a body that quits & a God who doesn’t

I had a nice long post written under this same title, talking about how the enemy has a tendency to attack right before big things happen for the Kingdom: one of our sponsor children, a little boy we’ve met and invested in, has left our care pointe, and we won’t be seeing him again; I broke my tailbone the week before our wedding, and the 16-hour flight and dirt roads will not be kind to that injury; one team member’s father broke his back just a week before our departure; a missionary friend miscarried today; another team member lost a close friend today. A young boy was dragged into a lagoon by an alligator. More than 100 people were injured or killed in Orlando this weekend.

It was a beautiful post, and I spent a lot of time working on it. And while it’s the least of our problems, the post has simply vanished. I saved the draft multiple times, but there is no record of it anywhere on my computer. (the irony is not lost on me.) I’m choosing to look the other way–maybe Jesus is trying to humble me, or maybe what I was trying to say isn’t what needs to be heard. Instead of sharing my words with you, I will share someone else’s.

Today on the radio, the DJ shared a statement from Ann Voskamp:

The world needs prayer warriors who don’t see prayer as the least we can do, but as the most we can do.

I will sit here with a busted tailbone and eat my words and my humble pie as I ask for prayer for H and I, and really for our whole team. There are teenagers leaving home for the first time, and parents leaving small children behind. There is a young woman who recently got engaged. A newlywed couple, and a brand new husband who is getting ready to leave for boot camp. I am in the midst of a fibromyalgia flare up that meds can’t keep under control. And, with just 3 days until we depart for Swaziland, we still have a need to raise $1300. Our God is good, even when our circumstances are not, and we know that God will be glorified regardless of what is required of us. We kneel here and pray confidently and expectantly that God’s will be done by the time we get on a plane Saturday afternoon.

My body might want to quit, but my God never will.

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2 Days // I didn’t ask for this.

My trip has been 100% covered in your contributions, and for that I am so, so grateful.

In the interest of transparency: I didn’t ask for this.

Just like the human body, 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 tells us that each part of the body of Christ has its own unique purpose, different gifts and talents and abilities in order to complete the mission for which it has been appointed to do. One body part cannot function without those around it, and without one part, the whole body cannot complete its mission.

There are some days where I look at this earthly body of mine and think to myself, wow. I am uniquely qualified for the assignment I have been given. More often than not, however, I look at this body of mine and think to myself, I did not ask for this body of mine.

I did not ask for a mind that keeps me awake at night, trying to think of ways to logistically house and feed every orphan in Swaziland. (I mean, come on, the military can house and feed hundreds of thousands, why can’t I?)

I did not ask for eyes that are drawn to the outcasts, the lonely, the ones most in need of attention and affection.

I did not ask for eyelids, the inside of which are indelibly inked with the images of painfully beautiful moments with my babies.

I did not ask for ears to which the sound of children is like the most beautiful of songs, ears that hear the cry of one child over the laughs and cheers of others.

I did not ask to find my heart walking around outside my body (click here) so, so far away.; a heart that is broken over watching these sweet babies fend for themselves, and grow up feeling unloved by parents, siblings, their Creator.

I did not ask for an immune system that might kill me in the US, but save me in a third world country.

I did not ask for a voice that does not shake when asked to speak in front of large crowds.

I did not ask for arms that can rock colicky infants to sleep.

I did not ask for hands large enough to hold that of three or four children at once, because there is a shortage of such.

I did not ask for fingers that could pluck guitar strings and teach children to sing of the Happy Day when Christ came alive.

I did not ask for a stomach strong enough to withstand the smell of un-bathed children, urine-soaked clothing, burning trash and feces.

I did not ask for long legs that can play soccer as easily as they can provide seats to two or three children at once.

I did not ask for feet that feel at home wrapped in canvas TOMS, stained red with Swazi soil, impervious to rocks, thorns and sticker plants. Feet that knew I was home the moment they touched Swazi soil.

