Month: June 2016

Big God

There is magic in long-distance friendships. They let you relate to other human beings in a way that goes beyond being physically together and is often more profound. ~Diana Cortes

Pulkeria is my friend. An uncommon name for an uncommon lady. Our friendship shrinks the geographical distance between us. It also manages to minimize the cultural and language differences too. I was reunited with my dear friend during my second trip to Tanzania. We both squealed with joy at our reunion, like two teenage girls at a One Direction concert.

A single rose can be my garden….a single friend, my world. ~Leo Buscaglia

Pulkeria traveled 12 hours, one way, on a body-jarring bus. She lives in a coastal city where the temperatures are high and hot. As friends do, I teased Pulkeria about her many layers of clothing since the temperature on this day was near 80 degrees. ¬†And as true friends do, she returned the teasing by asking me if I was cold throughout the day. ūüôā

Pulkeria and I had time to catch up as we traveled throughout Arusha National Park searching for animals that I only see in zoos.  She had seen some of the animals before but I took pleasure in seeing the incredible animals through her eyes. It was a precious experience. She was enjoying the beauty of her country; away from the hard realities of poverty for one lazy afternoon. Between the giraffe and zebra sightings, we shared, questioned, and challenged one another. It is an honoring opportunity to be stretched by a true friend.IMG_7843

We laughed a lot too. Our guide and driver, both male, ¬†would occasionally turn around when they heard giggling coming from the back of the safari jeep. We did what girlfriends do – we poured into each other’s life. It was a delightful day.

When I knew the day was coming to a close and the dreaded good-byes were on the horizon, I asked Pulkeria how I could pray for her. I will not forget her response. She said it with a sincere but heavy heart. She said she needed a BIG God. Her life was filled with so many challenges as a mother of 5 and as acting Director at a large Compassion Center that serves 300 impoverished children. Yes, she wanted and needed a BIG God. Big problems = Big God.

She shared how she struggles with trying to solve everyone’s problems and answering everyone’s questions. She doesn’t know how to balance her family, work, and life responsibilities. She realizes the only way to keep her family functioning, her marriage flourishing, and her Center running is to have a Big God in her corner 24/7.

Pulkeria needed a big God. A big God for when she looks into the hungry eyes of the many children that surround her. A big God when families at her Center come to her with marriage problems, when she faces her Center’s critical needs for more classrooms and modern toilets, and when a mother pleads for groceries to feed her family.

Pulkeria was stretching me again. ¬†I wondered how big is my God? How big does He need to be? Without the complicated challenges of living in a still-developing country, perhaps my God doesn’t need to be super-sized. Do I really need a big God in my suburban life full of excess? If I live small, think small, dream small, then my God will stay small. My faith will be small.

Shame on me. Shame on me for limiting God and missing out on everything Big that my God has to offer: a big life, big dreams, big love, and a big faith. Shame on me for keeping my Big God small. Shame on me for confining my Big God to my small life.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Isaiah 40:12 NIV

No, there is nothing small about our God. He is only limited by my foolish and fearful restraints. Shame on me.

Yes, Pulkeria is my friend. I am thankful for this magical and profound long-distance friendship. Pulkeria will always have my love, my respect, my admiration, and my prayers. I pray she senses His Presence and sees the Shadow cast by our Big God. Then she will know her Big God is very close.

Sweet is the memory of distant friends! Like the mellow rays of the departing sun, it falls tenderly, yet sadly, on the heart.  ~Washington Irving

Let’s Walk Worthy!

 

tug of war

Writer’s block: when the words won’t come. That’s not my problem. I can think of words, plenty of words. Lots and lots of bottled-up words. ¬†My struggle is how to convey the emotions behind the words. How do I connect the words with the myriad of feelings? There is a tug of war between my head and my heart. Facts vs. Feelings. To share, deeply share, will bring tears. A flood, perhaps. What will happen if I remove my finger from the dike? Will the tears ever stop?

My husband and the Compassion Team spent a week climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. My week was spent on the dusty back roads and in the modest homes of Tanzanian families. What I witnessed was too hard, too unfair, too sad, too lovely, too everything.  At times, it seemed more challenging than climbing to 19,500 feet. The Team had to struggle for each breath at the high altitude. On ground level, I was struggling to make sense of everything around me; leaving me breathless at times.

