“God is the kind of God who delights most deeply not in making demands but in meeting needs. Prayer is his delight because prayer shows the reaches of our poverty and the riches of his grace. Prayer is that wonderful transaction where the wealth of God’s glory is magnified and the wants of our soul are satisfied” (John Piper, Desiring God, 217).
The Preschool has finally opened. Until the school building is completed, we have set up the school in the unused portion of the Dining Hall. We have been preparing the 3 and 4 year old children for this big day and had an orientation/welcome event so the children could become familiar with this new program.
Since school always means “uniforms” here, the mamas are asking what colors the school uniforms will be. I told our housekeeper Flavia that we muzungus did not usually wear uniforms to school. She looked startled and responded, “JjaJa, how would anyone know who you were if you were struck by a car footing home?” I looked puzzled by that and she explained that people are often identified following an accident by tracing the uniform worn to the school the child attended. Personal identification cards have not infiltrated this culture!
These first days since opening are going pretty well. Our Headmistress decided that disobedient children would be handled by facing suspension. She thought that would whip these kids into shape quickly if they were forced to stay at home and do chores rather than getting to come to school.
Well, this week we have suspended the suspension policy since so many were being suspended we couldn’t keep track of who could go to school and who had to stay home! Carolyn and I should be ashamed of how we are taking such delight in watching our precocious preschoolers change the program that Joanne had in place to whip these kids into shape! She said to me, “Lissa, I cannot physically move these children – they must listen and obey verbal commands.” I said, “Joanne, they do listen — but the problem is they rejected what they heard! I have found that physically move a child to where I want them to be progresses us both!” Day after day she is carrying a young one home from school who is refusing to obey! She is a very committed woman but one who has not had experience working with young children and she has very high expectations at the moment.
Joanne’s understanding of preschool bladder control issues is another area where there is a huge learning curve. To maximize their classroom teaching time and not spend all morning lined up at the bathroom, the children were allowed only one potty break. After a couple of days of accidents, Joanne asked that all children have a back up set of clothes. That will mean I need to make another trip to Owino Market to buy a set of clothes for the children and keep them lying in wait in a cubbie hole at school. Extra clothes is a new concept to people who are blessed to have just what is needed. At this point, I am greeted each day with what I have called “The Daily Urine Report. The Headmistress lets me know who has spoiled their clothes and how many times. I am wondering if that will become a new category on the school report card!
Well, the 1 potty break rule got suspended yesterday, in fact, Joanne gave them 3 breaks. This seemed like real wisdom since I had given the children a Mebendazole de-worming treatment with breakfast! She has discovered that she needs a school motto, school colors and a school song to be accredited by the Ugandan educational system. After the first week, we have suggested the motto might be “Don’t Hit!”, the colors should be black and blue and the perfect school song would be, “Trust and Obey!”. Joanne is good natured about our teasing!
On the home front, we are expecting two sofas to be completed by Wednesday. The chairs here are huge and look out of proportion so we decided to get 2 sofas for everyone to have a place to sit and be comfortable. I am planning to be all over them at the end of the day when I use them for stretching out. It is strange to walk into a shop and pick out a fabric and then describe the style and dimensions to be custom made. Ready made is not the way here–custom made is! Mike requested that the sofas be 6 feet long on the inside of the arms-I’m thinking they will look long but I am so “longing” for something with a cushion! The Indian furniture man calls cushions “sponges”.
If I am remembering where we are in the Psalms correctly I smiled when it was time to read Psalm 82 yesterday and came across vs. 3. Do you remember how God used that Psalm and Boice’s commentary to give me permission to pray specifically that we go to Romania? Here we are in Uganda-His re-directions keep our eyes pealed on Him don’t they? Well, I look forward to news about your trip and will be praying for you in the meantime.
Love you bunches,
Mike and I just returned from a trip to The Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville, North Carolina. I had looked forward to this trip since September when I first heard that John Piper would be teaching Romans 12-13. He began teaching chapters from Romans starting in the summer of 2001 with “The Great Eight–Romans 8” and then “God’s Word has not Fallen–Romans 9-11”. It would be impossible to overstate the impact that these teachings have had on my own thinking and teaching. This seminar entitled “The Mercies of God and the Transformed Christian Mind” was stunning! I came away awed by the mercy of God to the church of our day–to allow us to have a Paul like thinker in our own time–how marvelous! It was an immeasurable privilege to sit under the passionate exposition of God’s Word by Dr. John Piper–that five hours of teaching left me hungering for more! There were about 500 of us gathered in the beautiful mountain retreat and the teaching bathed us all in the richest — most hope filled truths of Scripture.
Here is a sprinkling of the heart provoking teaching and questions that were addressed in this wonderful get away weekend:
- What is wrong with the human mind that it needs to be renewed?
- When did God become completely and totally for me?
- God’s words do not just declare something they constitute something.
- Christianity is not a will power religion–it is a passionate relationship.
- When God calls, no one says, “No!”