I am clumsy and uncoordinated with these things that I have been given. Sometimes I get too wrapped up in what’s happening in front of me to see the ones most in need, or enjoy too much the sound of laughter to hear the cry of a child. Sometimes my heart aches more for my own circumstances, those that keep me up at night. Sometimes my immune system knocks me flat on my back (pun intended), and sometimes I can’t use my voice to speak up for my babies. Sometimes, my arms and legs and hands shake so much that I can’t hold a glass of water, let alone hold babies or play guitar. Sometimes, my feet get tired, and the Swazi soil washes away. Sometimes I forget the beauty of the sights, the strength of the smells, the depth of the feels.

It is on days like today that it is the very hardest to cling to the Cross, when I feel weak and powerless, undeserving of the gifts and talents I have been given in order to complete my mission as a part of the body of Christ. As a missionary, I have been warned that the enemy attacks when we are closest to Christ, when there is the most at stake, when we have the most to lose. It is in those moments that the enemy finds us the most vulnerable, because we never see it coming. Today is one of those days. I know the enemy is attacking, but knowing doesn’t make it easier to face. It is days like today that I think that this body of mine is more a burden than a blessing.

And then I remember: this body of mine is not mine.

I may not have asked for these things, but God did. Not only did he ask, he commanded them. He commanded ME. To go, to do, to love. To use this little ol’ speck of his great and mighty body to be a light in the darkness, so that his children might rejoin the Kingdom of Heaven.

On days like today, straight out of Ephesians, this is my prayer: that I might live a life worthy of this calling I have so graciously been given, even when—especially when—I fall short of the glory of God. So here I am. Lord, send me.

2 days, 14 hours, 21 minutes until I go.

Here I am, Lord. Send me.

9 Days // Like No Tomorrow

I leave for Swaziland in 9 days, 6 hours, 59 minutes.

Quiet time with Jesus is always an interesting thing for me because this is what tends to happen:

  1. I start reading a passage of scripture.
  2. Jesus verbally punches me in the face.
  3. I sit there in shock for a few minutes.
  4. I keep reading.
  5. Jesus shows back up and empowers me.

I wrote the other day about how James 4:3 hit me hard and called me out in sin. Today, as I flipped to the bookmarked page in my bible, I returned to continue reading James 4 when I stumbled upon verses 13-17:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and so this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

In my crazy semester at school, I was working in a sushi restaurant. There was one Saturday I worked a painfully long shift—10:30 am to about 12:30 the next morning. Fourteen hours on my feet on the busiest day of the restaurant week, and I was ready to go home. My last table of the night was a group of four gentlemen dressed like serious hoodlums—baggy jeans, South Pole and Baby Phat sweatshirts, flatbills, grills in their teeth—and my programs of study came up in conversation. I was able to explain how much I love Swaziland and my upcoming trips and the overwhelming need that exists. The following conversation went a lot like this:

Guy: Aren’t you scared you’re going to get killed or raped?

Me: No. I could just as easily get killed or raped here in the US, and I wouldn’t be impacting people in the same way on Christ’s behalf.

Guy: What happens if somebody walks in and holds a gun to your head and asks if you’re a Christian?

Me: I’d say yes.

Guy: What if it were right there in front of your thirty kids?

Me: You better believe I’d say yes.

The guys erupt into laughter of shock. “You’re crazy,” says one of them. “You can’t protect your kids or save babies if you’re dead. Why would you do that?”

Me: The best way I can protect anyone, especially my kids, is to shield them with Christ. Philippians 1:20-21 says, ‘I eagerly hope and expect that I will in no way be ashamed, but that Christ would be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death (NIV). Alive, I am Christ’s messenger. Dead, I am his bounty. Life versus more life? I can’t lose (MSG)!’

Guy: But why would you put your kids through watching their mom get shot?

Me: Because there is no greater example to set for my children. My job is to model the best example of Christ that I can for my kids, and really, for anyone I come in contact with. “There is no greater love than he who lays down his life for his friend.” I hope and pray that I was a good enough mother and leader to those kids that they understood that Christ-like love, and that those kids would follow suit and claim their faith in the face of danger.

I heard this somewhere, not sure where, awhile back and it changed my outlook on things:

The Jesus I know wants us to go dangerous places and love dangerous people and live our lives so dangerously for the Kingdom that we become a hazard to everyone around us who is trying to play it safe.

