Wednesday, August 12, 2009

more pictures

All of my pictures from the second half of the summer can be found here...

dimensions of darkness

I realized this week that I've seen, with prominence, a lot of the darkness that's in this world. Lots of emotional darkness, some physical darkness, and recently, spiritual darkness.

Emotional darkness...
The children that we come into contact here at the orphanages and in the village, have so obviously been victims of neglect and abuse. One of the kids that has completely broken my heart is new to the Catholic orphanage that we minister to. He looks like he is maybe 11 or 12, but it supposedly about 22. On the outside, he looks completely normal, but due to maybe some emotional impairments he is not able to speak and will rarely express any kind of emotion. I wave him over to play, he acknowledges me and then, very apathetically, will try to participate in whatever games I try to make work. I handed him a crayon to color with me last week and he had no idea what to do with it. We had a picture of Mickey Mouse to color. And all he would do was write the lowercase letter, "e" over and over. Maybe 40 times. So I grabbed a lined piece of paper and did the same as him, and started writing other letters on the paper. And him, just "e" again.
There's another little boy in the children's home that we've been ministering to more closely. I only know small chunks of his background, but those small chunks are unfathomable for a 9-year old boy to have been though. He has seen more hurt and felt more emotional and physical abuse than the majority of us will ever know in a lifetime. Although he has a small shell to break before he opens up, he is full of so much fun and joy. And it truly amazes me that we can still love and still be open to love after hurt like that. So when I think about the mute child at the Catholic orphanage who seems to have 10 foot thick and 100 foot high walls built up around his heart, I can't help but wonder what extent of abuse and neglect this kid must have been through. My heart breaks for him over and over. In Joel 1:4 there is an illustration of locusts representing all of the hurt and abuse and past scars that are in our lives, "What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust has left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten." These "locusts" in our lives are going to stack up, and feel like hopelessness and despair, but God has a plan to redeem these "locusts." In Joel 2:25 the Lord says, "I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter." We may or may not see that redemption during our life on earth, but God promises to restore and redeem, and that is a truth worth living for. For the child in the Catholic orphanage, we can know that the child will never again know the feeling of neglect when eternity comes if Jesus is his savior. I have to cling to the promise that the Lord will redeem all of his hurts. "I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me, should not abide in darkness." John 12:46

Physical darkness...
One of the other children in the Catholic orphanage, Claire, has been born blind, deaf, and with crippling multiple sclerosis. She is 7-years old but is no larger than a 4-year old. All of her days are spent laying down, and she is always with her own thoughts in complete physical darkness. We can hold her hands and rub her head to let her know that we are present. Sometimes, she starts crying for no apparent reason for just a few minutes before she calms herself again. I wonder what God's plan is for her and whether or not she will be able to choose or reject the Lord. I have so many questions with Claire. "For You will light my lamp; The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness." Psalm 18:28

Spiritual darkness...
On Monday we did an outreach to the Kisayhip A village. This was our second time visiting Kisayhip A, as we are usually in Kisayhip B. We were split into three groups and had beans, rice, and cooking oil for each family we visited. I got to learn and practice speaking Rukuba... it's actually not extensive at all. I can barely say "Good afternoon," "How are you?" "Come," and "Go." All of the children would accompany us to each hut and we would greet the family and tell them that we are with Back2Back Ministries and will soon be their neighbors as we are building the campus near them, and that we wanted to offer the food as a small gesture of Christ's love for them. And then we would ask if we could pray for them and for any specific prayer requests. Then we would pray with them, and move onto the next hut.
One of the men that helped to translate in my small group of four, was named Abraham, and he lived in the village. When we were finally approaching his home, we passed a shrine that sits just outside of his house. He told us that a man built the shrine to Satan and that he had come at night to use evil spirits and demons to ask for things and to curse people. The man died, but the shrine is still upkept by the man's grandchild--who is now in his 50s or so. The man that now upkeeps the shrine is Abraham's uncle. Abraham says that he has sleepless nights, every single night of his life because he is awoken by the demons in his head saying that they will kill him. Abraham is in the only Christian in the small area where he lives, which is inhabited by his uncle and other family members. Abraham said that one night he took his Bible to the shrine and started reading scripture as he picked up one of the clay pots in the shrine to destroy it when he heard a loud explosion. It frightened Abraham so he retreated into his room. (Abraham lives by himself as his Muslim wife left him years ago with his daughter.) That night, he heard more demons telling him that they will kill him. I stood with Abraham on his front porch when he retrieved his Bible. He said, "You know, this is what keeps me going. I have these promises. God is all that I need."
The other translator that was with us, Daniel, was outraged by the shrine and said that the shrine should be destroyed. A woman came by yelling and arguing with the translators. Daniel told me that the woman was filled with the devil. She kept telling Abraham that he had better not touch the shrine until his uncle returned. Daniel asked to speak to the uncle that upkeeps the shrine but the uncle wasn't around, so we continued handing out more food and prayers.
A few huts later, a man filled with fury and evil in his eyes stormed up to where we were. He was dressed in a grey, pin-striped suit and was honestly, the scariest thing I have ever seen. He was the uncle. He came at Abraham shaking his fist and yelling loudly that he was stupid for believing in Jesus and that the devil will kill Abraham and strike him down. Daniel held the uncle back. Abraham, lanky and weak, but filled with courage responded, "You cannot touch me because the Lord Jesus who died on Calvary has covered me with His blood." This only made the man angrier and he was lunging forward at Abraham; however, some village people were still holding him back. The whole time, all I could do was just pray "Lord, please keep us safe. Please take whatever evil is going on inside that man away." I looked at the group members that were with me and saw their lips form the words "Jesus, Lord Jesus" again and again with eyes wide. Abraham had a little bit of fear on his face, I thought he was very brave. The man did not touch him and eventually stormed off screaming and cursing Abraham. He kept telling him that "he will be taken care of like the others." Daniel said, "That man has many evil sprits overtaking him right now."
All I can do is pray for Abraham and pray that his light will change the heart of his family members. I am comforted though that if he is killed for his faith, he is with Jesus. Please keep him in your prayers and pray that he does not feel alone but rests in the truth that he has a Father that exists independent of our restrictions of time and science. And this Father has all of this figured out. "Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" John 8:12