- Our bodies were not intended to be used to impress others with how we look they were intended to be used to make God look good!
- Our bodies were not made to show off muscles–they were made to show off mercy!
- Let your body show what you think about God!
- “Good” and “Evil” are objective realities that exist apart from my preferences.
- The inner life of our preferences is to be brought into conformity with external objective truth not vice versa!
- Mercy in my life toward the undeserving is the best way to show the world that my God is Mercy!
- What is acceptable to God? Himself!
- I was created to show something to the world–the world is not impressed with seeing mirrors of themselves–we will seize the day when we stop showing the mean – spirited judgmental face of law driven religion and begin to show the world our tears.
- When you take a log out or your own eye–it hurts and tears begin to flow–the world needs to see our tears.
- The main feature of a renewed mind is that it is radically Christ centered.
- Faith looks away from itself to another.
- Our worth consists in treasuring the worth of Christ–our significance consists in savoring the significance of Christ
- Faith is a gift given to obliterate pride!
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers,
in view of God’s mercy
to offer your bodies as
living sacrifices, holy
and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of
worship.” Romans 12:1
This morning I am lingering over coffee and the Word. I have arranged this as a day off so the family and I will head into Kampala and see what we can accomplish today. It has been a good week. We have completed the screening, interviewing, orientation, and home visit on our 3rd housemother. She will begin on Wednesday and we are hopeful that our 4 new children will come here to live on Oct. 6th. Her name is Flavia (the same name as our new cook) and she is a widow who is supporting her older children who are in boarding school far from here. I like her very much.
It is time for me to begin the “reporting” phase of my job so I have also spent this morning pouring over the background history of these 14 children so that I can write reports of progress that I have seen in them. Jane, each time I read these things a protective “How dare you do that to a helpless child?” response comes over me so strong. I marvel at how many times in the past I have been able to turn away from suffering orphan pictures with no heart response at all — but He will not allow me to turn away from these. A child thrown into a pit latrine and pulled out maggot covered, a child abandoned in a taxi park, twins left starving and alone in a house with their dead sibling lying nearby—it is by God’s grace that they were saved from death and so may He grant them to grow up and make a difference in other lives!
Carolyn has developed a relationship with the Administrator of Sanyu Babies Home in Kampala. Our first children have come to Rafiki either from Sanyu or Nsambya Babies Home. Sanyu was begun in the 1920’s and ministers to about 70 children from infancy to 4 years old.
After that age if they are not adopted they move to foster care or other orphanges. Sanyu is affliated with the Church of Uganda but also receives help from philanthropic volunteers from Germany, Austria and the United States. It is doing a great redemptive work in the midst of an inundating orphan crisis. I will not soon forget walking into rooms with children lining the walls eating porridge in those tiny little chairs. To scan the room saying a prayer, “Lord which one out of all of these do you want to come to Rafiki?”
I finally went out and bought some cookbooks although there are not many available here. Why didn’t I pack a cookbook in my suitcase? Flavia can follow recipes and I was weary of writing them from my head day after day. We worked together to make Chicken Paprika with Herb Dumplings last night and it was very good! I am finally getting the hang of the way things taste here so that I can manipulate ingredients to get the flavors I am hungry for.
She is able to do African dishes from her own memory and they are flavorful instead of bland-she did my ironing yesterday and sweeps and keeps after the dust which is a constant chore–red dust blows in through open windows and covers everything in a days time. I asked Carolyn’s house help to come and teach her to clean because that girl is meticulous.
Flavia learns very quickly so now our bathrooms are cleaner than I could keep them. I am having to rearrange the kitchen until I buy a stool–she is about 4′ 9″ tall and I have every bowl and spice out of her reach! She loves listening to Casey’s radio/cassette player while she works. She listens to music but more often she listens to a Ugandan Pastor who has a radio ministry.
love you bunches,
September 23, 2003
Good Morning Friend,
How much I have to learn about what it means to worship! It is not about being comfortable in a pew–it is not about having a great sound system–it is not about beginning on time or being well ordered–it is not about being timed down to the hour. As I engage in worship with my friends here they show me it is the greatest treat of the week! They come prepared to stay the day! They hunger to talk and share of all the ways God has blessed them in the past week, so the services begin with testimonies of God’s faithfulness–there are so many wanting to speak that the Pastor often has to limit it to 8 or so! It was heart melting when our helper Flavia stood up and with tears in her voice gave thanks to God for her new job with JjaJa Mike and Lissa. What a privilege it was to be in worship in this place! Worship is alive in Wakiso and in my heart. There are two churches that we take the children to. One is close, just a couple of miles from the village and is called Wakiso Central Baptist Church. That church is led by a wonderful shepherd named Pastor Fred Kibuuka. His wife is named Susan and she is a great help to Rafiki both in ministering to children and identifying girls who would be good candidates for the Girls’ Center.