God has called people to dangerous places to do dangerous things almost exclusively throughout history. You have Abraham, who left behind everything and everyone he knew, simply because God asked him to. He was even willing to kill his own son to follow God’s command. There’s Jochebed, a Hebrew woman living in Egypt, who hid her newborn son from guards with orders to kill baby boys before floating him down the Nile in a basket—without her, we wouldn’t have had Moses, who liberated the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. There’s Noah, who built a gigantic ark while being mocked and threatened by his community. There’s Mary, who bore the shame of pregnancy before marriage so that she might bear the Messiah. Paul, who spoke out on behalf of his encounter with God, knowing that he might lose his life. The disciples, who followed Jesus despite his reputation and seemingly heretical teachings. Rahab, who risked her life to harbor Israelite spies. Jonah, who [eventually] went to Ninevah to preach a warning over the people. Lot, who left behind everything he knew, and never looked back. Peter, who built the church despite persecution. There is Jesus, who came to earth knowing he would be mocked, ridiculed, abused, and killed, simply for proclaiming his title of King of king, Lord of lords, the Son of God.

Millions of people all over the world who hide their faith on a daily basis from family, friends, coworkers, neighbors…but would claim Christ, even in the face of danger. Especially in the face of danger.

Some of those millions of people are my brothers and sisters in Ethiopia. About a month ago, 30 of those brothers and sisters were taken from this world at the hands of ISIS, because they refused to deny Christ. They understood that tomorrow is never promised, and so they lived dangerously, by harboring a forbidden faith, a salvation relationship with Jesus so they might live their lives for their Creator in the way they are called.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

I have not been given long on this earth. None of us has. None of us has even been granted a tomorrow…so why do we waste our today trying to play it safe?

Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and so this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

People ask me why I would go to a closed nation like Ethiopia, where my faith could sign my death sentence. The reason I am going is that I am not promised a tomorrow. I refuse to waste any more time by not doing exactly what God has called me to do. The reason I am going is that Matthew 28:19 calls us to make disciples of ALL nations…not just the easy ones. The reason I am going is the very fact that my faith in the Creator of the universe could sign my death sentence, and that is not okay.

It is the Lord’s will that I go; if I know that I should go to Ethiopia and then I don’t go, it is like telling God my safety is more important than His plan. His divine and perfect plan to save all of mankind—if I have any saving faith at all, how could I refuse to be part of that plan? If it is God’s plan for my life that I die for my faith, I will die for my faith at the appointed time, whether I am in Ethiopia or Swaziland or the US. If I know this to be true, how could I possibly turn God down?

17 Days // at the foot of the Cross

17 days. There are only 17 more days until I leave for Swaziland.

The word ‘transparency’ is a big church buzzword that has a tendency to get thrown around casually in conversation without, unfortunately, always being demonstrated or explained. People like me, meaning those of the Jesus generation who want more on Sunday morning than a mega-church with an awesome light show during worship, tend to shy away from this type of word. It is overused, and thus loses its meaning; however, there is something to be said about transparency in the proper use. When a person is transparent with another, he or she is giving full disclosure, typically about things done wrong, failures, shortcomings, etc., to another for the biblical purpose of confessing one’s sins to another, in order to be held accountable (yet another church buzzword) and continue to grow. In my opinion, it is one of the most crucial responsibilities of anyone who desires to work in ministry, whether voluntarily or vocationally, because it does more than keep us honest–it forces us to deal with our own mistakes and grow through them, while our coworkers do the same, so that we all grow together and there is no comparison of dirty laundry because everyone has it. This being said, I need to be transparent with you, to confess an area in which I fall short.

First, it is important you know that I am struggling to fundraise for my trips this summer. Ethiopia will be paid off after I transfer some money out of my savings account, but I still have a large sum to raise for Swaziland. Even after nearly 150 letters sent out, very little has come in. With only 17 days left until our team departs, I am getting very nervous.

