Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More than Fine

The room was complete with balloons and streamers. The popcorn had been popped. And the cake was ready. It was a big day for the kids at the orphanage.

Not only were they launching their very own Good News Family Club (similar to a VBS) for the kids in their neighborhood, it was also the day to celebrate the kids who have July birthdays.

The latter was an even bigger deal because it was the first time the three birthday boys had ever had a birthday celebration.

The boys took turns getting to share their testimonies in front of all of their neighborhood friends during the Good News Family Club. The youngest, who was turning 9, went first. His story about living on the streets after his parents died sounded much like the 12 and 15 year old’s stories.

The oldest was the last one to share. He began crying as he told his audience about how his “daddy,” the Director of the orphanage, came and found him on the streets, and took him into the orphanage home. In shame, he hid his face from the many who were telling him not to cry. The leaders did their best to make a smooth transition, and the boys went to sit down.

That’s when the 12 year old lost it. He walked to the back of the room in tears. Going against the flow of those telling him to stop crying, I sat on the ground with my arm around him, and let him cry.

These kids have lived on the streets of the 4th poorest country in the world, and their culture is telling them to be ashamed of their tears. Many people here, in fact, have ignored their tears in hopes that their pain will somehow disappear.

As a result, it feels like there are a bunch of robots walking around Sierra Leone telling everyone how “fine” they are. Even as I sat and listened to several of the kids tell me their heart-wrenching stories, they would look at me with a straight face after I asked them how it made them feel, and simply say, “fine.”

I want them to know that there’s so much more than fine.

As I prayed and prophesied over them individually, something in them shifted from being fine to being something of worth. God sees them. He knows their names and their destinies. He celebrates them with more than just balloons and cake.

A few months ago, I remember being completely undone during worship, weeping over all of the world’s orphans who have no idea how good their Father is. While singing about the Lord’s faithfulness in never once leaving us on our own, I cried out for them to experience the faithfulness of their Father.

These children, little by little, are tasting and seeing that the Lord truly is good. They are pushing past fine and into the realms of God’s faithfulness.

“I AM … filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” – Exodus 34:6

The orphanage's cook, caregiver, and two of its teens prepared the popcorn  over the coal pot.
This is what happened after I said, "Who's excited about the Good News Family Club??"                  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Beautiful Things

She was just a little girl when it happened. It was a day like any other when her uncle came to her family’s home in Freetown, and gave his heart-wrenching report.

The rebels had come.

From his hiding place in his home, he watched them brutally murder his entire family. He somehow escaped his village, and found refuge in the home of his extended family.

The war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002) birthed pain, destruction, and poverty in the lives of each of the country’s citizens.

Her family was no different than any other. Her father was forced to leave them in search for work, but found little to provide for his family throughout the years of the war. The joy and unity they once shared as a family somehow disappeared as they struggled to survive.

And no one dared to mention the pain that was bottled up somewhere deep inside their hearts.

Two weeks ago, she let it out. With a straight face, and eyes focused away from my own, this woman I’ve come to love shared with me about “that day.”

My response to her was simply, “Let’s ask Jesus what He has to say to you about this memory.”

After praying, she replied with a straight face, “He said He was with me.”

"Ok, let’s ask Him to reveal to you where He was exactly.”

She closed her eyes as she mentally went back in time, and placed herself in the room where her uncle walked in with the bad news. And with all the boldness in her heart, she asked Jesus to reveal Himself.

A smile formed on her face as she said, “He was praying for me.”

Oh, how sweet our Jesus is. He was praying for her!

It didn’t change what happened. However, the presence of Jesus created beauty even in the most painful places of her heart.

For too long, she (like many other Sierra Leoneans) has lived with the belief that the war was God’s will. Believing this made it seem holier – or humble, even – to accept and live with all the pain the war created in her heart.

Why do believers believe that God steals, kills and destroys? Isn’t that what Jesus said about our enemy?

Death was never God’s intention. From the beginning, life has always been His plan. The enemy is the one who came into the beauty of the Garden, and whispered the lies that led to death. But the story doesn’t stop there. Jesus beat death, remember? It is finished.

Life wins.

It wasn’t long before she was forgiving the rebels, and repenting of believing that God was the culprit of all her pain. Now she is walking in the belief that every good and perfect gift comes from God.

She then started noticing all the life around her. Corn. Greens. Potatoes. Mango trees. All around her, life was coming up from the same ground where innocent blood was shed ten years prior. God has turned the very things meant for evil into good. 

One of the songs that I’ve played and re-played since being here is called, “Beautiful Things,” by Gungor. I've declared its words over this nation, and I will continue to fight to see them come true.

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all

All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos, life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new
You are making me new