Monday, July 29, 2013

Let me tell you a story.

This is not a happy story. Many stories I came to hear were not happy stories. But it is a true story. A real story. It is the story of a woman named Maya.

Maya was orphaned from a young age. Her father died when she was 7, and her mother when she was 9. Alone in this world at the age of 12 she knew something was not right with her. Her toes were swelling and she had blisters.  Never having left her village and having no one to care for her needs, Maya did not know what to call the ailments she was experiencing. She began losing sensation in her hands and feet. None of her relatives (She has 3 married brothers.) or village people cared enough to bring her anywhere for help, much less even tell her help existed in the world. But even still she was in a "good" set-up. Most people would recognize her ailments as leprosy and shun her, or alienate her from the community. But her "good" neighbors recognized that she could be useful, she could watch their children and keep their livestock while they were working or planting. So they took the necessary precautions to keep her alive, they would occasionally give her food or old rags for clothing. In tears she shared this with me. She shared the deep, abiding pain of knowing that she was only alive because she could be used. Hot tears began falling from my own eyes as she continued. 

Forty-seven years she lived like this. Never knowing she had leprosy, only that over time she could no longer straighten her fingers, or lift her foot to take a proper step. Finally the leprosy had so deteriorated her feet and bones that she could no longer walk. For nearly seven years she remained in her village crawling on her hands, ulcers forming on her knees and the tops of her feet. 

Marriage was never an option. Children were never an option. Love was never an option. Life consisted only of staying alive. But about 2 months ago a government campaign group came to her village. They like to visit the villages during election years to "gain new constituents" if you would. It's simple really, they give you citizenship, then you vote for them. Amazing how that works. Anyway, at this point they found Maya and worked for 3 weeks getting her citizenship. They told her about Anandaban Hospital, about hospitals in general. Until now she did not know that hospitals even existed. 

Two weeks after gaining citizenship Maya made her way to Anandaban Hospital. 4 hours walking and then an 8 hour bus ride. "Not very far, there are just no roads," she said. So close for all these years. Blind in her left eye, no hands, no feet, and crawling on weak calloused, ulcer infected knees, she came. Fifty-eight years old, she came. 
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Hearing Maya's story was very hard for me. It doesn't have a "happy" ending. She made it to the hospital, this alone makes her one of the "lucky" ones. She is having shoes made, and may be able to walk. She now has knee pads*. She began treatment so the leprosy will  no longer be growing. Knowing this didn't make me feel any better. It didn't make the tears any less bitter.

 Leprosy doesn't have a "pretty" face. There isn't poster child for leprosy that you can broadcast to gain tons of support and start a social justice movement. Helping a "leper" may not seem quite as glamorous as rescuing a young teenage girl from the sex trade, or wearing "RED" to help with the fight against AIDS. There isn't a simple quick fix. It takes months of treatment, often times surgery, and training for a lifetime of self-care to even touch the surface of what these people need. Not many people want to sign-up for that. Not many people want to address the shame, fear, and humiliation these people have dealt with for a lifetime. Not many want to invest into someone who is often past their "prime" in life. It's not easy.

Guni Maya
Even just hearing Maya's story left me very heavy. I had to take this to Christ. He had to show me that yes, her life, her story is a weighty one. But it is that very fact that I needed to see. She is valuable to Him. She carries weight , she means something. And not just something, but everything to Him. He loves her. He longs for her to come to Him, to find rest in Him.

After sharing her story with me the only words I could find were, "Tell her she is beautiful. She is so beautiful to me." With tears in my eyes and the biggest smile I could offer I watched as these simple words were translated to her. Smiling she returned my gaze and shrank back in shyness. In earnest to make her know the truth of these words, I placed my hand on her knee and affirmed in my juvenile Nepali, "Deri ramro, deri ramro." ("Very beautiful, very beautiful.") She looked up and smiled.