I got up early this morning to take my younger sisters to get donuts before dropping them off at school. Afterwards, I came home and sat down at the kitchen table to work on a blog post for today and hit writer’s block. I decided to skip ahead to my pre-Swaziland mission devotional, a fantastic book by Jack Hempfling called, ‘Before You Go.’ I’ve read the book before, but we read it annually as a team, and today’s devotional hit me right between the eyes: today’s devo was entitled ‘Losing to God Will Help You Win,” paired with a passage from James 4. It is not a long chapter, so I pulled out my bible and read the passage in its full context. By verse 3, I felt as though I’d been slapped in the face.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Ouch. It stings to hear read such things, especially when you are hopeful of being filled up and encouraged. I read over Hempfling’s devo for the day, and sat back to think. Have I really been asking for financial provision with the right motives? In my heart, I want to answer yes, because the money I have been trying to raise is for a philanthropic purpose. It’s so I can go out into the world, to see my place, my people, my babies in Swaziland. .

Even as I type this now, I flinch. MY place. MY people. MY babies. I know that I am not the most humble person in the world; I think it may be a common misconception that missionaries don’t struggle with the same sins that everyone else deals with. After all, I take pride in the work that I do and the things I am passionate about, because God has gifted me in ways that call me and set me apart, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with taking pride in that. The problem comes when I am prideful in that. I have concentrated my focus far too much on the necessity of ME going to Swaziland, not the gift of GOING to Swaziland. I think back to last year’s trip, and realize that my pride got in the way then too. I was so excited that  got to go back, that I lost a small part of the joy that comes in serving. I took a step back to let others, those who had note been before, serve first, experience first, love first, which I thought was the right thing to do, seeing as how I have had the chance to experience this before; let the newbies do it. If they need help, I can step in like the pro that I am to bridge the gap. Only now am I realizing how wrong this thought process is.

It hurts my heart to think that I missed out on some of the joy, but, as much as it stings, I am glad God has called this to my attention now, rather than a month from now when it is too late. I refuse to let my pride get in the way of the joy God has in store for not only me, but my team as well. Instead, I will cling to the words of Paul, at the start of Ephesians 4.

Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called with all humility and gentleness.

So there you have it. I have removed the plank from my eye, confessed my sinful nature, admitted defeat. I ask for forgiveness from God and from you, for not properly conveying the joy that lies in a cheerful heart with the right motives. I am on my face at the foot of the Cross, praying that Christ might change my heart in order to prepare me for the experiences that lie in wait.

17 days. I go home in 17 days.

Day 1: Before I Go…

It’s today. So many feelings this morning. So many instances of nearly crying in the middle of church or driving home or talking to people, asking me how many hours until I leave, because they know I am keeping track.

I have eagerly been counting down the days since I last found myself in the Indianapolis airport. My mom came to pick me up, and she asked how my trip was and I broke down crying. The only words I could fathom were, I have to go back. I have to go back I have to go back I have to go backI am going back. It’s right now. This is happening. I am sitting in the Indianapolis airport waiting to board the first plane and it is taking everything in me to not jump up and down and yell “It’s today it’s today it’s today!”

Just this morning someone asked me if I was ever afraid to go. I have heard a lot of variations of this question: Isn’t it dangerous? Isn’t there disease? Isn’t it weird to have strange children crawling on you? Doesn’t it make you uncomfortable to be stared at because you’re white? Do they have real toilets or are you going to use squatty potties? What if they don’t like you?

Doesn’t it scare you?

The answer is yes. Yes, it scares me very much. It is terrifying to be so incredibly in love with something that I can’t get it off my mind and to know I am risking my life. It is terrifying to be so scared of this passion so deeply rooted in my heart because I don’t get scared of things. But I know that God’s power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is one of the most elemental truths of my entire life, and I am so, so grateful for this.

However: the people I am leaving behind don’t feel this. They can’t understand how fulfilling it is to rock a colicky baby to sleep while her mother cooks, or the overwhelming feeling of having kids fight over who gets to hold your hand while walking from place to place. They haven’t experienced this raw, unadulterated joy; they see only the risks. I have several friends and family members that adamantly oppose this trip and the plan to go back long term, and I can appreciate their opposition. It is out of genuine concern, and lack of understanding. It is for them I have these words:

“And I will be to her a wall of fire all around,” declares the Lord, “And I will be the glory in her midst.” Zechariah 2:5

“God is within her, she will not fail.” Psalm 46:5

I’m a little nervous to step on this plane, but I’m not afraid for myself. I know that I will be taken care of, that I will be safe, that everything that happens on this trip will be nothing short of God’s glory and his plan for my life.

