Monday, September 26, 2011

Manna Walk

Taken from Google Images
We sat around the large table in the dining area of the home of our hosts, Benedict and Kathleen Schwartz, at the Villages of Hope in Zambia, talking about the history of the orphanage and learning about their life story.
“It’s been a Manna Walk for me,” Benedict, the founder and director of the orphanage, smiled.

“Over the years I’ve had to trust the Lord to provide of all things at all times, just as the Israelites depended on God for food --  manna -- given by God each day.”  (Exodus 16)

I was intrigued (read: perhaps even convicted) as I continued to listen to more of their story.
The term “Manna Walk” rolled over and over in my mind all night, ruminating until morning.

I wanted to hear more.  I wanted to understand.

The next morning, I approached Benedict. 

“Why do you think it is so hard for us, as Americans, to walk in this way of trusting the Lord?”
And his reply still has me thinking.

“In our culture (American culture) we are diseased with comfort, consumption and convenience.”
Diseased?  Perhaps it’s true.

We are infected with these viral like illnesses, and sometimes we don’t even know it. They come from the outside, work on the inside, destroying our trust of the Lord.
These things (amongst others, I am sure) really do keep me from fully trusting the Lord for all things at all times, trusting Him to provide what I need, quite frankly, trusting Him that He will be everything I need.

The thing is, I know that He provides, but I don’t always act like it. Worse yet, I doubt it.
When I am comfortable, indulgent and have access to anything I want – then I forget to want Him, and when I do not desire Him, I find my dependence on Him evaporating.

When we are in need,  we seek Him, and yet we do not see what we truly need, because (for the most part) we either have what we want or we spend our time wanting more of what we do not need – wanting things more than we want Him.
I want to trust the Lord better, deeper, more openly, starting today, one foot in front of the other. I want to walk the Manna Walk.

I want to do it for the Lord, because, truth is, it’s for my good, but even more importantly – for His glory.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Light Was There -- Far More Than I Expected

I guess it’s not what I expected. In my narrow American view of the world, I pictured orphanages as, well … as sad places, where children grieved and mourned for what was not and despairingly, longingly looked in to the future.

But this is not the case at the Villages of Hope. True to its name – a village of hope. The children here ARE amazing grace personified, and God has granted them great favor. They are fully alive, confident, caring, compassionate, joy-filled and content. I could go on and on.

I sat down next to Mary B (one of the 42 children at the Villages of Hope), as she snuggled in next to me, eager to be together, talk and be “interviewed.”  Spending time with each of the children, one on one, before my departure was one of my desires. I wanted to hear their stories and write down their thoughts, word for word.

I asked Mary a few questions about herself. She hesitated not to share.

She is 12 years old, likes the color blue and her favorite thing to do?  Read.  She came from another orphanage that closed. The children fought a lot there. She does not remember her mother, only her father. She has one sister. She does not see her.

Her favorite thing about the Villages of Hope?  “They keep us well, give us food and care for us.”

Her favorite thing about God? “He keeps us alive, He cares for us and He brought us here where we can learn and know of Him.”

Her favorite thing about how God made her? “I help people and I care for myself. I am responsible for myself.”

What she grows up she wants to be a teacher or a musician. She’s learning how to play the guitar and loves to sing.

If she could ask God for anything, it would be – Wisdom.

She is a strong young woman, with leadership skill. We worked together at a carnival station, when we did an outreach event at a neighboring village. Watching her organize and keep a group of “spirited” children in line, with authority, determination and kindness, was a pleasure to observe. She is wise. God has granted her prayer.

I love this child, and I do not say that lightly. I love them all.

One of the things that strikes me the most about these children is their lack of bitterness. They have endured much (loss of one or both parents, poverty, sometimes abuse, loneliness, reasons to be afraid beyond what we can even imagine), and yet they do not radiate bitterness, they radiate joy.

Time with the children has left me asking myself lots of questions, questions that will likely take many years to answer. Questions like …

How can I love Jesus better?

What will it look like for me to trust Him more?

In what ways do I need to depend less on myself and more on Him?

In which ways can I let go of the world and hold more firmly to Him?

You know, I went to Africa asking the Lord to help me be a light, and when I arrived I realized that truly, the Light is there, in the children, far brighter than I could have ever imagined.

More stories of the children to follow. Thank you for taking time to hear their stories and pray for them. You can read more about the Village on their blog here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Out of Africa -- Back to Writing

The children tumble out of the houses singing, at the Villages of Hope orphanage, and tumble their way in to my heart. They gather together in the meeting place, before walking to school. 
Mouths and hearts open, voices raised. No instruments necessary.  Making music in the key note of gratitude and joy.  Prayer follows.

“Father, thank you for bringing me here to this place,” one child calls out to the One Who Saves. 
There is no shadow of sorrow in the faces of these children at the Villages of Hope, only joy and confidence in the provision of their Father in Heaven.

I pause long before walking with my teammates and the children to school, taking a deep breath in, I try to gather a response.
I question myself.

Or is it the Spirit speaking?

“Am I truly content or am I discontent where God has placed me, in my every day? Is my faith this strong? Do I project gratitude and joy? When was the last time I thought of His Saving Grace?”

I feel a small presence next to me. Soft, brown, beautiful, gentle fingers knit their way through mine. She sandwiches a handwritten note between her palm and mine. I read it.

“Dear Auntie, I love you so, so much.  I am happy that you came. From Mary J to you.”

I look down into deep cocoa colored eyes.  She smiles. She does not hesitate to love. She walks quietly alongside me on the dirt road to school, holding tight.  We talk a little where language allows, but mostly, we enjoy each other’s company.

I miss Africa. I miss the children at the Villages of Hope, Zambia.

I am back now -- out of Africa and back in to life in Wisconsin and writing.

Please join me once again, as I hope to encourage you in life and the Lord, through my stories of Africa and more.
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