Saturday, February 25, 2012

Good Day

Today has been a good day so far!  The sun is shining and it's warm, but not in a way that makes your clothes wet with sweat. (I'm trying to savor that before the real heat comes!) I woke this morning to a text saying that the wife of a local co-worker in our office had safely given birth to a girl.  Then we went to the once a month Saturday morning service at a local fellowship that's specifically for the women that we work with.  The women aren't really comfortable coming on Sundays and since FS is open for only 1/2 day on Saturday this works well.  The leaders of this Body also come one morning a week and do a bit longer version of our usual morning meeting at our workplace.  This morning I totally enjoyed the ladies' singing, sharing of requests, and answering questions from things taught in the past---for prizes, of course!

As the speaker shared I watched faces in the crowd and loved seeing the joy there.  All of them have been through things that I can only imagine, whether they were in the trade themselves, grew up in a tiny room sleeping under a bed while their mother received customers, or were left to their own devices at night.  I particularly focused on one women who still sits outside a brothel just up the road a couple of nights a week.  She hasn't entirely left the trade yet but she's on a journey.  This Saturday morning gathering is optional, but she chose to be there and this morning she was full of smiles.

We had a lovely time at lunch with visitors from the part of the country where Steve's mum worked before he was born who came to see FS. Then one of the laborers who does building work for FS brought his sweet young family over for a visit.  His wife didn't speak any English or any of the language that we are learning, but I'm sure she was pleased how much we enjoyed her adorable children.

Tonight we have a couple of foreign co-workers coming to dinner, but until then I'm going to put my feet up and relax, something we haven't had much time for since we've been back.

Yup, it's a good day.  While there are lots of days here that are hard on the heart strings, there are many days that are really, really good just being part of the community that we serve.  And those days make me smile.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Staying Bothered

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
                                ~Phil 4:8

I want to think about what is good----however, it's not easy in a world where so much is the opposite. But I don't want daily cares, things that seem overwhelming at the moment, but trivial in the grander scheme of things, to bog me down and waste my time.  I don't want bitterness to creep in as I let hurt or angry thoughts replay in my head.  I like to keep the 'chatter' of my thoughts positive.

Someday in my Eternal Home I will be able to truly do what is above, but for now when I am faced with things that are negative I want the stuff that bothers me to be because it's something worth focusing on, not because it's good (it's not), but because it needs to change.  

There are lots of things worth focusing on and focus needs to be spread around so different issues are addressed, but obviously the one that is big in my world is trafficking and the sex trade.  But even though this happens just up the road from where I live it's easy to stop thinking about it.  That's just the way we are as humans.  Our natural response is to protect ourselves, to make sure that things don't affect us, to just choose not to think about them.

I don't think that's what the verse above is saying, however.  It's quite clear in other parts of The Book that we are to be lovingly concerned for others, that righteous anger is appropriate, and that it should motivate us to bring about change.  To love those around us we have been given the task to be aware, to care, and to respond.

So when I go to sleep I need something to wake me up.  Sometimes it's a book, a conversation, or even a YouTube video.  Sometimes it comes in a random way and sometimes it's a choice to be informed.  

I don't want to just be happy because I'm keeping my eyes shut.  When it comes to the needs and hurts of the helpless and hopeless I want to be motivated.  I want to stay bothered.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Early Marriage

The other day a lady we know married off her, we think, 12 year-old daughter to a man in his twenties.  Yes, we were in shock, but it's not all that uncommon here.  You cannot legally marry at that age, but if you go to a H1ndu priest and he does the religious part for you then all of your neighbors consider you married.

The family history is this: the mother was married at probably 14 and was in and out of the trade anyway in the following years. Her mother-in-law who they lived with (everyone does) was very abusive to her and her husband followed that attitude.  She became a widow in her early 20's and has been raising her daughter on her own since then.  People have been sponsoring her daughter to go to school and while she didn't like going to class she seemed to be doing well.

Our friends here who have been sponsoring her to school had hopes that this girl would break the cycle in her family.