Goodbye, America. See you later.

24 Days // What Will I Make?

I leave in 24 days. 2 hours. 14 minutes.

I had a job interview today, at a local clothing store. The interviewer asked me about what I’m studying at school, and what I want to do with my life. In case you haven’t noticed…it’s kinda my favorite thing to talk about. After I finished explaining, he looks quizzically at me and asked, “There’s a need and all, but why would you pick that? You seem smart. Why not choose to be a doctor or a lawyer? What are you going to make, anyways?”

This is a question I get a lot. I’m not sure why it struck me as it did today; it could be the condescending tone, or the lack of professionalism, I don’t really know. Needless to say, I was livid. I don’t think I have ever been so angry. I wanted to choke him and yell, “YOU ARE A MANAGER OF A TEEN CLOTHING STORE. DON’T JUDGE MY CAREER CHOICE.” right there in the break room, but because this was a job interview and not some televised fight, I couldn’t. Instead, I took a pause. And I thought about 1 Corinthians 12:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ…If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? (verses 12, 17-19)

Here is what I am NOT saying: my calling is better than yours.

Here is what I AM saying: my calling is just that–mine. It is personal, just as yours is personal. And whether you are called to missions, or being a manager of a clothing store, your calling is equally important to God’s plan as anyone else’s. Please friends, do not belittle the ambitions of others…especially with trivial questions like what will you make.

I took a deep breath. And I smiled. And I said, “I will make enough. Aren’t there more important things in life than money?”

He nodded in agreement and quickly moved on to the next question.

I thought about it through the whole interview and my whole drive home: What will I make? I thought about Winston Churchill’s famous words, “You make a living from what you get, but you make a life from what you give,” and I have decided that I have a whole mouthful for him, whether the Lord calls me to Africa permanently or keeps me stateside:

What will I make?

I will make kids feel loved. I can give hugs and kisses and smiles and kind words.

I will make my kids understand that there is a God who made them, who loves them, who died for them.

I will make my kids believe in themselves. I will give my kids a reason to believe they are worthy of being loved.

I will make parents and guardians believe in their kids. I will make my kids give others a reason to believe in them.

I can give the support and encouragement to make minor triumphs feel like winning an Olympic medal. I can make major obstacles feel like pebbles on the side of the road.

I will give my kids cause to think and question and wonder.

I can make kids believe they are part of something bigger than themselves. I hope and pray every day that I make myself an example of what it looks like to live a life that demands explanation. I can give them proof that if they love God with everything they are and everything they have, nothing is impossible.

I get to give my kids a chance.

If I am to be really honest, you (and just about everyone else in the developed world) will make more money than me. That’s okay, because I get to make something better:

I get to give everything I have for my whole life. I get to make a difference.

If that isn’t the best dang job in the whole world, I’m not sure what is.

 

I leave in 24 days. 1 hour. 46 minutes.

Little Infinities

So fun fact: John Green lives within a half hour drive of my house. If, like me, you are a proud member of the Nerdfighter fandom, you will know that The Fault in Our Stars movie comes out in just 28 days, which is super awesome because it means that I get to see it before I leave for Swaziland, and cry my eyes out two days before returning to Swaziland.

I was in a job interview today, and the interviewer asked what I’ms studying in school and what I want to do with my life. After I told him, he asked me a question I don’t get very often: why?

Why do I want to I want to spend ten days in Africa over the summer, instead of going on vacation or hanging out with friends? Why do I want to spend every day of the rest of my life dealing with teenagers, instead of making lots of money elsewhere? Why would I voluntarily give up the conveniences and luxuries of life in the United States for the primitive lifestyle Africa endures?

