Tuesday, April 7, 2015

One Year.

Just Spittin' It Out

I'm jumping right into this because it has long felt like there's no perfect way to approach this.  Today marks one year since we boarded a plane for a final departure from South Africa.  My near silence on this blog the last year is mostly because I have been so completely without the ability to share my heart on what leaving means to me.  Not to mention, who wants to hear me pout for a year?  Lastly, I don't want anyone to be confused that missing South Africa means we don't love what we do here. Yes, withdrawal has often felt so much easier.  

The truth is, we have no doubt God answered very specific prayer about our return (which is a good gift to give us).  Had that prayer not been answered so clearly, we would not have left when we did.  We loved our work, we treasured the people we served and Purpose was so clear to us.  If there were ever such a thing as not being born in Africa but Africa being born in me, well, that happened.


There are five categories of grief.  The process of grieving began long before we left.  July 2013 was when we first began to know God's plan for our family to return to the U.S.  For a few months, I was in denial.  I questioned if we'd heard correctly.  I knew we had, but I still had moments of doubt.  By fall, we began to explore options for continuing full-time ministry in the States.  In February, we made our announcement regarding our return.  And then came April.  We boarded a plane and I put on worship music as the plane pulled away from the gate. So much gratitude.  So much grief.

The months before we left, there were periods of intense, face to the ground, prayer.  There was begging for God to give us more time (bargaining).  There were weepy, again, face to the ground, prayers as we had to tell people we love we were leaving.  There was me telling God several times, "I'm not done learning yet."  As if learning ever stops.  

There was probably some measure of resentment that Brian ever asked God for clarity and then when God answered as He did. 

As we landed in Texas, I remember realizing that was the first time I had no joy in returning.  I was happy to see family, yes.  But, grief over what we'd left just hours before left me spent.  I'd let the seed of depression settle in me long before our return.  Not so deep a sadness where life held no happiness but enough that I carried a weight in my heart.  Ironic how emptiness can feel heavy.



A year later, I accept that we are here and fully trust where and how God has led us is GOOD and I am THANKFUL we get to be part the work of getting the gospel to the unreached.  I have begun to see why He brought us back and that part is very exciting.

Acceptance is just that, though.  I can understand it is what it is even if I didn't choose it.  Part of acceptance has been giving this heartache to the Lord over and over...and over again.  Isaiah 43:18-19 is posted at eye level above our kitchen sink as a daily reminder:  

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."  

I fully trust the Lord in this.  And, yet, while my head can know this truth, my hardened heart has struggled to fully release South Africa.  


It has been said re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere is about the most dangerous part of an astronaut's journey.  Angle, timing and speed have to be precise. Conditions have to be more than ideal for successful reentry.  

Re-entry.  I knew it would be hard.  I didn't know it would be this hard for this long.  Going there was never hard. At least not in an overwhelming way.  We never experienced true homesickness. YES, we absolutely missed family and friends and, at times, we wished for minor conveniences like variety in fast food restaurants, not having to calculate what time it was when we wanted to contact people or businesses in the States, dryers and dishwashers and feeling safe in our house, on the road, at the grocery store, etc.  And, while coming back to life's conveniences and adjusting to culture back here went fairly smoothly, the hard part of reentry has been what to do with a shattered heart. What do you do when you feel like such clear purpose has been ripped from you?  When you felt like what you were doing is so fitting to how God created you...and then it ended?

We were told there would be a period of feeling out of place.  Not quite here and not there.  This has been true.  Brian and I have often called this phase the "In Between."  Weeks ago, I shared this with a friend and it was so reassuring to hear her say it took two years for her heart to grieve after serving cross culturally.  Years later, she still longs for the country where she left a significant part of her heart. 

I've grieved for a year and a half.  Angle. Timing. Speed.  It doesn't matter how well we could've planned this. Grief is tricky to navigate.

What east Asia taught me about South Africa

In January, while on a flight to east Asia for work, I watched The Good Lie. It's about Sudanese refugees (the lost boys) resettling in America.  I silently sobbed in my darkened seat, hoping my seatmates didn't notice.  I cried hardest watching the characters in the early scenes when they lived in their Sudanese village, finding such incredible beauty in their culture in its pure state.  And, when it was over, I escaped to the lavatory to release all I'd pent up for so many months.  As my soul sobbed my sorrow, I asked God, "Why?  Why would you put that so deeply in my heart...but not let me live it out?  What am I supposed to do with this passion?"  

