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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Beyond the word cancer

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us."  Romans 5:3-5 NIV

I talked to one of my best friends this afternoon.   We’ve been friends for many years.  Through thick and thin.  Good times and Bad.  Today I shared all the details of our jaunt across Kenya.  Everything.  All the laughter and tears, the bittersweet moments of holding broken children, the old friends and new, each road and what it was like this time, each church, each person…everything I could think of.  

I told her how many people were praying for her even across the world…speaking life into her body, now wracked with cancer.  She should have been with us, but instead was fighting the good fight.  We didn’t talk much about the chemo or the pain or the loss of waist-length thick hair. We refuse to play into the hand of the enemy.  No, we zoomed by it and spoke instead of what life will bring tomorrow, next week, months and years from now.  Each word a dynamic press towards abundance.  

I’ve been down this path before with a loved one. Yes, cancer demands our attention.  It sucks the joy out of us and attempts to replace it with false bravado.  But God.   There is nothing false in Him.  There is joy in the suffering.  I breathe deeply and pull out the memories of a time gone past, looking them over one by one.  God’s grace is sufficient for each of us to embrace and come out the victor.  All those many years ago He sent His son to take the stripes & if you wipe away the tears to look closely you will find there are so many miracles woven through the fabric of anguish.  So many moments God’s hands reach down to hold them up when we cannot, offering the tender care of a future, just as promised…a future and a hope.  Divine marvels captured & clung to.   

So we caught up on all the news of the past few weeks, giggling over the silliness of life and the people in ours.  We made plans for our next conversation, our next visit & our next trip.  We hugged as only old and dear friends can over a phone line.  And I wept.  For what she must endure.  That I can’t be there for her.  For how she will be changed.  And yet God.  Our amazing and wonderful creator.  He will bring alongside her those that love beyond words, laugh through the tears and intercede with the Heavens…and with it healing.  

Today was a hard day.  I battled the line between whose report to believe and chose to act on the report of the Lord.  The stand came through tears.  I had to pull it out of myself.  It’s never pretty when you desire to be so perfectly staunch in God’s word and find a glitch, but Kingdom mentality won.   The Heavenly picture of my Father’s home brought the manifestations of grace to create with my friend new memories to look forward to. 

Life.  That in abundance.  For eternity.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Farm

Walking the farm today, rivulets of sun-drenched warmth rolled down our foreheads soaking the hair on our necks.  Children came from their huts following us, asking questions in an unknown language but kids are kids everywhere.  A hug, a warm smile and a hand to hold is all they need or want.  They tagged along part way down the road to the fish ponds & then ran off to finish their play.  We continued on with our dear friends, exclaiming over the beauty of the land, the growth of the crops and extent of the fish farms.  In our hearts we were astonished. 

Years ago, when we first began to visit the Ochuro’s of Bungoma, there were a small Bible College and the beginning of a Children’s Home housing a few street kids and fewer total orphans.  The desire was there but the funds were not.  Yet there was a dream in the heart of the man and woman God had put in this place.  A dream to build and become the hands and feet of Jesus.  They began with 1 greenhouse and from that developed 5; all of them providing enough tomatoes to feed the students and sell at market.  With that they began to purchase land, then a well, then a seed farm, then some vegetables as well as 22 fish ponds and now we are walking 7 acres of corn, rice, Maringa trees, soy, peanuts & sukamawiki.  7 acres that even the neighbors eat from.  7 acres that house and employ his family.  7 acres bringing enough finances to keep the children fed, clothed and in school as well as run the bible college & church on very few donations.  In Africa you don’t count on too many contributions as there is not a lot to give. 

There is more to do.  There are more children to save from life on the streets; more Pastors’s to graduate from school, more churches to start (over and above the 350 they have started in Kenya and the surrounding countries) and more lives to bring to Christ.  So as we walked the farm today, we reveled in the wonder of hearts turned completely away from self and focused on God’s desire.  

We learn something every day.  Today we learned God equips those He calls; one just has to keep their ear to His lips, be obedient to His whispers & not be afraid to act.

