Today as I watched people pour down to the front of the sanctuary of Mt. Bethel as a result of their Holy Spirit inspired “yes” to add a Kenyan child to their lives, I was overwhelmed with happiness. For once, it was not because I was happy for the children who were now promised enough food and clothing and school and love. Not even because I was happy for the families who were now connected to a little life across the world. Even still, my happiness was not attributed to the joy I know my parents and others who have put their hearts and souls into this ministry were feeling as they watched the children they fight for receive sponsors. My heart raced and my eyes filled with tears because what God did today was rich, rich love poured out on one of His faithful servants. It was His way of fulfilling His promise to her (and all of us) that He would provide if she would continue saying yes to what He asked of her.
Her name is Grace and if anyone is more deserving of such a name, I have not met her yet. Her life is about recognizing God’s grace, rejoicing in God’s grace, and praying for more of God’s grace. It began with one child, one yes, one mouth to feed, one deduction from a paycheck, one extra heart to fit into her life. Over the past five years, this woman has given more and more until it became everything to take care of just one more. Anyone you ask will tell you she's crazy... "she takes on too much, she doesn't get enough sleep, she needs a break, she gives too much, she is spread too thin, she is too ambitious, she never stops moving."
I think she is crazy too sometimes when I hear what she says yes to and never really hear a "no" exit her mouth. The rich know her, the poor know her--the Christians know her, the non-Christians know her. She is known and respected because of the way she loves generously, even where tribal barriers try to hinder this exchange. I think she has a more accurate census of who is admitted at the District Hospital than the nurses do. I am pretty positive the restaurant she and her mother own gives out more food each day than they sell. The doctors in town know and expect her to be bringing sick children to them at any hour. She is the first phone number dialed when a baby is abandoned at the hospital.
She is not using her precisely calculated "leftovers" to serve the children in her community, she is giving EVERYTHING SHE HAS to serve them, maybe even at the expense of her own family. She has traded what could have been an extremely comfortable and cushioned life (because she is entitled to this--right? if she works hard and is wise with her money, one might assume) for a life of complete dependance that if He does not provide above and beyond, her family will not eat.
Give give give and don't cling to a thing... trusting that He'll give more to fill in the gaps. He has. For the past five years, the 40-something kids in her care have been fed and clothed and loved. It didn't come easy though. They have known nights of praying alongside Grace that God provides food because the storehouse is empty and they have known nights of grumbling tummies because they ate a bit less than their bodies required to stay full until the morning. They have known tea without sugar and beans without salt and lunchboxes without lunch. Their toes have poked out of the holes in their shoes and their patched clothes have lost their vibrant colors. And they are grateful... they are so grateful because they know that God has brought them far.
I am rejoicing today because I can hear the sigh as Grace gets word that all of her children have been sponsored and looks upward in awe of God's goodness. I can almost see inside her heart as God takes her back to that first simple "yes" He asked of her and gives her a quick slideshow of how much GLORY He has received from that point on--not just through the pretty, the hard too. God loved and cared for and provided for these kids before Project 82 existed and before you decided to sponsor... He did it through this woman and others who came alongside of her. And now He has chosen to involve others--shoes without holes and untattered clothes and access to water (we pray) and more than enough food and wonderful schools and love in relationships are in their futures.
And even though a good bit of the financial weight of caring for 40-something children will be lifted from Grace now that her children have sponsors, I have a hunch that the way she lives her life will remain the same. I trust that she and her family will still reside in the humble 3-room home they live in. I trust that she will still "work too hard" and "not sleep enough" and "give too much of herself" because it is what God asks. Glory for God not just for what He has done today, but what He has done that led up to today, and what He will continue to do from this point forward. Glory to God for the "yes's" today that will have an eternal impact in the days and years to come and Glory to God for letting us be a part of caring for His children.
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."