 My prayer for Maya is this, that as she came to Anandaban, she also would come to Christ. That the refuge she found in the hospital would be just a glimpse of the refuge she may find in Christ. That she would find rest not just for her body but for her soul. That she would know the deep, abiding love of our Father.

*Imagine just for a moment what it takes to put on knee pads with no hands. There is no thumb to pinch the elastic to stretch it for a snug fit. It takes both "hands" to even get the elastic around her leg much less awkwardly "pull" it tight enough for it to even stay for 5 minutes. Imagine the effort to brush your hair. (Putting it in a ponytail by yourself is not even an option.) It's just easier not to get undressed than to dress every morning. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Go Tell It On The Mountain

Go tell it on the mountain.  This phrase has taken on a whole new meaning for me this week. Previously I didn’t think this was any great task, it would take about as much effort as shouting from a rooftop. But no, sometimes it is not so simple as that.

Monday and Tuesday of this week Lauren and I were able to join two of the TLM staff working in with SER (read more about what they do on her blog here). We were taken into the mountains to visit some of the community groups supported by TLM. It seems like that shouldn’t be any big deal, you just take a drive over, maybe do a little hiking, have your meeting and batta-bing-botta-boom, hop back on the jeep and make your way back to Anandaban. If the road were too bad to drive on you’d just come back another day or have them meet you in town later—at least that’s what we’d do in America.

If it were just about a meeting maybe that would be the case. If it were just about supporting a community group, bringing the check for a micro-loan, taking the minutes of the meeting, and getting back to your life, to your family then maybe you could just leave it at that, but that is not the heart of TLM, that is not the heart of these people, that is not the heart of Christ.

Waiting for the city bus in the rain
Today I found the heart of Christ in what was to be a simple trip to visit a community group in Thansing, Nepal.  The day started at 8am when Lauren and I woke to get ready for the day. We were supposed to meet the TLM staff vehicle at 8:30am about a half mile down the road. We’d just locked the gate behind us and realized neither of us had our umbrellas…you just don’t do that during monsoon.  So at 8:31am we locked the gate behind us for the second time and somehow managed to make it to the pick-up spot for 8:34am. No vehicle. 10 minutes later…no vehicle. 20 minutes…30 minutes…finally a phone call. It’s running late. 45 minutes later they finally picked us up and we were on our way. Not even 5 minutes in motion sickness got the better of me. But “K garne” as the Nepali would say, “What to do?”
Foggy Mountain Road
After about 2 and a half hours and a good bit up the mountain we stop. The driver and Kashi disappeared into the fog walking down the road to see if it was safe enough to drive on. They came back shaking their heads, a mudslide made the road impassable for our two-wheel drive vehicle to pass. I asked “So do we hike from here?” and laughter was the first response intermingled with something about 6 hours. They told us that we were just going to wait for the city bus and we would take that the rest of the way. And after about 2 minutes of waiting…it starts to rain. So we piled back in the vehicle and decided to “find the bus.” And find it we did, full of people and sacks of grain. 

My not so short legs
The aisle was stacked about 2 feet up with sacks of food for a remote grocery that we crawled over to get to the 3 seats at the very back of the bus. After managing to wedge my not so short legs into the 10 inches (literally) between my seat and the seat in front of me.  We figured out after about 30 seconds why the seats were empty once the gallon of water that had previously filled the seat was then absorbed into our clothes. Then a stream of brown water started dripping onto Lauren who was sitting about 3 rows up from me.

We continued in this way for about 15 minutes before the bus stopped for lunch. This was a nice opportunity to stretch our legs and further master our squatty potty skills. After about 20 minutes we were back on the bus, in the rain, headed up the mountain. 30 minutes later the bus stops. All of the men pile out to see what is the matter. Another bus headed down the mountain was having engine problems and broke down in the middle of a curve preventing any other vehicles to pass by. At this point it is far past the meeting time, so Sulachona called the chairwoman and told her she could dismiss the people to go home because they all desperately needed to get back to rice planting. Following another 30 minute delay the bus was fixed and we were back on our way again.