While in this particular east Asian country, our team met with several long-time missionaries.  One woman's lesson to me was unexpected.  She shared how, 14 years in this country, she did not "have a heart for" (Christian-ese - sorry!) its people.  There are times she is so overwhelmed by the culture, she needs a weekend escape and literally tells her husband, "Get me out of this country."  I was STUNNED.  I just had always assumed missions worked like this:  
You open your heart to the Lord's leading.  The Lord softens your heart for a people group.  You go to that people group.  

As I'd seen that happen so many times, I missed a big point.  It never occurred to me that it might just be that God never gives you a special affection for the people (or city or job or neighborhood or school, fill in the blank) where He places you.  Why I hadn't made the obvious connection before between Jonah and Nineveh, I don't know.  God said, "Nineveh," and Jonah said, "Nope!  Tarsish!" Jonah didn't "have a heart" for the Ninevites.  In fact, when the Lord showed compassion on Nineveh upon their repentance, Jonah was so angry he wanted to die. God shows Nineveh mercy ---> Jonah pouts and says, "Take me now." A bit dramatic, perhaps?  

Backing up a bit, two chapters after he said, "Nope! Tarshish!" (try saying Tarshish ten times fast, btw), we see how Jonah finally "obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh."  All it took was being thrown overboard into the violent sea, being swallowed by a gigantic fish, spending three days and nights inside that fish and then being unceremoniously puked up onto the shore.  This is so the fight that has been in me the last year.  I've dwelt on and held onto the past so faithfully and fiercely, I have not received complete fullness of joy from the Lord. I have wanted to be obedient and have gone through the motions of obedience but have been doing so far from abiding in His presence. How much sweeter would this gift of obedience have been had I abided in Him instead of in the past?

I was right about one thing - I'm not done learning yet.  Despite his shortcomings, the bottom line is, Jonah obeyed even when he wanted destruction for Nineveh instead of God's mercy.  This missionary in east Asia is obeying even when it means being overwhelmed and wanting to be elsewhere.  I want that kind of obedience where the simple fact that He is worthy of it matters far more than what I think God should do with my life.  My life looks different to how I would've planned it.  As it should.  My lens is small.  His is eternal.  I don't need it to make sense. I don't have to understand why God has us in America even though a movie about Africans so moved me, I willingly locked myself in a nasty airplane lavatory to cry. 

Final thought.  Grief and re-entry are real, believe me.  But, just as God worked on Jonah's hardened heart even after his apparent half-hearted obedience, I have seen His gentle patience with me in my half-hearted obedience.  He has patiently taught me even as I've resisted His goodness.  He has been personal in His love.  He continues to remind me to abide in Him.  

"To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in forever.  
You, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit." 

Jonah 2:6

What might obedience look like for you this next phase of life?  To what degree of trust has God called you where your best motivation is obedience because nothing else about that particular calling makes sense?  When have you had a prayer answered but you didn't like the answer?  In what areas are you dwelling in the past instead of abiding in Him and His leading today?   

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

After the Boxes are Unpacked

Technically...we still have some boxes that are packed.  You know what makes me never want to move again?  


This time, we are unpacking some boxes we'd last touched almost three years ago.  

Dear Salvation Army, I'm coming your way soon.  I'd love to say something noble like living in South Africa showed us how much we really don't need.  It really did.  Buuuuut, never having to re-pack and move this stuff again could also play a teensy weensy role in our desire to clear some things out.  

Dear Children.  I hope this helps you one day when Dad and I are gone and you don't have to wonder what to do with all this STUFF.  There are some things I just can't imagine you having to find a place for one day...like 30 years worth of yearbooks??!!  We will keep the love letters your dad and I exchanged and the footlocker of baseball cards (we can't afford to invest in gold so, when your dad was between about seven and 17, he planned waaaay ahead and invested in baseball cards) and other more sentimental memorabilia.  But the ENTIRE BOX OF BRAND NEW SOCKS?  Some of the knickknacks?  They're gone. You will be grateful for this one day, I promise.  

Dear Blog.  You have been neglected.  I'm so sorry.  To begin to make up for this, I've copied and pasted the below entry from FB.  This is what's known as a start.  I have had lots of thoughts the last months but little energy to figure out how to put them together in a way that means anything.

