Friday, May 28, 2010

Some news...

Hi....... sorry it has been ages since I've posted. As usual, things have been CRAZY and I have not been able to get internet (except on my phone). I actually like life a lot better here without internet, I think--but I am glad to have it so I can keep in touch with you guys.

So much has been going on in my heart and mind over the past month and I've wanted to share--but felt like I needed to 'have things figured out' before I posted. I could have told you pretty much the same thing I'm about to tell you now several weeks ago--but I waited. Now I am still in the same position but decided to just share where I am and ask for prayers as I discern His will and learn how to distinguish His voice in this matter.

I thought I was coming to Kenya to love on some children who had been through a traumatizing experience. That was my 1 minute answer when people asked what I'd be 'doing'. I have spent probably at least 100 hours of the past 3 months in hospitals with children... some sick with AIDS, some with common childhood illnesses that have become worse due to lack of medical care, some who are 15 years old and have never seen a doctor but experience seizures daily, some who were covered in pussy wounds that were never healing with the conditions the child lived in, some whose malnutrition has stunted their growth so much they are assumed to be 5 years younger than they are, some whose bodies have been ruled by parasites and worms because they are drinking unclean water or eating badly prepared food. Not a week has gone by that I have not stepped foot in some kind of medical facility. Not a week has gone by that I have not met someone who needed medical treatment but could not afford it. Not a week has gone by that one of my babies at HOREC has not awoken during the night with illness. Not a week has gone by that my heart has not literally ached for the sick here in Kenya. I have fought with doctors to tears about the kind of care they provide these children. I have spent probably the amount I would spend on gas for two weeks in America on buying simple medicine that will remove the worms that are infesting so many children here. I have sat in waiting room after waiting room, knowing that unfortunately--eventually seeing the doctor will not be worth the wait. I have tried so hard to reason with people who have different beliefs about medical treatment and when it is needed. And none of those small acts have been done without God speaking so clearly to my heart and putting a yearning within me to fight with every fiber of my being for the care of these children. He has told me to do something more than loving (which could easily stand on it's own) and to learn how to care for these children myself, medically. To sacrifice the time, brain power, and distance to learn how to allow His love in me to express itself in an additional way.

He has made some things clear to me and I will share them, even though they are not organized in my mind--I trust He will provide that in due time. I will leave Kenya at some point and complete a graduate degree to become a Physician's Assistant. I will, God-willing, follow Him back here (where my heart is) and love these kids who are dying from HIV in a new way. I want to know their names--all of them. I want to remember them--may they never be forgotten. I want to love them when their parents are too sick/have died and are unable. I want them to have a beautiful haven to live in when they are in their last months on this earth. I want love to be their medicine over any other medically prescribed treatment. I have seen how His love heals.

I don't know when I am coming back to start this endeavor and to be honest, I do not want to come back. It is simply an act of obedience and leaving these people seems impossible. The easy thing to do is to stay here forever--I am content here. But He has clearly asked me to trust Him and move in this and I am willing, whether grudgingly or not (working through that but will not lie--I am not joyfully skipping back to America to start this long and strenuous process away from the ones I long to love). I thought I needed to come back in June so I can get started right away, but I'm just not sure. The thought of leaving now has had me in tears daily. I am thankful He has revealed His will to me, but it's not what I wanted. I was not asking for it... I was content being here forever, the medically untrained me. I was looking into adopting children He's put in my path and finding a place to live and invite people to. He told me to wait.

Loving these kids is enough. It's more than enough. But obedience to Him for me is to listen and walk towards what He has asked of me and as painful as it is, I will do it. I have no idea whether I will be starting the prerequisites for PA school on July 6th or August 14th or January 5th or August of 2020. I wanted to wait until I knew that detail to tell you, but I don't know and may not know until the day before I either start school or board a plane. I would appreciate your prayers so much as I learn what it is to obey even when it means (temporarily) tearing my attached heart away (physically) from those I have fallen in love with here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Faces

I generally don’t like statistics because they stay in my head and I have trouble translating them to a language my heart can comprehend. When I hear that 40 children die of AIDS per hour, it shakes me. My jaw drops and I wonder if that number is real or is just a poor estimation used to shock the audience. I try to do the math in my head and the instantaneous spinning that ensues causes me to give up in depression as the number painfully permeates my mind. I don’t want to think about it. I want to remove it from my thoughts so I can enjoy my day and focus on remaining positive in the midst of my own circumstances. 250 children lose a parent to AIDS every hour? Really?? WHERE are these kids because I am not seeing them in East Cobb… in Georgia… in the United States.