Driving over a mudslide
Waiting for the bus to be fixed

The bus then stops yet again 30 minutes later for 20 minutes to unload all of the burlap sacks of groceries lining the aisles.

A waterfall on the side of the road
I learned that in Nepal, there doesn’t seem to be a road obstacle too great to prevent you from pressing onward. We drove over so many dangerous seemingly impassible roads and had so many unforeseen delays on that 3 hour bus ride. Caved in roads. At least 5 waterfalls (which literally just flow right over the road and you drive right over). Car problems. Cargo. Motion sickness. Rain. And too many mudslides to count. But in those 3 hours I learned so very much.

Sometimes, the road to the top of the mountain is not an easy one. The reason you travel that road cannot be just to shout out that Jesus Christ  has been born, but that the birth of Jesus Christ in your own life motivates you to act in obedience to all that He has called you to do. Even if that calling takes you up the side of a mountain. Even if that calling means you have to cross over a seemingly impassible mudslide. Even if you are delayed and cannot from your own understanding and perspective move past certain obstacles.

We must trust that if God has called us, then surely He is able. We must be willing to rely on those around us who have been through these places, who speak the language, who have an understanding and perspective of these obstacles that we may not be able to grasp. We must be willing to both push on and just go along for the ride wherever it may lead. We need to know and trust that we are not climbing the mountains of our life just to exercise our vocal chords, but that the journey to the top speaks loud and clear to those around us that Jesus Christ has been born into our life. That He is the reason we push on through so many trials and He is the one supplying us with the ability to push on.

While this day was seemingly a complete mess God showed Himself faithful by simply showing Himself. Today I pray that you are encouraged to press on to the upward call of Christ. I pray that as a body we would learn to walk with one another and learn from the experience and love of those around us. I pray that we would choose to see our circumstances from the eyes of Him who has walked before us and also walks with us. I pray that the good news of the Gospel would fill us with the desire to proclaim the name of Jesus. I pray that His heart would burn within us! Blessings to you my family in Christ~

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Joy of Being a Nobody

"For if any person thinks himself to be somebody [too important to condescend to shoulder another’s load] when he is nobody [of superiority except in his own estimation], he deceives and deludes and cheats himself. But let every person carefully scrutinize and examine and test his own conduct and his own work. He can then have the personal satisfaction and joy of doing something commendable [in itself alone] without [resorting to] boastful comparison with his neighbor." Gal. 6:3-4 {AMP}
I didn't have any great plan set out before me of the things I would accomplish while being in Nepal. I didn't have a grandiose idea of the change I would be able to affect. I prayed. I knocked. And the door was opened.

I got here and was actually somewhat skeptical as to whether there would be anything for me to do in these 6 weeks here. The first few days were spent at Anandaban Hospital. I went along on ward rounds, saw a bit of surgery, and got an idea of the work they do there. And I started to scrutinize and examine  my own conduct and work in comparison with my neighbor. And what I found was not that I had anything to boast in, but rather that I felt quite inferior. I enjoyed what I saw and the people that I met, but felt as though what I had to give did not fit their need. I was admittedly discouraged every time the question "Are you in nursing or medicine?" came about and I would respond with, "No...I work at a quilt shop." then have to watch as their face formed a puzzled look of "what in the heck are you doing here then?" In this I deluded and cheated myself. In comparing myself with my neighbor I found no value in the work before me. These days, however interesting and enjoyable, left me questioning in myself, "Why am I here?"

I may not have said as much, but I wanted to be able to "boastfully compare myself with my neighbor." I wanted to find value in what I was doing. But see, that is the very thing God wanted to work out of me. He needed to show me that Value is not in what a person does, how they are able to serve, or what needs they can fulfill but rather Whom they serve. So God allowed me those days of feeling "useless" to remind me that all I have comes from Him. The talents He has given me may not look the same as my neighbors, but they are no less of a talent and they are not "useless" in His eyes.