So, here is my best effort of late.  A blog title that isn't even fitting and a copied and pasted FB entry.  

I went to a Bible study called "Just Moved," based on the book, "After the Boxes are Unpacked." Even after many moves as a military brat and the last three years of moves, this move has been one of the harder ones. I've heard re-entry could be a beast.  And, well, confirmed.  While I KNOW God has incredible worldwide work for us to do from Texas, there is a reality that leaving SA came with a lot of sorrow and confusion as to why God was moving us from such fruitful ministry and people we loved. I said many prayers, face to the ground in desperation, begging God to let us stay. So, yes, grief has been a real thing for me the last months.

Don't get me wrong, going where we can have the most impact for God's Kingdom, even when that means giving up some really precious parts of our lives, is what we want. I trust God wouldn't have led us back to Texas if good things weren't ahead. BUT, goodness. When the heart LOVES, the heart can GRIEVE.
In our small groups, we shared some emotions that come with uprooting...depression, loss of identity, grief, anxiety, bitterness, fear, comparisons, etc. To my left, one woman shared her greatest struggle is loss of identity. To my right, a woman shared her bitterness and grief as so much of making sure her kids transition well and the oversight of their home build falls on her while her husband is at work. Across from me, a woman in her late 50s shared what it felt like starting over with friendships at her age.
I felt a lot of things in that little room with 23 other women new to Austin and five leaders committed to walking this road with us. I felt hope and encouragement. I felt affirmed that my roller coaster of emotions is normal. I felt a little less lonely. I felt compassion watching the two ladies on either side of me break down in tears. I know they will be okay but I also know this is a process. I felt convicted that I need to be MUCH better at welcoming women who are new to my town/my church/my neighborhood, etc. At least I'm from Texas and have some roots here. So many of these women are from across the country and I can't imagine how different Texas can feel. People are moving to this great state in droves. Are we welcoming them well?
I needed this group of broken-hearted but hopeful women today. I'm so glad God knows my heart and gave me this. I'm so glad He gave all of us a need to connect and belong. We were made to walk this life together!
In a few hours, I get to see our ESL women again. They are experiencing a another level of adjustment. Please pray they see Christ's LOVE in the leaders and feel warmly welcomed. Pray that doors are opened for new hope in Christ.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sometimes the Rainbow's All You've Got

I'm not sure asking for help comes easily for many people.  And, anyone who knows us knows it's not our favorite.  In fact, Brian and I had our first married couple argument because Brian wouldn't borrow his neighbor's vacuum cleaner so he could get the security deposit back on his bachelor apartment.

I mean, we're from the South.  People forge their own way; the Republic of Texas, the Alamo and stuff.

Which is super until you're raising support and inviting people into your ministry is crucial to getting to minister.  The last three years have proven there are some incredibly beautiful (mind blowing, faith affirming) parts to being support-based.  I could give example after example of how God has provided these last three years.

But there are also some hard days that come with raising support.  I've had a few lately.  Truth is, I kinda feel beat up some days.  I know we're not alone.  We have quite a few friends who are walking this road.  The verdict is in.  This isn't for the faint of heart.

And, so, I've had some moments.  Moments when I just want to throw in the towel and get a "real job" that pays a salary.  One that doesn't put you in a position to feel like maybe someone didn't return a call or message because they're avoiding you and not just that it's summer and maybe people are BUSY. A job that doesn't mess with your mind because the last thing you want people to think is that you only want to be their friend so they can sustain your family and ministry.  A job where, when a dear friend ignores messages, it doesn't hurt so much.

Now, don't get me wrong.  Each of us enduring the process of raising support believes we are called to the work...or we wouldn't be enduring the process.  (Obviously).  We are excited about what God's given us to do even if it means we go through some really heart-wrenching, faith testing months to get there.

Those moments sometimes lead to a real need to be real with God.  Last week, I took five or six laps around our apartment complex while I "got real" with God.  And, boy, was I in a mood.  I told Him how much I don't like how hard this is.  That other believers are great encouragement in ministry but can also be the reason people leave it.  That I didn't like that He took us out of South Africa and away from people whose lives blessed us so richly.  And, oh by the way, that I just wanted "normal" and "easy."


