Every Life is a Journey: Here's a Bit of Mine

Every Life is a Journey: Here's a Bit of Mine

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Days 4 and 5 from my last trip with Orphan Helpers

Day 4:

Today was our last day with my dad, Jolly Green, Mush, Z, and Fossil. While prior to the trip I barely knew only two of them besides my dad, it was so hard to part ways. Amidst smiles, there were tears.
We had breakfast, went shopping, said goodbye, and prayed for those going back to the US.

Today was the most relaxed day by far, although it needlessly transformed into a stressful day for me. When leadership of the team went from my dad's shoulders to mine, and there were some unforseen changes of plans, I felt as though I didn't make right decisions fast enough, resulting in consequences for the team that remained with me in Honduras. I struggled to not dwell on these matters, and the remnant team could tell that I was troubled. Please pray that in the future, as failures arise amidst my leadership in variant arenas, I would note mistakes, learn from them, but not cry for too long over spilled milk, even if it spills a few times in a day right into the lap of someone sitting next to me!

James 1:2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Day 5
Today we went to the center where girls go for protection with another missions team from a different missions organization. The remnant team and I took part in the other larger team's activities.

One girl receiving protection there knew some English. I asked her where she learned, and she replied that she had been in the US for 6 months. She had been in the center 3 months. She, like many in the center, knew about a much more materially abundant existence than the life they were living while at the center. Very recently for many of these girls, they had been suffering abuse, yet when not being abused had in other ways far more freedoms and physical comforts than they do while at the center. At one point in our time, I asked why a few girls were crying. One girl said that it was because they didn´t like it there. They may be relatively safe when compared to where they came from, but to many girls, it´s a dismal place. The girls said that they were bored. One even said, "quiero morir," which means, "I want to die." While some girls said that they missed their families, she said that her parents had abandoned her and that she didn´t want to see them. It sounded as though this girl also said that she wanted to kill her baby. If she said this, she probably did not want her baby to live in the same kind of situation that she grew up in. My prayer is that the Love, peace, joy, and hope of Christ would come in to heal the brokenness in her life. I praise God that even though there are few amenities in her setting, Orphan Helpers, and Perfect Love, are right there too.

1 John 4:8 ...God is Love (Agape).
1 John 4:17 There is no fear in Love. But perfect Love drives out fear...

Even though the Orphan Helpers teachers don't have the funding to be there around the clock, the time that they are there, and the time that our short term OH team spent with the girls, was time that the girls could see those that cared for the pain and suffering that these girls have been through. When girls that have been treated like trash come to believe that someone in this world cares for them, and that there is a perfect Father in Heaven that would love to be with and cherish them throughout their days, there is hope.

After the larger team left the center, Wendy came, who I had never met prior to this trip. She is like a sister to many of the girls in Hogar Torrech, the half way home for girls located in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, maybe 4 hours away. She came with folks from a nice hotel in San Pedro Sula, bringing food prepared by she and the folks at the hotel. It was such good food too! For kids that usually have very simple foods, beans and rice, plantains, rolls, chicken, and cole slaw was a treat! It wasn't her first time bringing food for the kids there either! At some point in our time together, I asked her why she went into the centers, and she explained how it was such a blessing to see kids go from tears and despair to smiles and hope, knowing that you were the reason for the change. I praise God for allowing me to be a little piece in such changes as well; it is a privilege I could never deserve.

We went to an orphanage for the last time, and although we only got to spend around an hour with them, playing with the kids and praying over a few of them was a blessing that we could have overlooked with ease.

Tonight we had an excellent dinner,

but even though the dinner and the last nightly fellowship was wonderful, it was rather bittersweet knowing that we had to go back home tomorrow, and that the orphans we were leaving weren't going to be eating anything like we were that night. I've been on around 2 dozen mission trips, and despite all the comforts and amenities found in the US, not once have I ever been ready to come home. If you have never been involved in missions in the 2/3 world, you may have difficulty understanding, but for me, spending time with and ministering to the poor in foreign lands (and domestically) has been one of the greatest blessings in my life.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Reflections From the 3rd Day of my Latest Orphan Helpers Trip

Today we went to church, then had a little ¨fiesta¨ with the girls at the center made to protect them. In centers where kids might only get meat a few times a week due to the expense, cake, ice cream, and soda was a treat.

After lunch we went to the Genesis center, a massive complex that Orphan Helpers hopes to be operating within the year, then back to the juvenile detention center for boys.

Dinner tonight was the last dinner with the full American team. Most of the team leaves tomorrow, going to the US. It was a special night, where each person went around and shared some of their highlights from the trip.