Do we know what 40 kids dying in ONE hour even looks like??? You send your child to school one morning and hour by hour, entire classrooms are wiped out leaving no one but a stunned teacher. During the same hour that a classroom is wiped out, 250 children are left motherless or fatherless due to this same disease that killed the classroom next door. EVERY HOUR. This world is big but it is not big enough that we should be able to hide our faces from these children that represent this statistic. Maybe we begin to think of our own families—the kids we babysit, our neighbors, our own children, our nephews and nieces. We try to make it personal, however difficult and unpleasant that is. It is farfetched to imagine the people I know and love in this situation, so I put out the fire that was lit when I heard this statistic and wish whoever it is that represents these numbers the best. It’s unhealthy to stay in the state of intellectual shock these numbers initiated and my mind slowly sinks into a depression (brief, if at all) and then denial and avoidance as I am responsible for just too many things to add this to my list.

But what if the fire that was started when I heard these numbers roared…. What if I let the Holy Spirit continue igniting the flames instead of allowing my mind(which takes it’s responsibility of caring for me very seriously) to distinguish them before I started to feel the burn? What if the flames continued to grow and grow and grow until they began spreading to others? What if we all set out, united and hearts ablaze, to find out just what this ‘true religion’ we hear James talk about looks like? To ‘look after’ the orphans and widows – what does this mean? It means to take responsibility for them. It means to care about ourselves less so we can care about them more. It means seeking them out and finding out how we can encourage and love them. It means believing His words in Matthew 25 that HE is the one we are serving when we serve them. It means not seeing this as a special duty that some are worthy of or some are especially drawn to and others are not. It means accepting that the message is the same in every Bible—this is not just in the ‘mission minded believer’ Bible version. Mother Theresa was reading the same Bible we read. She knew the same Jesus we know. She followed the same Jesus we follow to the best of her ability. This is not a portion of Scripture God decided to include so that pastors would have something to preach about on Missions Sunday or when the homeless shelter down the street needed someone to buy them all beds.

I don’t even believe this thought of caring for our brothers and sisters is so represented in Scripture (and through the LIFE He lived and told us to mimic) because they NEED us so much—because we have oh so much to offer them and without us, they would cease to survive. I really and truly believe we need them far more than they need us (us, the ones who think we have so much to offer them). Maybe this is a controversial thought that will not be well-received, but I don’t believe for one second that the Garden would have collapsed if Mt. Bethel had not stepped up and supported them and I don’t believe that the orphans at HOREC children’s home would not experience His love if I were not there and constantly willing to be a channel of that Love. I do believe that His Spirit is always desiring to lead us and sanctify us and mold us and when we are listening and willing to move, He accepts our surrender and allows us to be part of what He’s doing here… I do believe that He humbly lifted up some hearts that were bowed down and allowed them to be a part of His restoration and renewal at the Garden and here at HOREC. What an incredible gift… but I don’t think He said “hey, you know what the kids of HOREC need right now? Some Annie Coppedge. That’d really do them well…” Ha… that makes me laugh even to consider. I do believe, however, that He cares so deeply for the kids at HOREC and when He sees people who are on their faces begging to be used by Him--yeah people who are bad at loving their family and who are way too selfish for their own good and who would score less than 10% on a Bible trivia quiz and who have no idea what they’re doing most of the time—He rewards that and lets them take part in His loving.

Anyway, as always I am rambling (true to the title of this blog site), but just want to tell you that He is allowing me to be Him right now and He is allowing me to touch Him everyday through the people that represent these statistics—a very small portion of these statistics. I see their faces when I wake up every morning and until my eyes shut when I go to sleep. I hold their hands. I tickle them until we are both laughing too hard to continue. I tuck them into bed at night. I hold them as they cry about something silly—but far from insignificant in a 4 year old mind. I hold back tears as I watch the face they make as they drink their dissolved, bitter tablets because their bodies are too exhausted to swallow the 17 pills they require each day. I hold them close as they chew their bitter tablets because they’re simply too young to have mastered the art of swallowing pills. I fight off overwhelming anger as I think about how this child was simply passed this disease by their now-absent parent… having done absolutely nothing to deserve this suffering. I ask God again and again, why this precious child must endure such hardship and suffering because of MY sin, because of YOUR sin. I make them put on clothes even when they’ve prefer to be naked-a common desire among preschool boys worldwide. They throw rocks at me when they are angry and do not know how to express it any other way. They kiss me on the cheek and tell me they love me at the most random and wonderful times. They fall asleep in my lap and sometimes we both are wet by the time they wake up. Their sticky hands touch my face and run through my hair and they try to tickle me like I tickle them, but it feels more like pinching. They are kids. They run, they jump, they try to do cartwheels, they can do a million handstands a day and it never loses it’s thrill. They stub their toes, they fall off the swing and skin their knees, they put their shoes on the wrong feet, they spill their drink all over the carpet, they yell really loudly at inappropriate times, they cry when someone calls them a copy cat, they color on the walls, they put their underwear on backwards, they confuse certain words and it is too cute to correct them, they see every single object on this earth as a toy and know no boundaries as to what their creative minds can view as entertainment, they pick the cabbage out of their beans, they lick their plate when they’re done, they somehow manage to add a new stain to their clothes daily…. They’re kids. They are who God created children to be and they’re beautiful. Simultaneously, they ARE these shocking numbers.