To remain silent serves no justice and ignores the significance of  my new friendships and my unique experiences. I want to tell their stories with dignity and love. Yet, I fear my one-dimensional words will sound empty, flat, vanilla, small, and lifeless. Have you ever experienced something so beautiful, so unique, so precious, so life-changing that mere words were totally inadequate? I hope you have or will someday. Maybe my responsibility is to humbly tell you whom I met and how they changed me. Perhaps it will cause you to pause and think.

On this Father’s Day, I will begin with Samuel. I met Samuel at a Compassion Center in Tanzania. A tall, lanky young man dressed in worn black pants, white shirt and black jacket. ¬†Samuel spent the afternoon demonstrating the welding, woodworking, and sewing skills he had perfected at the Center. Then I had the privilege to visit Samuel’s home.

Samuel is of the Maasai tribe and he is the man of the house. His parents died when he was young. He currently lives with his very ill grandmother in their mud-dung hut in a small Maasai village on the outskirts of town. Samuel would be considered a ‘modern’ Maasai because he lives near a town and is not nomadic.

To get to the small village, we drove part of the way and walked the rest. I was invited into the dark and smokey home. I humbly offered a prayer through translation for the grandmother’s broken leg and infected eyes. Outside, I found Samuel near his chicken coop. He is also an entrepreneur; raising a flock of chickens. I asked my guide if he would translate a message to Samuel. I sensed the heaviness on this young man’s shoulders. He has to be the man of the house and care for his sick grandmother. When she dies, then what? What does his future hold?IMG_9409

I put my hand on his shoulder and I offered encouragement as best I could; relying on God to put His words in my empty mouth. ¬†I spoke of God’s Promises, to never leave him nor forsake him. I praised him for his skills and his work ethic. I told him it was OK to be scared. ¬†I told him how proud I am of him and all that he is doing as the man of the house. I told him he is loved.

I gave Samuel a hug and then I left. This is where it doesn’t seem right. This is the part that really messes with my heart and my head. Tug of war. Is that it? Isn’t there more I can do or should do? How do I process this experience? ¬†How do I comprehend what I just witnessed in this village?

My heart takes a picture. I walk away but Samuel stays in my heart and my prayers. God understands my facts vs. feelings tug of war. He gets me and all my many struggles.

Samuel means “God has heard”. I must trust that Almighty God has heard. He has heard and He cares and He loves Samuel so very much.

Let’s Walk Worthy!

 

 

 

 

light wins

 Light finds its way in the darkness. Light wins over darkness. Always.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 (NIV)

Darkness will not prevail in this dark, 1-room home on a sunny afternoon in Arusha, Tanzania. Not this day. Today is a home visit. I am blessed to be welcomed into my sponsored child’s home.

I am invited in and we visit together as friends do. Chit chatting through translators. When you visit someone’s home in Tanzania, it is proper to bring a gift of food. I present the food box filled with flour, rice, oil and tea. (No sugar due to the shortage here.) I bring a doll, too because every little girl should have a doll.

I ask if they have any of my letters. Hoping they have kept some, of course. But unsure where they would find space to keep anything not truly essential. The young, unwed mother quickly retrieves a large envelope. Out spills a historical timeline of love and encouragement and hope. Very essential after all. My heart smiles.

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How will we see the love letters in the darkness? Light breaks through. A beam of light pierces the darkness. Light and love always find a way. I am thankful.

We review together. Her beside me. She is the reason for these letters. She is the reason I write.

When I put a letter in the mail or submit one online through Compassion International, I assume my communications will find their way safely to her. But to have this precious child sitting beside me in her humble home with the letters on my lap, it is a holy and happy moment indeed.

I say to my guides, “Translate please. Tell them what this means to me and how it makes my heart so full of joy.” My tears are drowning my words.

She points to a picture of me attached to a letter from last year. ‘Yes, that’s me. But I am here now. I am right here.’ Together we see the pictures of the wintertime snows and the summertime butterflies. ¬†Remember?

Then I unpack her letters that I have carried across many miles to show that I save hers.  Truly essential to me too. I savor every word, every simple picture drawn by her small hands.

Our love deepens. ¬†A beautiful connection is forged in that tiny spotlight, sitting side by side. In the darkness, the letters are illuminated. Love shines through; my love for her and her family and Christ’s unconditional love for all of us. In that small beam of light, I feel the warmth of God’s love shining on us as I take her hand in mine.

“For I was once in darkness, but now I am the light of the Lord. Help me live as a child of His Light.” paraphrase of Ephesians 5:8

Let’s Walk Worthy!