Some shared about how wonderful it was to have 3 kids who had come out of a juvenile detention center after coming to Christ and being discipled alongside us, going back into the centers and preaching the gospel, a message of hope, of positive change, of Life, of forgiveness no matter the past, and of redemption through the blood of Jesus.

One shared about how wonderful it was to not have so many programs, but to be led by the Spirit and have time just to be with the kids. One of the things my dad shared about was how wonderful it was for me to be there, after almost losing me in November, unconscious and fully submerged in a dark river on a dark night for at least 10 or 15 minutes.

I shared about four things special about this trip. Many of the blessings that other people mentioned were matters that I had encountered on a number of trips in the past. First I praised God for my room mate Al´s daughter, an 11 year old girl who faithfully prays for the kids and for the ministry of Orphan Helpers. A second highlight was going with my dad, and seeing him on his knees in prayer in our room and the opportunity I had to join him on my own knees. Third, it was wonderful to pick oranges from the Genesis center, a complex with over 100 fruit trees, knowing that the oranges that would otherwise mostly be wasted won´t be wasted for long as more and more Orphan Helpers and kids come into the place, and the Lord uses it mightily for His glory in redeeming lives and healing brokenness for so many.

The last thing I shared about was how wonderful it was to see some of the fruit from the missions conference Urbana, where Orphan Helpers was represented for the first time over a year ago.

The OH volunteer team
I had the blessing of helping to represent OH there, and it was so wonderful to have two brothers and two sisters in Christ with us. It is such a privilege to know a bit of the impact that they have made here, and that has been made in their lives. They’ve seen not only some of the realities of the effects of sin in this world in breaking lives, but the redemptive impact that Christ, through hands and feet of people and by his redemptive power at work in people´s hearts, can make in healing this world.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Honduras 2011: Day 2

Day 2
Today was packed. We went to an orphanage for kids 0-12 in the morning.

We went to a boys juvenile detention center in the afternoon and early evening.

Please pray:

In the orphanage:
For so many urine-soaked diapers on kids receiving so little attention,

For my response to kids there, as anger and frustration could be seen in my face on multiple occasions as soccer balls hit my head without my intending them to- pray that the peace of Christ would rest on me no matter my circumstances.

In the juvenile detention center:
for those that made commitments to come to Christ for the first time, for some who committed to come back to Him, and for others who were walking with Christ,
for real faith in the absolute love of God for the kids, His absolute goodness, and trust in the perfection of the plan God has for their lives,
for real faith to believe that ¨God´s kindness leads you towards repentance (Romans 2:4)¨
for the breaking of pride of kids who think that they don´t need God to change

In both places:
For more local churches to get behind what the Lord is doing in the lives of the kids in the centers,
For more empathy resulting in greater volunteer efforts and funding from Central America and the United States that could greatly increase the impact on kids´ lives,
For more prayer warriors to rise up for the kids - praise God for one team members´ 11 year old daughter who has never gone down, but prays daily for the kids,

For the team:
For recognition that only the power of God can change the hearts and lives of those with so little hope without Him

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Honduras 2011: Day 1

In February 2011 I was in Honduras with my father and the other missionaries on an Orphan Helpers Vision Trip, where I composed a few notes. Here's my first of them:

Today, we went to a center in Honduras where girls go primarily for their own protection. Most if not all of the girls have been sexually abused. This was the first time that most of the team members have served with Orphan Helpers.

The pain in the eyes of the girls came as a shock to some of the team members that have never been, who expected to see a multitude of happy faces upon their arrival. My father reminded the girls in the center that no matter what they have done in the past, and no matter what others have done to them, they are all beautiful. God knows it, my dad knows it, and I pray that some of them who may doubt it might know it as well.

Please pray:

For girls struggling with loneliness (one girl missed her own little girl who had been taken from her) - that they would learn to walk closely with the ¨Friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), who will never leave them nor forsake them (Hebrews 13:5).¨

For girls bound by the bitterness that stems from unforgiveness and hatred towards those that have wronged them and brought so much pain into their lives, including family members who have sexually abused them, prostituted them, and done other horrible things to them.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Bittersweet Luxuries, a Dream of an Orphan Girl, and Joy Amidst the Love of God

Last Wednesday night, I was spending some time reading, praying, etc. when I drifted to sleep, and for a moment, saw the face of Ammu. It brightened my day to see her in South Africa, and it gave me so much joy to see her again in my dream! The dream consisted of simply seeing her face once more; it contained nothing else, but it didn't have to. Seeing her face again was more than I could ever deserve.

