Archive for January, 2012

Compassion

Let me tell you about Daniel.  Daniel is a four and a half-year old child who lives in the hillside community of Siabona in Uganda with his mother, father and nine other siblings.  Both his mother and father are day laborers, meaning that they work when work is available, and many times that means coming home at the end of the day after waiting for someone to offer a job, nothing in hand.  For the longest time, he spent his days carrying water for his family, gardening and caring for the other children in his household.  He enjoys playing with cars, telling stories and walking. 

His life used to be filled with wondering if his parents were going to make enough money that day to bring home enough food for the family.  I don’t know if his siblings helped in brining in some of the money by venturing out into the markets, onto the streets of the cities.  I don’t know where he got his water or even if it was clean.  His house is most likely adobe walls with a thatch roof and a dirt floor, like most homes in his area of the world. 

His life changed just over a year ago when Compassion International stepped in.  My parents sponsored Daniel in my name for Christmas a year ago and he has been a blessing in my life ever since.  It isn’t about the fact that each month, there is a donation that provides Daniel and his family food, medical and spiritual support.  It isn’t about the good feeling you get when you know that this child is now cared for. 

It’s about the opportunity to know that you changed the life of a child, possibly taking him or her off the streets.  It’s about knowing that this child is loved and cared for.  It’s about the personal relationship that develops through the exchange of letters, pictures and prayers. 

There are thousands of kids that have been sponsored by normal, every day people like you and me.  God calls us to take care of His children, both here in our own back yard and throughout the world.  There are thousands more waiting to be sponsored, to have their lives changed as someone steps in and cares for them. 

Last week, the local Christian Radio Station, WayFM, shared the stories of their trip over to Asia.  There they witnessed the hardships that these children face.  Poverty that leads to child labor, abductions, prostitution and a life out on the streets because there is not enough money to provide food.  Along with Compassion, they spent the week trying to get 2,000 children sponsored off of the At-Risk Children List

Hundreds were sponsored, but there are still thousands of children waiting to be sponsored, many of these children have been waiting months for someone to step in and change their lives. 

Daniel has brought me joy through some of the darkest times.  I carry the letters he has sent with me everywhere I go.  I read them often and pray for him each day.  I pray for those children who have yet to be sponsored. 

God Bless and PEACE

A Vision of Courage

Several months ago, a movie entered into the Christian society and leaked into the mainstream that challenges men, fathers to stand tall for their families.  It shows us what it means to live for Christ by putting family first.  It shows us what it means to be Courageous. 

NOTE:  I have not actually been able to see this film, but I’ve only heard good things about it.  As one friend said, it changed how he loves and it strengthened his faith in Christians. 

Throughout this past year, we have seen courage in many forms.  We saw it in Joplin, in St. Louis and throughout the Southern States when the communities ventured out into the wreckage left by tornadoes.  We saw it in the faces of our families, friends, and loved ones who entered into war zones to fight for freedom.  I saw it in the faces of hundreds of AmeriCorps members as they went out to serve. 

We have examples all throughout our lives.  Children want to be Firefighters and Police.  We want to be warriors, knights, cowboys and indians.  We dream of finding new worlds, exploring the unknown and fighting the good fight. 

Courage is more than facing down death through our job and occupation.  It is more than finding something to die for.  It is more than standing up, than leading, than learning how to love to the fullest. 

Just over a year ago, a man wielding a gun killed six people, injuring another thirteen.  Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, suffering devastating injuries that threatened her life.  Months of healing and recovery has brought her back to her feet and she continues to be an inspiration to this nation. 

Courage is more than something we can see, but it comes as a change in how we live.  In the past couple days, Giffords announced that she would be stepping down from her seat in Congress to focus on healing and her recovery. 

As she steps out of the spotlight, I am reminded again of the movie mentioned earlier.  It takes a lot of courage to focus on what is important.  Her family has come around her, Congress has united around this symbol of hope and our nation has united in hope.  This is just another example of courage that we see every day. 

I can go on and on about all the different people, the individuals who have shown me what it means to have courage.  From teammates who broke down in front of me to family who have served in the armed forces, missionaries in the dark continent to firefighters who enter into the flames, visions of courage are all around us. 

As Christians, we have even more examples of courage.  When we follow Christ, we must have the courage to go against the norms of society.  So we look to church leaders and to fellow believers for their courage, so that we may be encouraged by their strength. 

God Bless and PEACE

What Is Seen When We Close Our Eyes

Recently I’ve found myself thinking a lot about what if I had done somethings differently.  Would it have made a difference?  Or would the world continue turning, turning, ever turning?  I’ve found myself waking up in the middle of the night recently, thinking about some of the things I’ve seen, some of the things I’ve heard, smelled, experienced and continue to wonder if I did the right thing.