About the fifth lap (because I can talk a lot when I'm mad), I finally hushed a bit.  And, yeah, not all my prayers were angry prayers.  Some of them were throw my hands on my head in exasperation and whisper desperate, "Will You make this better, God?" prayers.

As I rounded a bend, I saw something I did NOT appreciate because I did NOT want to see it:  a rainbow.  A reminder of His promises.

At that moment, though, I clearly still needed some calming because I think I told God He could keep His rainbow.

Why, yes.  I was battle weary and mad.  (Obviously).

But, as He heard my barrage of heartache those five or six laps and as He walked with me, He stilled my heart.  He gently reminded me of this.

Had He given us normal...

Had He given us easy...

Had He given us comfort...

We would have missed out on all the incredible blessings of South Africa.

And that.

Was enough.

For me.

So, I'm going forward with a much calmer heart because He's reminded me He IS faithful and He IS worth it and He WILL provide.  

Sometimes the rainbow's all you've got.

And sometimes it's all you need to press on.

Monday, January 27, 2014

I Say Tomato...You Say Tamatie...

Oh.  My.  Goodness.

First, I feel for anyone trying to learn English.  I know it is ridiculously hard.  I felt some of your pain today.  The jump from 3rd grade Afrikaans to 4th might put me in the cuh-razy house.  Last year, Noah just had to learn vocabulary.  This first month of 4th grade, though, is huge leap into grammar.

For example, to make a word plural:

1.  If the word ends in "f" and it's a double vowel, you drop one vowel and add "we" to the end.  Stoof becomes stowe.

2.  BUT, if the word ends in "f" and it's a short vowel, you add "wwe" to the end.  Stof becomes stowwe.

3.  BUT, if the word does not end in "f" and has a short vowel, you double the consonant and add an "e."  Hek becomes hekke.

4.  OR, if the word does not end in "f" and has a long vowel, you take away one vowel and add an "e" at the end.  Baan becomes bane.

5.  If there are two vowels and they differ, you just add an "e."  Stoen becomes stoene.

6.  OR, if there are two vowels and they are separated by a consonant, you just add an "s."  Tafel becomes tafels.

I don't even want to begin to explain the rules on how to describe a word to make it smaller.  For example, a cup (kop) versus a small cup (koppie).  BUT, if the word has a short vowel sound and ends in "m" or "n," you double the consonant and add "etjie..."

Unless, OF COURSE, it ends in "m" and there's a long vowel sound, then you just add "pie." Because, what the heebie doo, of course.  Convert THAT into a smaller, plural heebie doo.

Now, the beauty of trying to understand these rules with Noah is that THE ENTIRE LIST OF RULES WAS WRITTEN IN AFRIKAANS.  So, not only did we have to learn the rules, we had to first figure out the explanation of the rules.  OH. MY. GOODNESS.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Another Day in "Paradise"

She ducked her head and stood upright as soon as I pulled out of my driveway.  And, as I got out to shut our gate and get back in the car, she remained that way, feigning that she was just standing on the corner one house down from ours. 

But I had already seen.  I saw her stooped over and digging through the garbage bags sitting by the road. 

I watched her in the mirror and saw her resume her garbage picking when I turned the opposite direction.  Deciding to turn back her way, I pulled up next to her.  She kept her face down and back to me as I rolled my window down.  I don't know if she was ashamed or afraid I was there to chase her off.  When she finally did turn to me, I saw a grandmother's weathered, tired face. 

I realize dumpster diving is a popular hobby for some in affluent countries.  There are even websites dedicated to best practices.  Totally serious.  But even one website I looked at encouraged divers to, "Choose another job when possible." 

For so many, there isn't an option.  And it happens every trash day that there are hungry people digging through mine and my neighbors' refuse.  One man's trash...another man's treasure. 

Rotting food mixed in with diapers, dirty paper towels and all manner of unsanitary mess should never be a treasure.

You can tell from the lines on her face
You can see that she's been there

Nearly every shop here employs car guards.  Honestly, it's job creation because what is a guy or gal expected to do when a theft or vandalism occurs?  You give them some change to tip them for watching your car, for helping you load your bags and for helping you back out of your spot.

That day, I walked up to my car, arms full of groceries, and, instead of passing the bags to the car guard, I gave him my car keys, asking him to unlock the door for me. 

And that is when I realized I made a mistake.

