Thursday, December 25, 2014

That Miracle Baby

It seems that Christmas rolls around faster and faster each year. The lines at the stores get longer, the gifts pile higher, and our grasp on what is eternal is more and more illusive. Without a doubt, the season brings joy. People are more generous. They laugh more, they give more. They love more. What's not to love about that?
But, this wonderful, magical, beautiful season, also magnifies what wounds us. We feel the gap of those relationships that just aren't what they should be (or could be) a little more acutely. Our unanswered prayers ring just a little loudly in our ears. The empty chair at our table reminds us that someone that we love won't make Christmas memories with us anymore. Regrets seem more like failures that we just can't overcome. The sting of betrayal is like a tumor sitting in the middle of your chest. You know the pain you feel - what you can't do, what you wish you could do, how you would change your situation if you could. Life hurts and as much as we love this season, let's be honest, hurt is just more..........hurtful.
But hurt is also why HE came.
Yes, He came to save us from our sins. Without that tiny babe who made a way to the cross, we'd all be just miserable old fools. I don't want to in any way detract from what our Father did when He sent His only son to abolish our sin and open up the door to our heavenly home. Praise God for that!
But, Jesus also came to give us hope. Hope for our future. Hope that what breaks us will be healed. All this is a result of sin. God made a perfect world where sin, sorrow, and sickness had never entered in. When Adam and Even sinned, they opened the door for all of that to enter in. Very often, we choose the very thing that destroys us. Sometimes, others choose for us and their own sin and decisions are the source of our sorrow. Oh, my friend, know that I understand your tears, your longings, your hopes for what could  be and what we want to be. The best thing that I can tell you is our Jesus restores, and heals, and makes all things new. Isn't that the best news that you can think of?
Tonight at the Christmas Eve service, we sang "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear." Now I've sung that song a million times in my 34 years and it's never particularly been one of my favorite Christmas hymns. But, tonight I really listened to the words and the words to the third verse captured my soul for all those who are hurting, hoping for a different kind of Christmas, and yet will be disappointed by the reality of what is. Listen:
O ye, beneath life's crushing load
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
O rest beside the weary road
and hear the angels sing.

Sometimes life is crushing and we can't stand beneath the weight of it. Some days we barely have the strength to put one foot in front of the other, much less carry our burdensome loads one more step. But glad and golden hours are coming! It may take longer that we want, but they are coming.
You see that baby in the manger, was hope, and redemption, and grace, and peace. He was. But, on the night of his birth, he was just a baby, too. He was a scrawny little newborn who needed his mama to nurse him and swaddling clothes to keep him warm. In so many ways, he was just like hundreds of other Bethlehem babies born that night. It would be thirty years before he would heal anyone or teach the multitudes about how to live. It would be 33 years before His finished work on the cross would show make a way back to heaven.
Hope and healing had come that night, but that hope would not be realized in that moment. Sometimes hope has to wait. Sometimes healing takes time. But you can rest assured, o weary soul, that your answer comes "swiftly on the wing." 
Take a moment today and rest from your load. Better yet, give the load to Jesus. He said, "Take my yoke upon you, let me teach you, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:29-30)."
The baby came helpless and frail, born to the poorest, and without any applause. But, he's not a baby anymore. He's a loving, powerful, amazing God who has come to bring hope and healing to every part of your aching soul.
So, celebrate today. Make memories. Smile and laugh with the ones who are near. Your brokenness is whole and your heart is healed. Just you wait in joyful anticipation for that miracle baby to make all things new.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Ebola is not a Crisis

Well, not at American one, anyway.

I have been home a little over a week and I am so over the Ebola "issue" here in America that I am just about ready to hop the next plane to Africa. I'm so tired of seeing FB posts that say "shutdown" all flights or those that blame President Obama for the Ebola "crisis" in America. Without going into to many details (because my sister might kill me), Ebola hysteria has affected my sister's family in strange, ignorant, hurtful ways.
So, first, just because my practical nature demands it, I want to arm you with some pesky little facts. After that, I'd like to share with you on a more "spiritual" perspective.

1. Look at this map:

That's where Ebola is and where it is not.

2) And, it case you're still worried, this is how big the continent of Africa actually is:

Yep, it would take the United States, China, Japan, Mongolia, India, all of Eastern Europe, Great Britain, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy to equal the size of the African continent. 

3) While safely tucked in my corner of the world in Lichinga, I was further away from Ebola than anyone here in the states. If fact, the distance from Mozambique to Liberia is about the distance from you to Spain. Pretty far, eh?

4) I've heard people say that I may have sat with someone on the plane in South Africa who had Ebola. Well, actually, probably not. Anyone from west Africa who is going to the states is going to fly across the Atlantic to the states, not take an 8 hour plane ride south and east to get a connecting flight that will take them the same route they came to still have a 10 hour flight across the ocean. Furthermore, they took my (and everyone else's) temperature at passport control in SA, Germany, and D.C. People with fevers didn't get into the airport. Whats more, if someone on the flight did, by some chance, have Ebola, they weren't yet sick and therefore could contaminate no one.

5) Since the Ebola crisis began, Doctors without Borders has sent more than 700 medical personnel to work in Ebola "hot zones." Of those 700 volunteers, three people (only 1 being American) have contracted the disease. Of course other organizations have sent workers (Samaritan's Purse and SIM), but the percentage is still quite low.

6). The only Americans that have been treated for Ebola have been contaminated by working directly with Ebola patients. No one in the general population has gotten sick.  All of them have recovered. 