The thing is, there are SO MANY amazing people here. Everyone has a story, a testimony of how God brought them here, how He has worked in and through their lives. It can be so easy to look at someone who has been a missionary for the past 45 years and wonder "How could I ever compare to them, to how they got here, to what they do?" I had to realize that God didn't bring me here to compare myself to these people. And He didn't breathe life into me so that I could stay home and compare myself to the work and life of my friends there either. My life is both from Him and for Him. My talents are both from Him and for Him. Joy isn't in the testimony; joy is in Whom the testimony testifies of. 

Though it took a few days, I have found such great joy in being a nobody and letting Christ be my Everything. In choosing not to think more highly of myself than I ought, I am able to be encouraged by the great cloud of witnesses surrounding me. I am able to find joy in serving along side them in whatever capacity that may be.

"For he who sows to his own flesh (lower nature, sensuality) will from the flesh reap decay and ruin and destruction, but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers]." Gal. 6:8-10
By seeking to compare my acts of service to my neighbor I was "sewing into my own flesh", and found  very much the decay, ruin and destruction that had on my Spirit. But in seeking to serve Christ in whatever form that may take and sowing to the Spirit, my Spirit has been made so much more alive by the Life of Christ inside me than I could have hoped for.

It didn't take long after coming to this realization for God to start fulfilling His purpose in my being here. Every day has opened up new or different opportunities for me to do good, to be useful or profitable in various ways. I have been able to join in visiting those in prison and in crafting new ideas for hand bags or cards made by women with HIV or coming out of sex trafficking as a way of earning income. I have both been blessed and am able to be a blessing through prayer with some of the missionaries here and being able to teach them how to make bread. I will get to visit an orphanage and recovery center for women and children rescued from human trafficking. I get to record the stories of the leprosy patients as I shadow the hospital counselor. I got to organize the pharmacy. These things, though valuable, do not define my value system any longer. The point I have come to realize is that my joy, my worth, my life has meaning only through abiding in Jesus Christ. My being here today in Nepal is of no more or no less value to Him than my being in a quilt shop in Central, Louisiana. I would be of no more value to Him if I were a nurse, doctor, teacher, researcher, or linguist. My being in Him wherever I am and whatever I am doing is ALL that matters. 

I pray that wherever you are and whatever you are doing, today you would find joy through abiding in our Savior. Peace be to you as you walk in His grace today!

Monday, April 8, 2013

New Orleans Saints Quilt Drawing

Congratulations to Shantel R. winner of the quilt! Thank you every one for your donations! 

I made this lap quilt (with a little help from my mom) to raise money for missions in Kathmandu, Nepal. The fabric and labor bring its value to around $450.00. But you can enter a drawing to win this quilt for only $5.50* per ticket ($5.00 cash). The drawing will be held next month - well before the Saints football season begins!

You may enter the drawing by purchasing tickets online for $5.50* each or by making a donation of any amount using the button below.

Tickets can be purchased with cash for $5.00 each at events and locations to be announced.

Thank you for considering this and please pray for me as I endeavor to raise funds to visit The Leprosy Mission.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Deny yourself, take up your cross, and come follow me.

" If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16, Mark 8, Luke 9)
I have been thinking about this verse the past few days and found 3 distinct aspects of this, all of which must be considered. First there is the denial of self. Aparneomai: a) to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone; b) to forget one's self, lose sight of one's self and one's own interests. However God, knowing me, did not stop there because it is far to easy for me to throw myself a pity party when I am denying myself, complaining and whining every time I do not get my desires. Or if I am not throwing myself a pity party, then I am boasting in my good works of sacrifice. Self denial does not make me a disciple of Christ. Do you see how easy it is to nullify the work of denying self by making it all about "me".