If you have read the tFiOS book, you’ll remember this little excerpt:

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”

I like this because I’m kind of a nerd and I like thinking about things my brain can’t actually comprehend, but also because of how true it is. Some infinities are far greater than other infinities. In the United States, we (myself included) get far too wrapped up in our lives to pay any attention to living. We don’t live in the moment, because our ideology says that if we want to be successful, we have to be constantly thinking, planning, looking ahead. We look to the best interests of ourselves, and we will fight for it. It’s in our nature; we create these lives for ourselves that are great while we’re alive, and do very little once we’re gone (but who cares? we’re not here to enjoy it!). We have the little infinities that are our lives.

But the Swazis….they know how limited their time is here on earth. They are categorically terrible timekeepers, never rushing from one place to another because they are too busy living in the moment to pay attention to the time. They don’t plan for the future; the future is usually too uncertain to plan for, not to mention the lack of resources with which to plan. They are all about living in the moment in every aspect of their lives. Each moment to be lived in becomes an infinity of its own–one to replay over and over and over in your mind and it is because of this Swazi infinities are so much greater than American infinities. Each life is made up of an abundance of infinities.

Some of my favorite Swazi infinities:

  • The time between the moment Benele, our translator, told sweet Kheto that I was her sponsor and the moment it clicked in her mind that 1. she had a sponsor, and 2. I was sitting right in front of her. It was a little infinity, but a beautiful one. We started sponsoring Kheto only a few days before we met, and a lapse in communication meant I was lucky enough to experience her emotional response.
  • The first time Kheto said, “Thank you for loving me.” My heart is trembles to think about it.
  • The time one of my babies spent her morning washing my hands.
  • The time I played catch with a group of schoolgirls and tried to learn their names…and they thought my petty attempts at speaking Siswati were worth laughing at (secretly, they loved the attention).
  • The time I could bless one of the bomake (boh-mah-gay, the women who cook and take care of kids at the care pointes) my holding her three-month-old daughter while she prepared lunch. Her sweet baby fell fast asleep on my chest while I sang.

My words do not do justice to the fullness of my heart in each of these moments. It is the little things that made me fall in love with the Swazi people. These little things are my little infinity, and my biggest why.

 

(Nerdfighters: Don’t Forget to Be Awesome)

You Call It Africa

This post was written on June 19, 2013 as a freelance piece for the Connection Pointe Christian Church Global Impact Blog. You can visit this blog to receive updates on our team’s trip to Swaziland, as well as other CPCC mission team visits to other parts of the world at www.cpccglobal.com

The first thing I remember seeing upon departure from the Johannesburg airport was a billboard for a South African travel agency boasting the words, “You call it Africa. We call it home.” It struck me as odd for a few minutes; what kind of marketing is that? Of course Africans call Africa home. They live there. I’m not African…why would I call it home? That phrase has been nagging in the back of my mind. It has taken me some time, but finally, I understand.

Have you ever imagined how a particular event or conversation would go, only to find yourself disappointed because it was nothing like you imagined? In the weeks preceding our departure I dreamt and daydreamt about being weighed down with kiddos at the Care Points, laughing, giggling, tickling, singing. Time and time again, I talked myself out of these naive, idealistic visions in order to keep myself from being disappointed and ruining this trip for myself. Looking back on the last 10 days, I am remembering that this trip was not only everything I had anticipated, but so much more. Within minutes of our arrival at Mvutjini the first day, kids were clinging to our legs, waists, and hands. We laughed, giggled, tickled, sang. We’ve prayed. We’ve cried. We’ve felt motion sick in the back of the khombi; we’ve been splattered with chicken blood. More importantly, we’ve learned. We’ve grown. We’ve been uncomfortable and pushed through it. We’ve followed in the steps of Jesus, visiting the old, the needy, the orphaned, the sick, the lame, the poorest of the poor. Unflinchingly, we’ve laid hands on each of these with total and utter disregard for ourselves.

In the last 10 days, a lot of things have happened; some things we have the words for, as you’ve seen here, that we are eager to share. But the things we don’t have the words for…what about those? Over and over, small occurrences have taken place that could only be attributed to God: the heart that is broken for all the right reasons, as a result of prayer; the overwhelming sense of peace that settles inner turmoil when a comfort zone is infracted upon; the oddity of being in an unlikely place, at an unlikely time, yet feeling that sense of belonging that some people never find. Each of us has extended love farther and in more ways than we thought possible, and already we are reaping the rewards. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we will each be returning to the United States a different person. The sights alone–naked children, children viewed as burdens by their parents, children in need of love–these are enough to break even the most hardened of hearts, but we didn’t come with hardened hearts. Some of us came with hearts that were weary, hearts that were anxious, hearts that were angry or sad or lonely, but all of those hearts were open to the upcoming experiences.

