only one concept in this school.  Are you ready?  Here it is.

This world is my playground, created by God himself.

That's it.  

My teacher says that some things are best learned like this:

That's only part of school, though.  She says that mastering this concept means we have to explore, taste, touch, feel, climb, listen, and see what exactly this playground is made of.

Some things are best learned like this:

We learn about our African playground:

And our American one too:

Sometimes we drag along people who are crazy about God's playground too.

Our classmates are citizens from all over this playground world.  Sometimes they talk and act like me.

Sometimes I have no idea what they're saying.  But on a playground, who cares?

This world is my playground, created by God himself.  

I hope I never master this concept.  I think I could learn like this forever.