I watched this 20-something year old fumble with the key as he tried to figure out how to unlock the door.  What comes as second nature to a 20-something in the States does not come naturally to a young man who has never owned a car.  It never occurred to me he had never even unlocked one. 

I felt embarrassed for him and berated myself for putting him in that position. 
Think twice
'Cause it's another day for you and me in paradise

I see this sight every day.  Every. Day.  People walking on the side of the road.  I have lived here over a year and a half and it is still not something I am "used to."  The hardest ones to watch are the elderly and the mamas with babies walking next to them or strapped to their backs.  I huddle my kids close to me even in a parking lot.  How do these mamas walk these highways with their toddlers walking next to them?

Have you ever complained that your car doesn't have a/c?  I used to.  Now, I see how ridiculous I can be in light of the fact that I really should just give thanks I have reliable transport. 

Even the young adult pedestrians cause turmoil in my heart.  How is it that I get to have a car just because I was born into the "right" family and blessed with friends who support us?  How do they rise before daybreak to walk across highways and across towns and then work all day...in the humidity that suffocates or in the wind that chills (depending on the season)...without proper hydration...or enough food? 

I pick up the women and the elderly.  I'm too wary to pick up the young men unless they are younger than pre-teen.  I have been blessed by a lot of really neat people this way.  The small talk can be pleasant and uplifting. 

It can also be awkward.  Like when I picked up a young woman because I didn't like the look of the two men trailing her on a road with lots of tall brush.  I commented how it must be hard to walk in the heels she was wearing.  You know, small talk.  And her response was not unkind but it was honest and I have never forgotten it or how resigned she sounded when delivering it. 

"When you are poor, you don't have a choice."

I never meant to insult her.  But what she speaks is truth and it has been a reminder to filter every word before it comes out and test how it might be received by the listener. 

And every day.  Every.  Day.  I see the walkers who don't have a choice and I am wracked with guilt.

She's got blisters on the soles of her feet
She can't walk but she's trying

We are fans of Vusi.  He sits outside the grocery store sometimes.  He sits because he cannot stand.  I don't know his condition but his feet are shrivelled and it looks as if he did not fully develop in the womb.  So, he sits on a modified skateboard.  Low to the ground where he always has to look up at people who stop to give him food or chat.

He even has to look up at my seven and nine year olds when they stop to speak to him. 

How does it feel to always be low to the ground, hands covered in dirt, always having to look up to and for the hands that bring you food?

How does a handicapped man survive in a place where jobs are hard to find for even the able-bodied? 

And, yet, he has the kindest smile.  And we are fans of Vusi.

He makes about $125 a month from his pension.  $70 of that, he pays a taxi driver to transport his 10 year old daughter and 13 year old son to and from school.  They can't walk to school because it's too far. Vusi pays over half his pension so they can continue their schooling.

And then he begs.  He takes a taxi 30 minutes into town, always hoping the money or food he will earn from begging will make up for the taxi fees. He pushes himself with calloused hands along the pavement to position himself in front of the grocery store.

And he wears that smile all the while.

My heart rejoices every time I see him.  My heart aches every time I see him. 

Think twice
It's just another day for you
You and me in paradise
Just think about it
Think about it

I live in an area where people come for vacation.  Even though I'm not an ocean person, I can see why people flock here every school holiday.  If you look beyond the beaches and the flowers that bloom all year long, though, you will see there is no such thing as paradise for a lot of the people who live here.  For the hungry, the weary, the walkers, the handicapped, the poor, every day is the same.  I will never again listen to Phil Collins croon those lyrics to "Another Day in Paradise" without remembering that paradise can have shadows that disguise the hell. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

They Have a Story

 From time to time, I want to share intimate stories with you because God can teach us through them.  It's hard to share these because it can so easily come across as, "Look at me and aren't I one truly awesome being."  That is so far from reality.  Living here humbles me daily and has shown me over and over my excess and my selfishness and my weak faith and my utter inability to do anything lasting without Christ and that I am no one's savior. I want to share these stories because we all have something to learn from them. Please don't praise us because then we just might start thinking we are all that.  And we're just not. 

May you be as blessed and challenged by Sanele and Syrin's story as I am.  


As he lifts the burger to his mouth, his sleeve slips down and I see the armband that proclaims, "I love Jesus."  And I am relieved.  It gives me an idea where to go with this conversation.

