Saturday, July 27, 2013

Were It Not For Grace

Psalm 17:7 Paint grace-graffiti on the fences; take in your frightened children who Are running from the neighborhood bullies straight to you. (the message)

Today 50 children met outside under the mango trees, in the shadow of the steeple,  to partake in fresh bread.  The only bread that can give life. (John 6:35)

For three hours the words of God were spouted out of these tiny mouths by memory. Their teacher pushed them and corrected them at every turn making sure that each morsel was recited perfectly. It was the first time for me that the bread had a different taste. Instead of being swallowed down with an overflow of Grace it was passing through to my soul dry and stale. The unleavened bread was now filled with leaven and the burden of my sins. I watched these children recite and recite only to be met with discipline for every missed word and incorrect hand gesture. So, as I sat there I began thinking, "Where is Grace?  Does it really matter that they say it without flaw or should we beat God's words into our minds with nothing less than perfection?" Then God, who is always faithful, showed me His answer in the face of Rael.

Rael is one of our older girls. To say that she is precious would only undermine the character stamped inside of her by God alone. She is my right-hand assistant each Sunday morning. She helps to lead the hymns and always takes up the offering. I have learned to lean on her when I stumble over my words and I know that I can always look over to her big, brown, eyes and find only compassion. Today her eyes were not filled with hope and compassion but instead shame. For, when she stood to recite her scripture, she found herself stumbling over her words and hand movements. She would stand mumbling her verse over and over waiting on her turn and then once she was in the spotlight she would freeze. Just like a proud mama, I sat on the back pew with a huge smile on my face and I, too, was mumbling the words just in case she would look my way to find a much needed place of Grace. Sadly, the teacher for the day, did not offer the same condolences for her missed and jumbled words. After multiple tries, the teacher did what I prayed would not happen, she pulled Rael from the line of children. Rael was scolded for her forgetfulness and sent back to her seat. Now, just two kids down from me sat a defeated and totally humiliated child.

God whispered to me, "You know that feeling don't you? Get up and go demonstrate my love to Rael. My Grace is sufficient for her and she needs to know that I am not seeking perfection. If I was seeking perfection, I surely would not have used you." So, when Rael was alone, I quietly got up from my seat and went to her side. I placed my arms around her and pulled her in real tight, whispering in her ear, "You did an excellent job reciting your verse today and God is very pleased with you." Rael begin weeping and for a few minutes Patrick and I loved on her and demonstrated for her what God demonstrated for us 2,000 years ago. Pure, Unmerited, Grace.

I know what my life would look like if it were not for Grace. I would be that beaten and broken young woman living a defeated life void of joy. Everyday I feel the weight of sin as I live among a people who are trying to achieve, through their good works, the promise fulfilled for me on the Cross. I am wrapped up in redemption and not cloaked in the unattainable. I know the one, true, God and for that I will sing of His love, forever. Grace will be painted on our house and offered to all who enter. Pray that our home will be filled with many who will receive this Grace for the first time.

Living and Loving Alongside Christ,

Thursday, July 18, 2013

All I Want For My Birthday is a Mosquito Net!

I have been given 38 years. I do not know why God has been so gracious to me but I do not take one year for granted. I am surrounded by men, women, and children who will never see 38. So, I will count each strand of white hair with gratitude, accept every stretch mark as evidence of my abundance, and count each tooth in my mouth and thank God for the superior health care that I have received my whole life.

Now, with those lists of gratitude expressed, I will have to say that I did not usher in my 38th year with cake, presents, and a nice dinner out. For one thing, those things don't matter to me anymore, and secondly they don't exist here. Well, to be fair, you can make your own cake but who wants to do that on their on birthday, right?!