It reminded me of Ammu seated on my lap during the following memory written in a previous blog:
"There's less than a week left before I leave, and there's still so much that needs to be done here! It's been wonderful to be in Soshanguve. It's been wonderful to love hurting people, and to see so much love returned.
I have to admit that I'm not looking forward to the day when I have to come back to the American reality. I'll be returning to comfort, to safety, to family, and to my home, but I'll be leaving behind so many people I've grown to love here. So many children are fatherless here, as I've shared with you before. After seeing my interaction with one little fatherless girl of 5, Ammu, another girl asked me if I was her father. When I replied that I was not, she asked if I loved Ammu like a father. I replied that I did love her (which was lost in translation as a full affirmation), and she asked if I could love herself as a father as well."

I weep as I write.

I may be safe now. I may be living with a family that loves me on their own private island. I may eat the choicest of foods and have access to a reliable car to drive and gas to put in it.
I may not have had the best food in the poor black township of Soshanguve. I may not have been considered safe by the rest of the world. I may not have been living with a family that I knew. I may have walked a lot and used taxis that the vast majority of white people in the country consider highly unsafe. My room may not have had a ceiling and there may have been rats in the house, including one a foot or two away from my face on one occasion when I woke up from sleeping.

None of the luxuries of home can compare to the dream of Ammu, the smiling face of an orphan who loved me like the father she never had.

I love missions. I always have. I am in VA though now. God's will is better than mine. He knows what He's doing. Still, I don't like where God has had me for the past few months. I'd rather be with an Innerchange team in South Africa or Cambodia, living in poverty yet experiencing so much joy as the love of God overflows as I serve the physically, spiritually, and emotionally hurting. What I too often forget is that the Lord has me in VA right here, right now, for a reason.

I looked at "My Utmost for His Highest" devotions (http://utmost.org) from January 24th-26th, which spoke to me as well. Chambers states, "you are to have no end, no aim, and no purpose but Mine (24th)." "Do not look for God to come in a particular way, but do look for Him...Keep your life so constantly in touch with God that His surprising power can break through at any point." I wanted God to lead me MY way, to send me off to be with the poor for a long time. "Every time we lose ground in our fellowship with God, it is because we have disrespectfully thought that we knew better than Jesus Christ...Many of us refuse to grow where God plants us...Consecration is the act of continually separating myself from everything except that which God has appointed me to do. It is not a one-time experience but an ongoing process. Am I continually separating myself and looking to God every day of my life (26th)?"

After this dream, worship and the sermon at Wave Church in VA Beach encouraged me as well. The speaker highlighted that change in our lives and our walk is possible, when I have been so full of condemnation at my inability to progress much amidst the geographical placement and ministry I am involved in now. He spoke about Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3. Moses was insecure about the calling of God on His life, and didn't want to accept it. He had murdered a man in cold blood, and may have had a speech impediment. He didn't feel equipped to lead the Hebrews out of slavery. The speaker highlighted how "change hinges on who Jesus is, not who you were." "Insecurity will overestimate the size of your problem and underestimate the size of your God." He closed with 2 Corinthians 5:17, focusing on being in Christ:
17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Abiding in Christ, He can overcome in us that which we could never defeat on our own.

I have been so dissatisfied at my life in the past few months, much of which has been due to my many failures amidst such an easy, physically blessed and comfortable lifestyle. I wonder how I can effectively serve the Lord in the physically hard places if I can't serve the Lord well in the physically comfortable places.

I often find myself drifting to dissatisfaction at my existence due to my daily failures, but we know that God doesn't look at us through the lens of our failures, but through the blood of Jesus (Isaiah 61:10). Also, how can any of us not be satisfied when we consider the massive degree of grace lavished on each and every one of us? The life of our Creator was given on our behalf! Our God is with the called forever! Even a moment in His presence would be more than we could ever deserve and worth far more than a lifetime of praise!
God doesn't love me for the good things I do! It's not MY performance that allows me access to His presence in this life or the next; it was His performance on a cross! My fallen performance can never merit His love, so I need to stop treating myself like it can!

Please, keep reminding me of the joy that should erupt from our lives as we live with a God who loves us infinitely, no matter our inadequacy, foolishness, and sin.

Blessed be the name of the Lord, who knew our sins before we were born, yet who took on flesh so that He could shed His blood and die for the blemishes that would have kept us apart from Him forever. He is not disgusted by us even amidst the vomit of sin (Proverbs 26:11, Romans 5:6-8); His love remains even then.
Even while He was being crucified, in Luke 23:34 "Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

One of the one room shacks next door to where we lived.
Soshanguve, South Africa