Thursday, August 6, 2009

sai enjima... see you later

Today was our final goodbye to the CLAPAI kids as tomorrow they will be getting picked up by whatever family members they have left to go back to whatever home is available for the summer.

I didn't anticipate it to be this hard at all. I'm sure you all saw it coming, but I didn't. I'm pretty sure I never cried last year in Mexico. And I really, really did not want to tear up in front of the kids.

We spent all day with them today and yesterday. Today we played with them at their house for a bit, then ate lunch with them, and then got to take them to this awesome beadmaking class. All the kids were able to make necklaces and bracelets, and then we took them on a small vertical hike directly behind the place. Our drivers cranked up the music in our vans and we danced with the kids outside the beadmaking hut. All the kids were there, which was awesome as a few can be absent for one reason or another.

The little one that is living with AIDS was feeling energetic and full of life today, a huge improvement compared to his activity yesterday due to disease and retrovirals. Hugging him for the final time later in the night crushed me. The little 6-year old guy needs a miracle to fight longer... so prayers for him. I've never hugged a little child and have prayed so fervently for health with fear that his days to come are numbered and difficult to get through.

So after the beadmaking, the kids came over to our house and we had a fun little graduation party for them complete with grilled goat. Mmmm goat. While I was waiting for the guy to load my plate up, I asked, "What part is that, the ear? And is that the jaw?" Response: "No, that is the liver and that is the throat. Do you want?" (I passed on those specific parts.)

For our graduation party we handed out certificates congratulating them on another year of learning. As well as fun superlative certificates such as "Best Hugger" or "Kindest Heart" or "Best Red Rover Athlete" (that was a coveted one, seriously). It was a lot of fun clapping for the kids and seeing them take pride in themselves.

Saying goodbye was awful, terrible, and I hated it. I remembered right when the kids were heading out the door that Ryan had sent me a picture of Maryann and I to give to her on the last night. And I ran for my bag as they were saying goodbyes. I fumbled through about 20 dead pens (of course) to write a note on the back as the children were hugging my backside (as I was hunched over trying to write). So I was completely frazzled and freaked out that my hug goodbye to them would be them hugging my back. Anyway, I got the picture written on and stuffed it into my skirt.

I had tears welling up in my eyes just before when we prayed for the caregivers and I fought them back as best as I could. When I looked at little Cynthia once I got outside to give her a hug goodbye, I could see her eyes lined with tears and we held each other close for awhile. That broke me. So these factors... intense goodbyes (20 of them to be exact), the children all knowing they're returning to whatever broken home is available tomorrow, and us having our final goodbye after spending 2.5 mos with them. Just heartbreaking for me. The "tough" kids were the ones who had tears pouring down their faces the hardest, obviously having the most difficult time dealing with the sadness. For about 15 minutes it felt like complete chaos to me... 75% of the kids were already on the bus and I was trying to jump on to hug the few that slipped through amidst the tears and shuffling. The bus windows fogged up within a couple minutes and all of them were sobbing loudly and the bus driver telling them "it's okay, it's okay."

I'm sorry this isn't eloquent... just a blur of my thoughts and the events intertwining.

Just before Maryann hopped on the bus, I slipped the picture into her hands and she glanced at it quickly and slipped it into her inside jacket pocket. She knew what it was and had been expecting it and asking about it for the last couple of days. I told her that it was a secret because all the others wouldn't be getting one from me. I was happy to see that she understood based on her discreetness.

After they left and we cleaned, we had worship. The words about how vast and deep God's love is for us, I'm trying to reconcile with how much love and care for these kids I have. It's so sad to see them go and knowingly understand just a fraction of how bad their homelife is. It's sad that they have to return to that. But at the same time, I'm trying to deal with the fact that the love I have for them is a fraction of the love that the Father has for them. I'm trying to reconcile God's promise to shelter them in the same way He shelters me and trying to rid myself of leaning on my own understanding.