Would You Go Back?

Ever since our return from the mission field, friends have asked, "Will you ever go back?"

That question stirs so many emotions.

My mind races with remembrances and I think, "It was a call not a decision when we went DSC00345 (Small)before and I would expect it to happen that way again if God intends us to go anywhere."

I say to the Lord what I have been saying, "Lord, here I am…yours…wherever you can use me."  DSC00344 (Small)

These thoughts were brought forward in my mind  this morning when I was meditating on Acts 17:16.  Luke is describing the inward thoughts of Paul when he arrived in Athens, "His spirit was stirred when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry."  I was taken by this poem by Eva Doerksen in light of this verse:

"If you had been to heathen lands,

Where weary ones with eager hands

Still plead, yet no one understand,

Would you go back?  Would you? 

 

If you had seen them in despair,

Beat on the breast, pull out the hair,

While demon powers filled the air,

Would you go back?  Would you?

 

If you had seen the glorious sight,

When heathen people, long in night,

Are brought from darkness into light,

Would you go back?  Would you?

 

Yet still they wait, a weary throng,

They’ve waited, some so very long,

When shall despair be turned to song,

I’m going back! Would you?

I am thinking again this morning after being blessed by the trusting faith that lived powerfully in the hearts of many Ugandans; perhaps the Lord is helping me see "who" the real heathens are.  When I saw what faith looked like in the lives of Africans who had "nothing" but God and He was completely sufficient– I knew the heathen was me!  For now,  I might be in God’s intended mission field.

May He turn our eyes to see the light of Christ and give us a new song! 

Death Defying

How could the Apostle Paul be on trial?  Why so many appearances in court? In the last chapters of Acts we see him on trial before the Sanhedrin, he is brought before two Roman Governors and has another hearing before King Agrippa II.  Each trial was convened for the purpose of uncovering what charges the Jews had against Paul. 

Speaking clarity into the confusion that exists, Paul states, My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.  I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.”  (Acts 23:6)

Why does Paul think this is the crux of the matter?  I remember reading a quote by a Canadian scientist named G. B. Hardy regarding this question.

Jesus_ResurrectionWhen I look at religion I have two questions. One, has anybody ever conquered death and two, if they have, did they make a way for me to conquer death?

I checked the tomb of Buddha, and it was occupied, and I checked the tomb of Confucius and it was occupied, I checked the tomb of Mohammed and it was occupied, and I came to the tomb of Jesus and it was empty.

And I said, there is one who conquered death. And I asked the second question, did He make a way for me to do it too?

And I opened the Bible and discovered that He said, ‘Because I live you shall live also.’

Paul understood that the claim of resurrection was the pinnacle truth claim of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

At death, all human resources are exhausted there is no power on earth that trumps death.  Paul had met Jesus–resurrected from the dead — the One who is stronger than death!

He knew that his brothers in the Jewish faith had nothing greater than this life giving Jesus.  Their way of dealing with death was to avoid it in order not to be defiled.  They warned their followers to stay away from dead bodies and tombs so that there would be no chance of becoming unclean from the corrupting influence of death.  The truth was avoidance was all they could offer and there is not way to ultimately avoid death.

But Jesus!  Rather than avoid death Jesus reached out to touch the dead.  Rather than be defiled Jesus’ touch brought life to that which was dead!

His resurrection is a message–it is the message and Paul was so secure in the truth of it that he was willing to die knowing that yet would he live.

Christ’s resurrection is an invitation to be united with the One whose life overcomes death.  With our future secure we are freed to really live the life we have been given here and now.

I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25-26)

Faith in Jesus is Life Giving and Death Defying!

God Grew Tired of Us

Over the weekend our family rented the documentary “God Grew Tired of Us.”  It is the story of 3 of the “lost boys” of Sudan who were resettled in America.  1203281 These were boys who had survived incredible challenges and who had grown up in Kakuna refugee camp in Kenya.  The “lost boys” were children who fled Sudan by the thousands when many of them were just toddler age. Their journey was as compelling as it was disturbing.  Marching over a thousand miles in search of sanctuary when the civil war broke out in their land, about half of the 27,000 died on the journey.