David Platt explores James 1:27 in a sermon and he explains that the Greek word for ‘to look after’ as James uses is seen 11 times in Scripture. Time and time again, the word is used to describe the way God came to LOOK AFTER us…to show concern for us…to take responsibility for us..to care for us. And then, it begins to describe the way the recipients of this care and concern rise up to do the same for His people. To top it off—the same word is used in Matthew 25 as He tells us that when we care, have concern for, take responsibility for the sick-the hungry-the prisoner-the poor… we’re doing it for HIM. The opposite of this word in the New Testament means to forget and ultimately, to neglect. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . So, if we are not looking after, showing concern for, caring for, taking responsibility for these kids – should I even say it? We are choosing NOT to seek out and take responsibility for them… and are thus actively forgetting them. I have no doubt that if we could see their faces in our weekly children’s church service or in our own houses we would NOT be neglecting them, we’d be living out this true religion as day proceeds day. But is that a valid excuse? ‘Sorry, God—surely you understand that I would be doing this if these kids showed up on my doorstep. You know that right? If I ever meet an orphan, I promise to give them some new clothes and buy them a meal.’ God wants us to see the 15 million orphans from AIDS and He wants us to touch the 147 million orphans and He wants us to encounter Him as we give our lives for their sake. This is where we will find Him… I just don’t know that we’re looking for Him here.

here He is…
(just a brief, brief preview)
Dan

Carol

Mary and Tomato

Joseph

Evelyn

Monday, May 3, 2010

His love is better than life...

Today I thought I was spending all day at a baby home in Nairobi—a home for 55 little ones who have been abandoned by their families. Some were found in trash cans, others in pit latrines, some on the road side, others wrapped in bags, some had been buried alive, others left at hospitals, some dropped off outside the gate of the home, others brought by well-wishers.

Phoebe and I have driven past the home several times and always wanted to stop, so last Sunday on the way to church, we stopped. Of course we could not leave once we were greeted by those precious faces grabbing at our knees, so we missed church. This home is incredible…. it’s a real haven for these babies. I cannot say enough wonderful things about what they’re doing for these kids and how they’re doing it. I am so thankful those babies have such a wonderful, loving environment to live in until they are adopted (another great thing about this home: they really really try to find parents for these kids so they get that family life instead of living their entire lives in a home with 54 other kids.) Anyway, I decided to start coming once a week and spending the day with these babies. It was a purely selfish decision, but one that I was so so excited about.

When I got there, I was given no instruction, but was welcomed and trusted (it shocked me that such an established home did not even need my name before I cared for their babies). I started playing with the little 2ish year old munchkins. I was speaking to them in Swahili (luckily a 2 year old Kenyan and I have the same size vocabulary so I can get by pretty well) until I was told that they only speak English. What? Bizarre, but it makes sense if they are hoping to be adopted by foreigners. Anyway, it was really difficult to talk to these sweet babies with chubby Kenyan faces and Kenyan eyes and Kenyan names in English. They were precious and we had fun and I just kept wondering around until I found a new baby to play with. After about 2 hours, every single baby—1 week to 3 years was asleep (or supposed to be sleeping). I decided to leave instead of waiting until they woke up… the volunteer to baby ratio was ridiculously high, I practically had to fight people to have a little one to myself. :) Anyway, I left and began walking towards a coffee house to catch up on emails before Phoebe got off work.