I have been surprised and saddened to hear all of these stories about people being forced to take 21 day leaves of absence after visiting non-affected parts of Africa. Instead of education, we have chosen ignorance and hysteria. 

Over 13,000 west Africans have been diagnosed with Ebola. Of those 13,000 almost 5,000 have died. I can't even wrap my head around those numbers and here we sit in our comfort freaking out because one guy, who wasn't showing any symptoms, rode the subway.

I'm do not want to make light of the fact that Americans have gotten sick from this disease, or that this disease is scary. I'm not in any way saying that there shouldn't be precautions in place. Mozambique is not letting anyone in with a fever.  So, I get precautions.

What has totally flabbergasted me is that this is not an American problem. Ebola is a west-African crisis. Because of lack of medical workers, facilities, and adequate care Ebola is spreading like wild-fire. I can't even imagine how awful it will be once the rainy season and the malaria that comes with it settles in. Malaria and Ebola present the same in the beginning. There is going to be so much confusion and fear and death. God help them all.

Look, I'm not saying take your little kids and go expose them to Ebola. I'm not. I am saying that for some of us, there are tangible things that we can do. For others, we can pray. For all of us, we can dig a little deeper and find the compassion and the love of Jesus. We can stop making this crisis about us. Would you just for a moment, imagine little children dying of this disease with no one to hold them? Can you imagine the moms and dads leaving behind little ones? Hospitals with no running water, spotty electricity, and a bring your own food and blankets policy? No bleach. No real way to effectively quarantine anyone. 

Please realize your chance of contracting Ebola (unless you go with Doc w/o Borders to Liberia) is zilch. ZILCH. Instead of seeing yourself, see the dying. Be moved by their suffering. Pray for them. Give to charities that are seeking to stop this outbreak. Jesus was always moved into action. He never once was motivated by his own needs.

 So, please, let His heart for their suffering beat inside of you. It might just change the world.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The God who Sees

As some of you know, the last few days have been a bit stressful for me. On a financial, emotional, spiritual realm I just felt exhausted. I felt exhausted by a certain situation I found myself it. I felt exhausted by the ministry of DTS. As wonderful as it is, DTS really is a 24hr/7 day a week/5 month kind of deal.
A lot has been going on in the last week and I was just teary, and tired, and ready to go find a corner and hide a bit. Those of you who know me well know that I love to be around people, but I also like my alone time. So, I was kind of having my own pity party, dreaming of coming home in a few months, and just allowing myself to be in a funk.
It's funny how when we let the enemy have a hey day in our lives, Jesus steps in and reminds us of what is real and true and important.
Just behind the YWAM center lives Tome & Isabel and their 7 children. This week Tome and Isabel are at the machamba (field) harvesting their corn and beans. Five of their children have stayed here in the city to go to school. The youngest two are with mom - and she has actually been gone for over a month working on the harvest.
Anyhow, on Saturday Arcancas came in and asked me if I had any caril. Caril is basically any sauce that is served with rice or xima (a corn flour based starch dish). I told him I didn't have anything. Since we are eating and cooking as a DTS these days, I don't have tomato (the caril base) or veggies of any kind. He looked sad, but just turned and walked away.
A few hours later, Arminda came and told me that Esperanca had taken food out of one of my dog's bowls to eat. When Arminda asked why, Esperanca said she was hungry.
That afternoon I went over to the house and spoke with Felizarda, the oldest daughter. She confirmed that they didn't have anything to eat. So, I talked with my friend Lori, we pulled our resources together and I went on a little shopping trip.
For about $45, I was able to buy beans, dry fish, potato leaves (a common dish), green beans tomatoes, onions, eggs, pumpkin, bananas, salt, sugar, tea, oil and a few other essentials for this family. This week they will eat well. One of my colleagues has tested the children for anemia, and all though they are now doing better, their levels definitely aren't where they should be. This time before the harvest comes in is known as "the time of hunger."
Hopefully, their crops will be in soon and it will be transported back to they city. Once that happens, they should have food to eat.
For as long as I live, I don't think I'll forget the light in their eyes, or their little arms that hugged me as the quietly said, "Thank you, Tia Jennifer."
I have never been so hungry that I ate out of a dog bowl. I have never had to go and ask a neighbor for money so that I could buy paper that I needed for school. I have never had to wear shoes to school that had holes in them with the soles tied together. I've never known that kind of poverty.
So when I think about that, I don't really want to complain too much about what was stressing me.
I'm so thankful for each of you who support me each month. You are a part of these precious little people having good food this week. Sometimes kingdom work looks a lot like a little person with new shoes and a full belly.  Many times His love is the most practical thing on earth. Thank you for loving the least of these. He sees your faithfulness.

 Mica (13) and Arcancas (16)

 Arminda (yes, Tome has an Arminda, too - 10)

 Felizarda (when she was baptized a few months ago, 17)

 Felipe (3)

 Esperanca (8)

I unfortunately don't have a picture of Dad & Mom or baby Peter. Please continue to pray for them as the harvest comes in. You are a blessing!

A few weeks ago, I was reading in Genesis about Hagar and Ishmael. Remember when she ran away from Sarai, and she thought that she and Ishmael were going to die. Not only did God provide the water that she needed, He told her He saw her struggle with Sarai. I have been reminded so much lately of the God who sees. I'm so thankful that He not only sees, but He provides. What a generous, gracious God that we serve!