The young men in this documentary–Panther, Daniel and John allowed the cameras to see the challenges of relocation.  The boys felt guilty for having food when they knew their brothers in Kenya were still starving.  they felt selfish living well when their friends were living without. These emotions prompted them to send some of their meager earnings back to friends and family in Africa.

They longed for the deep sense of interdependence and community that had sustained them for all their years in the refugee camps.  They experienced hurt and confusion when Americans allowed  busyness and their desire for independence and privacy to overrule expressions of kindness and caring.  They were enormously grateful for the opportunity to have a new life but baffled at how much “life” they lost when the bonds of deep relationships had to be severed in the move to America.

 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing near the throne and in front of the Lamb.”  Revelation 7:9

6067 (Small) It seems tragic to me that there are people in the world who feel forgotten by God, or think that they have become tiresome to Him.

How will we represent the Lord so that their vision of Him can be set right?

It is not God who has tired of these brothers and sisters in Africa–or who ignores the results of wars that continue to displace thousands— it is us.

But Zion said, ‘I don’t get it.  God has left me.  My Master has forgotten I even exist.’

‘Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? 

But even if mothers forget, I’d never forget you—never.  Look I have written your names on the backs of my hands. 

The walls you’re rebuilding are never out of my sight…You’ll know then that I am GOD.  No one who hopes in me ever regrets it.”

Isaiah 49:14-23  The Message

We’re Surrounded!

April 15, 2004

Dear Jane,

It is 9:34 at night–way past missionary midnight which falls for me about 8:00.  DSC01077 (Small) Mike and Casey have retired for the evening.  Mike often takes the mini missionaries who visit back to the airport at Entebbe.  It is an hour drive and the flight out to London is very early so tonight he is not the family night owl. There are times, like today when I feel so surrounded by humanity that I purpose to carve out some time to be still, quiet and alone with God.  God has met me with much comfort concerning the death of James Okwir.  As I prepared for the Mama’s Bible study of Genesis 9, I was warned and helped when I considered the heart of Ham.  He sought to expose and ridicule Noah when he lay naked and drunk.  How easy it is to feel superior and to exploit other’s weaknesses.  How beautiful that the other two sons honored their father and sought to cover and protect him in his folly.

There has been so much tongue wagging about this tragic incident.  Everyone seems shocked that this young man was stealing. I asked the mamas today if we were guilty of arrogantly thinking that the sin of stealing only dwelt in James’ heart.  I asked whether we felt justified in exposing and denigrating his character?  Are we like Ham–anxious to clothe ourselves in self-righteousness and willing to strip this brother of all honor?   I wondered if God would not rather have us tremble at what lives in our hearts and draw close to Him who is willing to cover rather than expose us!

DSC02141 (Small) Carolyn and I took Sophie to Mengo Hospital today where her TB treatment is given.  She will go every two weeks for about 7 months. I thought she would be hooked up to some breathing apparatus or some inhaling machine.  The treatment plan consisted of waiting in line to be weighed–waiting in line to be seen by a doctor, waiting in another line to get in to meet the pharmacist.  She carefully counted out tablets that were to be taken for the next two weeks and put them in a tiny envelope like the envelopes we get from tellers at the bank.  Following the TB treatment portion of the visit, we got into two more lines to have her seen by a doctor for an ear infection and then another line for the medicine for that!

mengo (Small) During those waiting hours, you see sights that you can scarcely believe.  People collapsing from malaria symptoms, lepers, malnourished children who look like skeletons, children urinating on the floor.  Despairing, suffering people–waiting for the most minimal kind of care.