About having children, Elizabeth Stone once said, “It is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body.” Going to Africa is exactly the same. You get here, unsure of what’s to come, but then, you fall in love…but then you blink and your time is up and you’re boarding the plane from Johannesburg to Indianapolis and you’re unsure of where and why and how the time has gone, yet grateful for every second, every sticky high five, every sweaty hug, because you got to be there and you were exactly where you needed to be.

Now, it is time for us to be elsewhere. It is time for us to leave this wonderful place. Good bye, Mvutjini, Njojane, Section 19. Good bye Swaziland. It’s harder than we thought it would be to say good bye, and for one very simple reason:

You call it Africa.
We now call it home.

Thoughts on Today and Sponsorship

Author’s Note: This post was written on June 13, 2013 as a freelance piece for the Connection Pointe Christian Church Global Impact Blog. You can visit this blog to receive updates on our team’s trip to Swaziland, as well as other CPCC mission team visits to other parts of the world at www.cpccglobal.com

In the past year, there has been a slight change in the cost of sponsoring a child, and thus have been changed below. If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please visit http://www.onechildmatters.org/child-sponsorship-search.

I woke this morning with the words to the song “Kings and Queens” running through my mind: “little hands, shoeless feet, lonely eyes looking back at me. Will we leave behind the innocent to grieve on their own, on the run when their lives have only begun? These could be our daughters and our sons.”

Being in Swaziland is such a paradox. Here we are, these wealthy Americans, a representation of wealth and materialism, though unhappy as a general population, to help and support these Swazis, who as a whole have very little, want very little, help each other and are generally very happy people. We take a lot of things for granted in the United States, but the things that make the biggest difference here are the things I least expected. Washing my face, for example, or singing in the shower, without the potential risk of getting the “runny tummy” from unfiltered water. Refrigerators–we’ve been drinking lukewarm water because it is our only option. Good coffee, Dr. Pepper, and absorbent towels are all luxuries that I look forward to having as soon as I get home…and yet somehow, I don’t miss all the things I have at home, because I am seeing firsthand what the world is like. It is greatly, vastly different than seeing poverty in pictures or on tv. It is so much more real, painful almost, especially knowing what waits for me at home.

We’ve talked about sponsorship at church every couple of weeks, and yet there are still kids here at the Njojane Care Pointe (let alone the other 20 care pointes, in Swaziland alone) that don’t have sponsors. In all honesty, it confuses me as to how we have unsponsored kids. It’s only $39 dollars a month. Almost anyone can find $39 in their monthly budget. So maybe you skip Starbucks 2 days a week. Or you pack a lunch one day a week instead, or your family decides against eating out just one meal. $39 is nearly nothing in the US…you can’t even buy a full tank of gas with $39, but it is such a small price to pay for what sponsorship does for a kid: she can go to school. She gets 2 meals a day. She has someone who is forever on her side, praying for her, thinking about her, loving her…even if only from nine thousand miles away.

We had the chance today to sit down with our sponsored child and present them with presents and KFC (which is a huge hit here). Khetokuhle, my kid, was stoic and quiet…not at all what I expected. After realization that I was her sponsor, she was overjoyed. I’ve never seen a more beautiful smile. She loves Jesus. She likes to read and write, to sing and dance. Both of us were overwhelmed to meet each other. I realized she is a lot like I was at her age, and then I realized I could have been her. I could BE her. We could have easily been sisters, or mother and daughter, and that kind of puts everything into perspective. Audrey Hepburn tells us that, “As you get older, you realize you have two hands: one for helping yourself, and one for helping others.”

I strongly urge you to put those two hands together and pray about sponsoring a child. These unsponsored kids could easily be your daughters and your sons. Let us love them like they are our own. Let us love the least of these.