The fact that I can walk by myself in Nairobi tells you it is a very affluent area—mzungus (white people) everywhere and I felt perfectly safe walking around alone, as I was in good company(ie. if someone wanted a young white girl to harass, they have a large pool to pick from in this area). As I approached my destination, I passed a woman and a baby sitting on the curb. The baby smiled and the mom humbly outstretched her arm in my direction. I looked in their eyes, smiled, and kept walking. So, I did not give them money (my friends who are/have been homeless in Atlanta and Athens have taught me to avoid this type of giving)-I kept walking and said a prayer for them. Maybe .5 seconds later, He interrupted my well-intentioned prayer to tell me to not feel guilty about not giving them my money, but to just give them myself instead. There is FREEDOM in the Spirit! He reminds me again and again (thankfully because I'm a coward) to claim this power and WALK IN IT!!!! I went and bought fruit and got 2 take away chais (Kenyan tea) at the coffee house I was going to. I took it back to them and got to sit down and fellowship with Gladys, Antony, and baby David. David immediately reached for me and Gladys held him back saying “no, no. He’s so dirty!” in Swahili. I tried my best to say “It’s okay. Dirty babies are my favorite. I am dirty too. Come baby.” He came to me and yeah, I guess he was dirty… but there was nothing further from my mind than caring about whether his filth covered me because I chose to hold him and love him and pray for him. Sweet Antony was 6 years old, which Gladys did not even need to tell me – the absence of his two front teeth spoke for itself. We laughed and talked like old friends… dirty little David was the baby God wanted me to spend my day with.

These are the people I want to love—I want my best friends to be these people—I want to watch David grow up into a sweet little Kenyan gentleman—I want to learn from them and stare into His face when I look in their eyes. It doesn’t matter if I look like a fool sitting on a curb laughing with friends who might be a little bit dirtier than me or struggle a bit more to get their next meal… It doesn’t matter if people stare and scoff and don’t want to shake my hand after I’ve held a baby who has not been ‘clean’ since he was in the womb… It doesn’t matter if I am ALWAYS alone—if no one is ever sitting with us… It doesn’t matter if I can’t afford to get coffee now when I go to work on my computer… It doesn’t matter. None of it matters…. It just doesn’t. Truly truly truly nothing matters except that we LIVE like we are given the authority He has anointed us with when He gave us His Spirit!!!!!!!!! He is constantly putting people in front of us to love (and the part we forget is that they have the same purpose for US!) and if we listen to His voice and do it, our reward is higher than any judgment passed for our association with ‘these people.’

I am Gladys (and I actually think she’d take that offensively). “I wonder how she got there??? Did something terrible happen to her or did she get to that place on her own? Irresponsibility. Well, she gets what she deserves. Those poor kids who have to put up with that type of mother. People these days want everything to be handed to them. They know if they stick their hand out on a busy street, they will be able to get enough money to last until tomorrow. That is what is wrong with these people.” YOU are Gladys. If I am correct, she could have done less than one thing right in her entire life and maybe that is something for us to look down upon, maybe that makes her unworthy of OUR love… but what about our Father? Did we have to be clean to come to Him? Maybe you did, but I didn’t and if that was the case… I’d still be furiously scrubbing off the filth (and getting nowhere). He sees Gladys and he sees her humbling herself on a curbside so that her sweet boys can eat. He sees that she is dirty—do you think He thinks twice about scooping her up in His arms? Really? Then why do we? Ah.

God is jealously in love with the three I shared chai with today… He will do anything to gain their love and praise with each day that passes. He doesn’t NEED me, or you, to be an expression of this extravagant love He has for them, but He allows us—He asks us to. The King of Kings, who is capable of all things, asks us to take responsibility in living out what we’ve seen Him live. What an honor and I am continually repenting of not joyfully taking that responsibility daily. It’s not an obligation, it’s a joy. We get to share in His joy when His children release their grip on the things that don’t please and fall into Him… when I see Gladys and Antony and David in Heaven, I don’t expect (or want) for them to recognize me and thank me for the teeny tiny act of love He allowed me to pass to them. I do expect though to pass them at some point as we join in praise for our Father, together, and I believe our praise will become richer as we look into each other’s eyes and have yet another reason to thank Him—for showing Himself to us in others when we display His grace on earth. How sweet He is for giving Gladys, with her tattered clothes and callused hands, the opportunity to display His love to me. How sweet He is for letting me hold precious little David and produce a smile on his face that gave me chills and fulfilled so many desires in my heart. How sweet He is for introducing me to Antony and showing me that his big smiles and happy heart show that God’s shield around Him is thick, so I need not worry about Him.

I love Him and I love loving Him and I love loving His people—serving Him is a true delight and honor.