The truth is, I'm not good at knowing what to say sometimes.  Put me in a group of moms and I don't get stumped.  We relate to each other.  But put me with a young man who has walked 10 kms, hoping to get to eat and I just don't know.  Is it embarrassing if I ask where he lives?  Is it painful if I ask about his family?  Is he uncomfortable being the beggar while I watch him eat?

It all started about 20 minutes before...

As we approached the drive thru lane, we saw a figure in tattered clothes, hiding in the shadows.  The fact is, living here has trained us to be on high alert and study every situation for danger.  So, for a moment, we paused because you just never know who else may be lurking.  As we pulled closer, we could see a sweetness in his youthful face and decided/hoped/prayed we were probably safe.  He extended his hands in a humble gesture and asked for money because he was hungry.  Brian asked if we could buy him dinner and he eagerly nodded but stayed in the shadows, moving along with us in the drive thru lane but keeping his distance.  We got the food and pulled into the parking space but saw him hesitate.  Maybe he'd been burned by empty promises before.  Brian hailed him over and he pulled his skinny arms out from his armholes where he kept them in a futile search for warmth.  He thanked us profusely and went to sit down on the dark curb with his dinner. 

And the sight of this little boy eating in the dark and cold just does not sit with me so I figure God will be good enough to tell me what to say because you can't just leave a kid like that. 

So, Sanele and I visit.  Years of recruiting showed me my favorite way to get to know someone is to just ask questions.  Which is good because it took pressure off me to do the talking.  I learn Sanele is in 7th grade and 15...though he looks no older than 12.  Malnourished kids look much younger than they are.  He lives with his grandmother and older brother.  His older brother, he says, is hiding in the bushes across the road to keep an eye on him.  It turns out there are other teens who "smoke drugs" who sometimes rob Sanele after people have given money to him.

He is 15 years old.

And he just told me he's been mugged.  Multiple times.  In the same kind of steady conversation like a kid might tell you he has homework.  Just a fact of life.

I run to the car to grab something and, when I get back, Sanele has a friend.  Seriously, I have no idea where he came from.  There are shadows everywhere.  So much for being alert.  Another teen, he's Syrin and he's 16.  He's also here to beg.  I see kindness and sincerity in his eyes, too, and I see he is hungry.  So, back to the line I go.  I look out to see a third boy has joined them before he runs back across the road into the shadows.  That must be the big brother, coming to snag some fries, but he is off before I return.

We talk about school and how Syrin loves soccer and has been playing since he was three and how amazing it is to watch people who move like they are one with the ball.  You can see the excitement when he talks about his favorite sport.  And, when I see that Sanele nods that he likes soccer but is not as effusive about it, I ask if maybe he likes drawing or music and it turns out he likes to draw and I see him light up when he talks about it.

We also talk about that bracelet Syrin is wearing and how he believes in Jesus and how he loves Jesus "very much."  And we talk about Sanele's necklace that he made out of a zipper.  It's seriously a zipper and he was so proud of his workmanship.  

You know, they really are just regular teens.

But then we talk about things that regular teens outside of poverty don't normally talk about.  Like how these boys walk 20 kilometers roundtrip each Saturday and Sunday night just to beg for money and food.

Syrin is who tells me they live 10 kms from there.  I want to know more.  "Doesn't it take a couple of hours to walk that distance?" I ask.  He tells me, no, they run the distance.  They leave McDonalds at 8 pm to run home.  I ask if they are safe running; if anyone ever bothers them.  He says not really because they run near where they know there are security guards.  And they've learned not to come during the week because the weekends when it's safer.  The guys who do drugs have "made enough money" by then.  I'm relieved to hear that.  And yet, I'm not okay with it.  It's not right that a kid runs 20 kms in the dark and cold (or ever) just to eat. And that they get mugged.  Nothing is right about what they tell me.

These boys melt my heart.  I love that they don't ask for more.  I hate that they have to ask for any.  I love that their eyes are soft and sweet.  I hate that boys with hard eyes put fear in them.  I love that they are willing to share their stories with me.  I hate that I am only hearing them because they have no food at home.  I love that the Lord gave me this moment.  I hate that I can't do more.  I love that they are sincere in their gratitude.  I don't need it, but I love good manners in a kid.  I tell them this was a gift for me, too.  That God blessed me with them. I encourage them to stay in school and make right and honest choices.  Again, what can I say to them?