God knows me, and knows that if He is to get glory out of my following Him, I must go beyond denying myself. I must take up my cross. A cross is not just a fashion statement that I am to carry around as a proclamation to all that I am following Christ. The cross is a tool used to put a man to death. Sounds like fun right? A.W. Tozer said, "you knew one thing about a man that was carrying a cross out of the city, you knew he wasn't coming back." The cross is where, through repentance, I am able to overcome this flesh. At the cross denial of self becomes Christ being glorified. It is through the work of the cross that my very thought process is changed, and it is no longer me pitying myself for having to put to death the deeds of the flesh, or my boasting, but me choosing to be spiritually minded. Because to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.(Romans 8:6 )That is why Paul said in Galatians 6, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." "Why should a person come to the cross? Why should a person embrace death with Christ? Why should a person be willing to go in identification down to the cross and into the tomb and up again? I'll tell you why! Because it's the only way that God can get Glory out of a human being!" (P. Reidhead)

Now, after having taken up my cross, I am to follow Him. This implies that I do not just stay on the cross, but I am to let the work of the cross have it's full effect. It isn't until we reach this place that we see the denying of self transform into love for Christ producing change in the way we think and act. And action must take place, from here we must follow. I cannot just stand there with the cross in my hands for the rest of my life. Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand! Repent, climb on the cross, put to death this flesh, and move on from faith to faith. Taking up your cross is imperative! "He who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me." (Matt 10:38) And what is it to "follow" Christ? To be joined to, union, to be connected to. Knowing Him, and Him knowing me. Not just me abiding in Him, but Him abiding in me. The self denial becomes an act of love. It is because I love Him, that I will walk in self-discipline, that I will obey His commands.

The simplicity of it all, the simplicity of abiding in Christ and not fulfilling the desires of the flesh, is finding its way into every area of my heart. God has been showing me and giving me opportunities to deny myself and choose Him. And I am seeing the fruit of it in my life, in my thought process, and even in my prayers. My selfishness, and selfish desires are being replaced with His mercy, grace, and compassion. He is moving, and I am grateful.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The soul balm of Sara Groves

Remember surrender • Remember the rest • Remember that weight lifting off of your chest • And realizing that it's not up to you and it never was • • Remember surrender • Remember relief • Remember how tears rolled down both of your cheeks • As the warmth of a heavenly father came closing in • • I want to do that again • Why can't I live there • And make my home • In sweet surrender • I want to do so much more than remember • • Remember surrender • Remember peace • Remember how soundly you fell fast asleep • In the face of your troubles your future still shone like the morning sun • • Remember surrender • Remember that sound • Of all of those voices dying down • But one who speaks clearly of helping and healing you deep within • • I want to do that again • Why can't I live there • And make my home • In sweet surrender • I want to do so much more than remember • • Remember • Oh surrender • • I want to do that again • Oh why can't I live there and make my home • In sweet surrender • I want to do so much more than remember • • Remember • • Remember surrender • Remember the rest • Remember that weight lifting off of your chest • And realizing that it's not up to you and it never was • •

The conditions of "unconditional" love

I have recently come to understanding that I do not know the love of God as much as I thought I did. Christ died so that I might know the love of God, yes. But even more so Christ died so that God might receive Glory from my life!! In order for Christ to receive glory from my life He must first receive glory from my death. Meaning, if I am not able to experience His Life until I put to death the carnal deeds of this flesh, then I cannot experience His Love until I have put to death my flesh. My knowing the love of God is contingent upon my being baptized into His death. The more I am baptized into His death, sharing in His suffering, the more I know His love.

We must choose between our love for this earthly life( the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life) OR loving not our lives even unto death. You cannot serve to masters. And that which you serve is your master. We must choose this day whom we are going to serve.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the things of the world the love of the Father is not in Him. All that is in the world is not of God, but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. And this is how we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us His Spirit. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God. "If you love Me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you an other Helper, that He may abide with you forever--the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him, nor knows Him; but you know Him, because He dwells with you and will be in you. Then, upon receiving the Helper will we be able to overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. For when we were slaves of sin, we were free in regard to righteousness, but now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, we have fruit unto holiness.

(Rev. 12:11, 1 John 2, 1 John 4, Romans 6)