This birthday I awoke to bouts of vomiting ,extreme diarrhea, and a fever.  So, this has been the first time that I have been sick since we have been in Africa. Yes, I did thank the Lord for a whole year of great health before I began begging Him to let this not be anything serious. You see when you get the above symptoms here your mind begins to play tricks on you. You immediately think that you have some tropical disease.  So, to ease my thoughts, I asked Patrick to pull out my "African illness manual" that they gave us in our initial training when we arrived in Tanzania. As I tried to follow the flow charts with my varying symptoms I discovered that it could be anything from Malaria to Giardia. So, I began the waiting game marking my fever cycles which would help me with my diagnosis. I got sick of taking my temperature so I pulled out my Malaria self-test kit. After pricking my finger and putting my blood on the test strip, I waited the required 15 minutes for the results. To God's Glory, the test results were negative. These tests are not always conclusive so when I did not get relief from the fever Patrick and I were a little skeptical. I took more ibuprofen before I went to bed and To God's Glory, my fever broke in the night. I can not tell you how relieved I was. So, other than some exhaustion, hunger, and dehydration, I was on the road to recovery. Patrick made sure that I got plenty of rest, food, and fluids and I have made a full recovery.

I am so blessed, not because I am better, but because I have been given. I have been given a cabinet full of medicine to help with my fever. I have been given a mosquito net.  I have been given test-kits, and medical plans laid out for me.  I have been given a loving husband to stop and attend to my needs. I have been given, at one click, a whole team of prayer warriors who usher me before the Lord and petition for my healing. In a country where hundreds of thousands of people will die with malaria this year. I am blessed. Why am I blessed? To give it all away. In Luke 12:48 we are told "Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!" (msg)  So, how do I repay God for His gracious gifts?  I, in turn, give graciously to those around me.

You know that a mosquito net cost $8,000tsh here. That is the same as $4.93.  I know that it is shocking that people can not afford that, right? We blow $4.93 on stupid stuff like: candy, fast food, and junk at the dollar tree. Who would have thought that so little could help prevent hundreds of people from dying each year. It is not a full-proof cure to Malaria but it gives them a fighting chance. In a country where the average daily wage is $2,000tsh, what do you think they are going to spend their money on? If you had to choose between food and mosquito repellent, what would you choose?

So, this year my birthday ended up not being about me at all. I am totally fine with that. God showed me that, once again, I have access. Even 8,000 miles away from the land of the "fast and plenty" I am still very rich, very rich indeed. So from this year on my birthday will be about adding "life" to my fellow brothers and sisters in Tanzania. Would you like to join me? Would you like to buy a mosquito net? We have 120 little boys and girls in our Sunday school class that would love a mosquito net and more importantly they would love to know that it came from someone as awesome as you!

If you would like more information on how you can help to buy a mosquito net(s) for the children in our Sunday school class please send a message to my email address:

God Bless You as you help us Bless others!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

When You Realize that You are the Student.

                                                       Today was the fourth month.
The fourth month of little brown faces covered with perfect white smiles.
The fourth month of, foolish me, stumbling over my words and seeing blank stares.

The fourth month that I realized that I am insufficient and that I need to bathe in God's Grace each and every week before I stand to teach.

The fourth month that I wanted to pull the covers over my head and just skip Sunday and head right on in to Monday.

The fourth month that I was met with huge hugs that squeeze a little more doubt out of my insignificant self and remind me that they just want me as I am.

The fourth month that I wanted to cry because the children were hungry and tore the chai from my hands as we passed it out, only to tuck it away in their clothes to take home and share with their family.

The fourth month that I saw my own children love unconditionally, playing hard and filling other children with the overflow of their hearts.

I don't really call myself a missionary but an emissary. I have been sent on a secret mission to spy on God while He is working. I get the privilege to hear Him in the prayers of Banesta, in the smile of Sam, and the cuddly hug of Christof. I see Him in the faith of Mama Damari as she fights Malaria. I have been sent to persuade others to Love Christ with all their heart and soul.
God wanted me to come so that I would be persuaded to love Him with all of my life. Away from my comfort and privilege my faith has been put to the test. Will I love Him even when life is hard? Will I serve others even when I can't communicate? Will I be willing to feed hunger? Will I lay down my desires and hopes and replace them with His?
This class on Sunday mornings has not turned out how I planned. I have not given them anything but they have given me everything, in them I have encountered God.  To this I say, "See you next Sunday!"