Before I go, I ask if I can pray for them.  But here is where I really struggle for words.  How do I pray in a way that they understand God loves them but it's so hard to explain why they had to run 20 kms to eat?  That is always hard for me..."Lord, provide for them," when it often seems so helpless.  Yet, I love that, as I prayed for them, I heard Syrin utter, "Amen." They trust the Lord even when it often seems so helpless.

And, tonight, I think of all the other things I could've/wish'd I'd said but all it comes down to is, I hope they saw Love.  I hope they saw Jesus' Love.  I hope they know it's not from me.  It's all from Him.  I could only give them a few minutes of love.  He is a lifetime of Love.  I pray that Love gives them hope. I pray that Love whispers to them in the dark and cold that they are not alone.  I pray that Love ran ahead of and all around them and protected them from harm.  I pray that Love provides enough for them, much more than food.

Lord, Jesus, I really don't know what to say sometimes.  I don't know what to do.  I feel helpless most days when I see so much need all around and there is just no way to make it end.  It isn't fair, it isn't right, it's not what you want for people.

But, Lord, I love that you minister to young boys' hearts in ways I cannot.  I love that about You.  You have such a heart for the poor and for children and I love that you use simple people to step in in even little ways.  That, even if I didn't have the words, You modeled the actions because You are deeply compassionate toward the wounded and the poor.  Thank you, Lord, for letting me hear even a small bit of their story.  You used simple children to step in my life in such a big way. Teach us, Lord, to use our money wisely and keep our hearts open widely.  Soften our hearts for the wounded and poor because they have a story that can bless and challenge us. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tuesday Mornings...Zulu Preschoolers

Just beyond these hills...

Down this dirt road...

Tucked into "the bush" around this bend...

Just past this house...

And this one...

Lies a church...

That doubles as a preschool during the week...

They are adorable, aren't they?

Most of their moms are still in high school and unwed.  The school is open five days a week while the moms are in school.  

Buhle makes me laugh.  She is one smart girl, charming and oh-so-busy for a nine month old.  She finally decided I was worthy of a smile yesterday.

Until I wouldn't give her Apelele's yogurt. Then she gave me this look...

Here's a little look around the preschool.

The toilets...

The "play ground..."

There are two swings hidden beyond the trees.  But you couldn't pay me to put Anniston in them as there are also things called Black Mambas, Green Mambas and Boomslangs that live in these parts.  I would love to see the grass cleared and a playground set there one day.

The cribs...

The kitchen...

The teachers cook twice a week and the kids bring their lunches the other days of the week.  Lunch can be rice or beans when the teachers cook.  On other days, lunch may be an orange or a bag of chips or some yogurt.  One of those per child, depending on what the family can afford to send.  The kids are fed porridge every morning for breakfast.

Speaking of teachers, here is one of them, beautiful Anna.  She is helping me learn some Zulu relevant to the kids such as, "I need to go potty," "I'm hungry" and, it must be universal, "He took my toy."

 Their toys are well-loved (okay, tattered, in some cases).

In fact, there is a team from McKinney coming next month if you would like to share some gently used toys that don't have a zillion pieces and that are large enough that little ones can't choke on them.  Three little babies make their way around the concrete floor among the older kids.

Specifically, would your kids like to share gently loved blocks (mega blocks or wooden), Little People type toys, plastic kitchenware, wood puzzles appropriate for 3-5 year olds...anything that would challenge these little minds as they grow?

This little boy might like a small truck, too (no small parts, please, like wheels on Matchbox cars).

He was pushing around the trailer bed of a truck whose cab was missing.  And he was completely happy.  But I kinda think it would be fun to see him with a whole truck.  :)

If you are able to donate (please don't feel like you need to buy) toys that your kids have outgrown, these kids will take your toys from gently loved to well loved in no time.  :)  There are up to 24 of them, after all!

If you don't have toys but would still like to help, the team will be buying a rainwater barrel so the teachers no longer have to lug water from a faraway tap for cooking and for the kids to wash their hands.  The cost is about $350 and will provide clean water for a long, long time.

They will also purchase a new gas cooktop to make cooking easier and plaster and paint to seal the walls as winter is quickly approaching.

If you're moved to help, I bet these kids would give you another thumbs up...

And maybe Buhle will even share one of her smiles with you...

(They are SO worth it!)