Compared to the sights we saw, our Sophie is thriving!  She now has wrinkles in her thighs that used to look like Kermit the Frog’s!  She is eating to beat the band and getting stronger everyday.  DSC01703 (Small) I wouldn’t take anything for the privilege that is ours to oversee this child’s recovery–she is so worth it.  Carolyn and I adore her hair — it is a soft straight Indian looking growth.  The doctor said that we need to shave it off.  He said that her hair was a sure sign of malnourishment and TB.  He told us that if she is getting good food and good treatment her hair will grow in curly like it is supposed to on an African!

The verse that sustained me through the day was Psalm 125, especially these words:

As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.

As I sat on wooden benches in the hospital with TB patients,  I counted on His surrounding Presence and it was there.

Until later my dearest friend–you are cherished and loved–lissa

Who “owns” your suffering?

That might sound like an odd question. I admit that before today, I rarely have thought of my suffering as anyone else’s but mine.  I pull it around me like a wooly shawl and wallow, wallow, wallow–pretty sure that nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen!  Today, as I pondered afresh the implications of  2 Corinthians 1, I felt as though God had switched on a big “ah-ha” light bulb concerning the topic of who owns my suffering. In verses 3-11 Paul writes:

images Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers,  of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 2:3-11)

It is comforting that Paul doesn’t want me to remain ignorant on this topic!  His words teach me that:

  • Suffering is not an aberration of nature to be avoided at all costs, it is part of God’s intentional plan. The plan’s purpose is twofold: first, so that I can be engaged with the personal touch of God, a treasured aspect of His character — His comfort.
  • Without suffering, I would miss this experience of God; after all, we don’t need comfort if we aren’t hurting.
  • The second part of the plan’s purpose is to wean me from self-reliance and grow me in God dependence.
  • The pattern for understanding my suffering comes from understanding the purposeful suffering of Christ that ended triumphantly in the resurrection.
  • The comfort that I receive from God is not intended to end in a cul-de-sac in my life but is meant to be shared–poured out in the lives of others who are suffering.

The new thought today came from the phrase, “as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings”. That verse suggests that suffering as a Christian is not a solitary experience.  Our unity with Christ is so total that our suffering is described as being shared and as belonging to Christ.

“Perhaps it is easier to recognize that our blessings belong to the Lord than it is to recognize that he owns our suffering.  If you watch someone suffer, you will see that we tend to treat suffering as something that belongs to us, something we can respond to as we please.  We tend to turn in on ourselves.  Our world shrinks to the size of our pain.  We want little more than release, and we tend to be irritable and demanding.

It does not take long to learn that suffering brings you power.  As you cry in pain, people run to help you.  They offer you physical comfort, say nice things, and release you from our duties…A whole host of self-absorbed temptations greet us when we treat suffering as something that belongs to us.  This passage reminds us that our suffering belongs to the Lord.  It is an instrument of his purpose in us and for others.  The way we suffer must put Christ on center stage.  The Redeemer owns our disappointment and fear. He owns our physical and spiritual pain.  He owns those crushing past experiences.  He owns our rejections and aloneness.  He owns our dashed expectations and broken dreams.  It all belongs to him for his purpose.  When we feel like dying, he calls us to a greater death.  He calls us to die to our suffering so that we may live for him.

This is not a call to some creepy form of Christian stoicism.  It is a call to bring the full range of our suffering to Him.  We are to weep loudly and mourn fully before him, knowing that true comfort can only be found at his feet.  We are to place our mourning in his hands to be used for his purposes in our lives and the lives of others. And it is a promise of comfort from the God who is the source of it all.”  ((Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, p. 153-4))

Today, I am grateful to be in a family where suffering is not wasted but is purposefully directed toward receiving and giving comfort!  What a relief to be freed from owning my suffering–what a privilege to know it is shared with the Lord Jesus.

Training the Palate

February 5, 2004

Greetings My Friend,

One of the goals we have here at the village is to train the children’s palate’s to enjoy a variety of foods.  In their culture, there are several staple foods, but beyond that many never have the opportunity to explore.   In the dining hall, the lunch meal consists of national food that the mamas and children really enjoy.  When posho (like very stiff grits) is served, the mamas smile and say it will make a good nap for the cottages.