African Morning

I pull myself from the revelry of sleep into the cacophony of a bird-song soaked morning.  The gardener waters the plants while whistling a familiar tune, the cooks permeate my little world with the intoxicating aromas of breakfast, the old rooster down the street sounds the alarm of a fresh new day & my husband sweetly snores next to me.  Oh Lord, what have I ever done to deserve these extraordinary moments?  The day looms before me.  I try to tick off the tasks as any ordinary day, but giggle knowing I am so not in charge here. 

Today was planned as a study day for the week ahead, yet the WEEP ladies are coming to set up market for the guests as well as surrounding neighbors and churches.  These beautiful, single Moms, recovering from AIDS have worked long hours to prepare for this day where they will show off their beautiful jewelry, clothes and hand-crafted items making enough to save for the day they will own their homes and businesses. Their children will run and play around the compound, happy for the frivolity the day will afford them. 

There is excitement in the air; anticipation of visitors who will walk the grounds and stay for a lunch which will include meat. The staff is already setting up the tables & chairs that will house up to 50 visitors shielded from the sun by umbrellas.  The drivers are sprucing up the vehicles that will escort some of the company back and forth.  The grounds are being clipped, the main rooms polished, glasses and silver wiped down so nicely you can see yourself in them.  It reminds me of a time long ago when hospitality held incredible significance – it still does here.

I’m tempted to snuggle down into the quilt against the chill of a Kenyan morning but refuse to miss a moment of what I look forward to all year – my limited time in the land I've been called to.  I set my to-do list aside, throw the covers aside, immerse myself in the beauty of sunrise & stretch my hand out to the God whose promise is yes and amen.  

This is the day the Lord hath made and I will rejoice & be glad in it. 

I switched on my phone today

Roy asked me to check the battery in my phone.  As I turned it on for the first time in weeks the customary opening song welcomed me back to the hustle and bustle of city life.  Soon I will re-engage in balancing the ministry with a full-time job, relationships & housework. 

We are preparing to journey back home. 

On our last morning in Kenya I sit on our balcony shivering slightly from the cool morning breeze.  Terry McAlmon fills my senses along with the surrounding sounds & smells of a day getting started.  A small bird, aptly named the regal sunbird, comes to rest close to the rail.  I've never seen such beautiful colors.  Metallic blue, green and red shimmer as a sunbeam touches down to warm its little head.  I gaze beyond her feathers to peacefully watch the workers dig out the ground for the new addition to the lodge.  With shovels.  There are no dump trucks or big, loud machinery here.  A few young men pitch the rich red earth into mountains that will eventually be used in the gardens or carried away in wheelbarrows for neighboring gardens.  They sing and share stories as they go.  There is no ‘hurry’ here.  In Africa time is measured with an ‘ish’.  They will be ready to begin building December – ish. 

 It is an incredibly perfect morning.  I am as relaxed as one with my personality can be.  Our work is done except for making 300 peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for a village VBS.  I hear the newly- arrived visitors readying themselves for their outreaches today stretching with the contentment of a cat.  I will move slowly.  I will not allow tomorrow to enter in to this moment. I want to take this home with me; these new-found understandings that we are the ones that impress time constrictions on all we do.  I want to take the time to notice the beauty of God’s creation each day.  To daily extend and receive Christ’s love.   To perceive a need, then pause to fill it.  To be thankful for each breath rather than race through life so fast that you just stop to catch it every now and then.

It’s been a fulfilling few weeks.  Roy & I have poured out from the depths of our being and been quenched with the deep love of others in return.  We've gotten filthy, laid our heads on hard beds, cried and laughed from some unfathomable place within ourselves, given and received, prayed and been prayed for, embraced the pain of those we cannot help & seen the best and worst of what life has to offer.  All senses on overload; wishing we could stay and continue the work there is to do here, yet knowing God is calling us back to another mission field at home. 

I am blessed with this duplicitous life. 

God has assigned us with 2 nations, 2 people and a heart for many missionaries around the world.  He has entrusted us with much & will therefore give us the ability to soldier and steward it well. Though I grieve each leaving, I am learning to also rejoice in each coming home whether here or there. 

I have turned on my phone once again.