When worship begins, it opens with music. Here at Wakiso they have a fragile electronic piano and a man whose enthusiasm more than makes up for any lack of skill. His chord progressions are more rhythmic and drum beat like than they are carrying any melody line. The worshippers love for the music to be vigorous and to build in energy and participation, so the praise time goes on and on with people on their feet clapping and so joy filled. I was struck with how the faces are smiling and how delighted they are to be together—our worship seems passive and unemotional by comparison. Solos flow into congregational singing and back again–and yet there are no bulletins and you are convinced that what goes on is spontaneous and honest expression from hearts overflowing with love and gratefulness to God. Following the music, the Pastor invites the congregation to pray and everyone does–out loud and at the same time–the cacophony of sound that rises is powerful–some crying out for mercy, some jubilant and thankful, some confessing and asking for forgiveness.
There is no hurry in any of this and at a time that seems corporately sensed a quieter song begins and we are ushered together into a time of Pastoral Prayer. The most striking difference in American and African prayer is that we bring a list of requests to God and they bring a list of praise and thanksgiving. What a contrast–we have much and want more– they have almost nothing and are profoundly grateful and want to speak it! The time of offering is also an event–there is a table with a basket set up front and the people sing and dance on the way to deposit their shillings and seem thrilled to have some to give.
I love Pastor Fred’s wife Susan. She is a fireball and completely dedicated to children’s ministry. Children from the surrounding village wander into church at odd times and find a place on a crooked, rough bench and look up to her and listen attentively. They sit pressed together for about 45 minutes relatively still and listening–no flannel board visuals, no VCR, no snack time or toy time–they listen to her teach/preach from Scripture. The children range in age from about three years old to about eleven.
The only discipline I see being done is for her to move a child to the front row so they could listen better! She too begins her time by asking the children, “Who has a testimony of what they are thankful to Jesus for?” 25 hands reach for the sky and they are anxious to go to the front and tell their friends how Jesus helped them by giving them a t-shirt, recovery from flu (cold), providing school fees, healing from malaria, some new slippers (flip flops), or a mother healed, or getting a sweetie (candy), etc. It is the most humbling thing in the world to sit amid a people who seem to have nothing but who have eyes to see that life is a gift and who have trained eyes to look for something to be grateful for. How much I have to learn about worship! Until later—lissa
With a wonderful cup of Ethiopian Sudoma coffee and my Bible, I began the morning. I have lingered over Psalm 131 for some time now pondering David’s description of having a still and quiet spirit like that of a weaned child. As I read I thought, “How I long for the still quiet soul that David writes of–my calm comes in fits and starts–I am ruled by the circumstances of my life and feel more like a pinball bouncing in a machine than a weaned child. What do I need to be weaned of that I might enjoy the contented life?” I went searching through the weighty wisdom of past saints to help me think this through!
“The soul is weaned from one thing by giving its attention to another. The task to the mother is trying and troublesome. The infant cries, and seems to sob out his heart. He thinks it very hard in her, and knows not what she means by her seeming cruelty, and the mother’s fondness renders all her firmness necessary to keep her at the process; and sometimes she also weeps at his pleading looks and big tears and outstretched hands…and she pities and perseveres; the child is denied his comfort and therefore frets and worries and flies into tantrums and sinks into sulks.
Yet time brings not only alleviations, but the ending of the conflict; the child now is quite content to find his nourishment at the table with his brothers, and feels no lingering wish to return to those dear fountains from which he once sustained his life. He is no longer angry with his mother, but buries his head in that very bosom after which he pined so grievously: he is weaned on his mother rather than from her. To the weaned child, his mother is his comfort though she has denied him comfort.
It is a blessed mark of growth out of spiritual infancy when we can forego the joys which once appeared essential, and can find our solace in Him who denies them to us. When we think ourselves safely through the weaning, we sadly discover that the old appetites are rather wounded than slain, and we begin crying again for the breasts which we had given up.
Weaning takes the child out of a temporary condition into a state in which he will continue for the rest of his life: to rise above the world to enter upon a heavenly existence which can never end. When we cease to hanker for what the world has to offer we begin hoping in the Lord. O Lord, as a parent weans a child, so do wean me, and then shall I fix all my hope on you alone.”
William Jay (1769-1853), in “Evening Exercises for the Closet.” and Charles Spurgeon, “The Treasury of David“. “Mother and Child” by Joanne Burns
Well, it seems that learning to be content carries with it many lessons of “loss”. When we are weaned as infants, we lose the milk we desire in order to be able to receive the solid food we now need for growth. If I am to be content I must crawl up on the lap of God and be content on Him and not seek it away from Him! My affections need to be weaned from all lesser affections that I seek to substitute for the Greatest One! As my friend Jane reminded me–a weaned child is a contented child!
Love through me, Love of God;
That burns perpetually.
Flow through me, Peace of God;
Calm River, flow until
No wind can blow, no current stir
A ripple of self-will.
Shine through me, Joy of God;
Make me like Thy clear air
That Thou dost pour Thy colors through,
As though it were not there.
O blessed Love of God,
That all may taste and see
How good Thou art, once more I pray:
Love through me—even me.