DSC00362 (Small) Trying to plan menus that are filling, healthy and enjoyable has presented us with somewhat of a challenge. Carolyn was very excited recently because she had figured out a way to make macaroni and cheese to be served at our evening meal.  The cooks did a great job of preparing it and we expected everyone to really enjoy this new treat–after all, who doesn’t like macaroni and cheese?  DSC00361 (Small)

Well, we heard nothing about the new dish from the mamas or from the children.  A few days later I was hauling some of the aunties who work during the day helping the mamas back to their village.  On the ride, I asked, “How did you and the children enjoy the macaroni and cheese?”  There was not an immediate response so I turned to Auntie Janet and asked her again.  You need to know that Ugandans are always eager to be polite and to please, so Janet turned to me with a big smile and a lift in her voice,  “Oh JjaJa, I think we have enjoyed it very much, only one has vomited!”  I thought I would never stop laughing at that and I almost ran the Prado up the side of a bank before I regained control.   Now, when Yoweri finds out that we are having macaroni he whines, “JjaJa, not the maca-ronees!”DSC00614 (Small) (2)

Well, I dropped Janet off at her place and proceeded to take another helper to her home.  As we traveled she said, “JjaJa, I am wondering if you would give me the advice (pronounced add-vice)?”  DSC01113 (Small)That was her way of saying, I want to speak to you privately for counsel.  I told her that I was willing to help if I could.  She is a precious friend and I have come to love her dearly.  She shared with me that her husband who had abandoned the family about six months ago, had returned the night before.  She said he was very apologetic and asked for forgiveness for wanting to flee from the crushing that poverty had made to his sense of manhood.  He despaired when daily faced with his inability to raise school fees for his children or to feed them adequately.  He felt trapped and unable to break out of the hopeless circumstance.  The pressure to provide when it was impossible to find a job took its toll and he ran. During all the months he was gone, Pastor Fred and his wife Susan stepped in and provided for this family.

DSC02371 (Small)Now it seems, he is ready to return home and she is more than willing to receive him.  Her dilemma was that he wanted to resume physical intimacy with her.  She remembered talks that Pastor’s wife had given about the way HIV is spread, so she had refused him and explained to him that she was not going to allow that until he had had a blood test to determine his status. She asked me if it was true that the virus could be passed between husband and wife that way.  I told her that Susan had given her true advice and that she had done the right thing. Her husband proclaimed his fidelity and said there had been no women in the six months, but this dear woman bravely resisted.  Jane, she was thinking rightly but the truth is she has no resources to carry out this plan.  Like everyone here, she struggles financially–there is never enough money to cover just the bare bones basics of life.  Her sons and daughters have not been able to attend secondary school this semester because she has no money for school fees.  When I dropped her off earlier this week, there was no food in the home.  I stupidly asked why she didn’t get fresh vegetables since they are so plentiful and cheap.  She responded,  “JjaJa, what difference does it make what the price is if I have no money at all?”    She added, “JjaJa, a meal of eggplant and tomatoes does not fill a hungry stomach through the night and day.”  The custom here is to drink a cup of chai in the morning and wait until very late in the evening to eat one meal that will hold you through the night and next day.  DSC01128 (Small)

Since it has been my job to take people to Ebenezer Lab, I knew that a reliable blood test costs more than this little family could ever raise or justify.   How could she come up with 9,000 shillings (at least 3 days wages) for blood testing when she has children who are not getting enough to eat?  It is through difficult choices like this that AIDS has claimed Africa.  DSC02373 (Small)Anyway, I told her that I would transport she and her husband to the lab and pay for the testing and praised her for her wisdom and for standing up in a gentle but firm way.  It takes one day to get the results, so I trust God will protect her until this is settled.  Friend, you are on my mind and in my heart–may He help renew your heart today as you prepare for prayer tomorrow.

With love,
lissa