This 'marriage' is very disappointing and even disturbing from a child abuse aspect but the girl and the man had probably been inappropriate with each other and the mother reacted because:

1. It would be difficult to marry off a daughter later that people knew had already been messing around.
2. As a poor, single mother with no hope of remarriage herself in the culture she would have difficulty raising a dowry.
3. If her daughter was already being willingly promiscuous then that would leave her even that much more at risk to end up in the trade.
4. Maybe a 'better' offer wouldn't come along later.

What can we do?  Nothing but offer love even though we don't approve of their choices.  This girl won't break the cycle, but there are others who will........

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Greatest of These

"I ask that we love one another.   And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.  As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love."
                                                                              -2 John 5b-6

This caught my eye as I read this week because of my recent pondering on obedience.  Obedience to Him is love and if we follow His commands it creates the environment of love to those around us. And one of His commands is to love.

I've often stopped and made sure that my attitude was one of love especially before getting up in front of a group of kids.  I have no idea how, but they have KNOWN if I'm being a phony that day!  If deep down I was only teaching them out of some sort of duty, they knew.  Same kids, same me, saying the same things with the same smile on my face, but if my attitude was off, they didn't respond.  

Adults know, too.  One thing that this culture has taught me is to take the time to be genuine.  The Metro is an interesting place because for semi extended periods you are in very close quarters with strangers.  To me it's just too long to not make some kind of effort to be personable to the other women in the women's section of the train.  But women here don't respond at all to the West's version of, "meet someone's eye for a second and briefly smile."  All you get is a blank, embarrassing stare in return.  

To provoke a smile you have to have the courage and take the time to meet someone's eye for a few seconds.  Then as you maintain eye contact you can begin to smile.  And if you hold that look you usually get a smile in return.  Sometimes it takes 15, 20, or even 30 seconds of baring the 'window of your soul,' but I've seen many weary faces transformed when the smile comes.  People want to be noticed and they want to be loved. 

Mother Teresa said, "The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread." I can't feed, clothe, or take away the pain of the masses in this city but I can show them love, especially the ladies at FS. 

"We can do no great things--only small things with great love."  
                           -Mother Teresa

"The small things add up.  They matter to the people who receive them. When you pour out love, you find J-sus, and others find Him, too."
                -from the book Take My Heart Oh G0d

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I've been learning a lot about obedience lately--and I can't say that I've really enjoyed the experience! But a huge part of obedience is learning to trust and like Amy Carmichael said, "So he never sends us pleasure when the soul's deep need is pain." Obedience, even when painful, grows us and draws us closer to Him.

It was really hard to let Aaron go to boarding school. I knew, however, that he would still be in and out of our lives and our responsibility for some time to come.  It was way harder than I expected to leave Hannah in New Zealand knowing that there's a huge chance that she may never live with us again.  That our family dynamic will never be exactly the same with all of our chicks together under the same roof.  Good things are ahead, I know that(!), but it's the end of an era.  One that I have absolutely treasured.

I read the book of John recently and noticed that as J3sus was nearing the cross he kept talking about how the way to be part of Him was through obedience.   He kept repeating it so his disciples (and us) would understand.

Then in ch. 15:10-14 He brings it home beautifully:

"If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands (and He knew He was headed to the cross!) and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  

I appreciate the promise in this verse, that if we 'obey' 'my (His) joy' will be in us and then 'your (our) joy' will be complete. Obedience may be painful but through it we are promised His joy that brings us joy!

This was the promise that I clung to as I hugged my girl 'bye' for now.  This is what I reminded myself of on the trip back when I felt no joy and when I knew all the 'answers' in my head but my heart was torn.  As the plane wheels touched down in our city I kept telling myself, "I will obey."  I've been reminding myself this since we put Aaron back on the train to school last week and my sore heart went numb.

It's been a long first week back.  One that I've muddled through on a promise, but as my emotions have had a chance to rest, His joy is now stirring in my heart.  And I know my joy will be back soon!  I just need to wait and trust.

"This is love for G0d: to obey his commands.  And his commands are not burdensome." 1 John 5:3

P.S. We know two people who don't have long left to live with cancer, one a child and one a much beloved wife and mother of many years.  While there are emotions to deal with from my children leaving the nest, my situation seems small next to what their families face..........