Ever since my time in Uganda (during the summer of 2009) I’ve been haunted by my experiences at the Agule Community Health Center.  It may be the lingering effects of malaria still haunting me, or it could be that what I saw changed who I was. 

I returned a different person.  I saw death take a child and heard the piercing cry of his mothers mourning.  I felt the darkness creep in around me, even though there was nothing there.  I heard the rain pitter pattering on the tin roof above me and watched as the sun faded away and night overtook the land. 

I’m still haunted by these events.  I lay my head down and close my eyes and I still see their faces.  I still hear her scream. 

Not even a year ago, when we received the call to respond to the devastation in Joplin (the morning of 23 May) a weight landed in my stomach.  I heard her cry again, saw death again, and I was afraid.  We arrived in the darkness of a storm and I knew that I couldn’t head out into the debris, the destruction. 

I volunteered for the night shift that first night because I was afraid of what I would see when I shut my eyes.  I didn’t want to see death again.  I was afraid of what I would see when I ventured out into the wreckage.  So, I listened to their stories, their acts of bravery.  I stayed up all night because, like them, I feared what sleep would bring. 

I still see them.  I still hear their stories.  Rain comes and I can see the fear in their hearts once again. 

I eventually did venture out to capture the story of the response.  It was one of the smallest things I’ve ever done.  And one of the hardest. 

Walking through the ruins, we experienced more than just the sights, but the smell of rotting meat, left over food, garbage spewed across the ground.  Almost like walking through a haze, we wandered block to block alongside the last of the Search and Rescue workers. 

In those days, I saw the sights that accompanied the stories that had been told.  And again, I found myself awake at night, wondering.  Unable to sleep. 

We returned to Denver a wreck.  All of us.  Nobody came out of those two weeks in Joplin untouched by its effects.  Some of us hid it better than others, but we all had changed.  And the biggest question that weighed on our hearts was this:  “Could I have done more?”

If things had been different.  If we had arrived sooner.  If we had more time.  If….  If. 

Through talking with my teammates and the amazing AmeriCorps staff on campus, I realized that we will never be able to find out ‘what if’.  There was nothing more we could do.  We have to let go of the questions and remind ourselves that we did everything that we could in that moment.  There was nothing else that we could do. 

I still see them when I close my eyes.  The visions still haunt me.  Uganda, Joplin, it all mixes together alongside the rest of my experiences in Togo, Honduras, Spain, Houston, Tulsa, Crown King, Williamsburg and all the other places my feet have taken me. 

But I know that I did my best.  In that moment, when I could have frozen, when I could have run away, when I could have shut down, I moved.  We can be haunted by the questions or we can realize that we did our best in the darkest moments of our lives. 

The memories will always be with us.  They are a part of us.  They have made us into who we have become.  I no longer fear them as I once did, even though I still see them when I close my eyes at night…

God Bless and PEACE

Dangerous Wonder

We live in a world filled with danger.  On the news we read of war.  An officer killed in a shooting.  A man entering a bank/restaurant with a gun.  Children taken from their homes.  Fires burning down homes.  Youth taking up stones.  Churches speaking out in anger.  We look around and see signs that warn of electrical hazards, explosives, poison, and chemical reactions.  But there is a danger that nobody wants to talk about: the danger of giving your life over to God. 

I’ve been know to say “The most dangerous place to be is in the palm of God’s hand.”  He doesn’t call us to live safely on the sidelines, but calls us to areas in the world that are not safe to be.  War zones and areas of darkness (sometimes both). 

Our faith is dangerous.  It is our weapon and our shield.  When you think of warriors, you don’t expect to see the man on his knees before the Lord.  We want to envision men with guns, combat knives, swords and covered in scars. 

I was once told that if you were not persecuted for being a Christian, then you are doing something wrong.  Not just made fun of, but persecuted.  Humiliated.  Put in danger.  Killed. 

Is this something we really want to teach our children?  Is this something we, as Christians, want to talk about?  Here in our society, we like to be safe.  Save for the future.  Make ready your retirement.  Well, when you walk with Christ, the only retirement you will ever get is heaven. 

God is beautiful.  His work is amazing, but we never really appreciate it until we walk through the fires and battlefields of life.  We can never really appreciate the sunrise until we feel the darkness creep around us, reaching out to consume us.  We can never really appreciate this life that God has given to us until we stare death in the face and continue living. 

If we live out the faith, we cannot be complacent with living safely. 

God Bless and PEACE

Chorus of Voices

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits –
 – Psalm 103:1-2

There is something beautiful about being a part of worship.  When you are surrounded by voices singing His praise.  It lifts the soul and brings a smile to my day. 

This morning at church, I had the privilege of sitting next to one of my co-workers and his family.  During the worship, his young son started singing at the tops of his lungs, which made me smile even more. 

There is just something about the voices of children worshiping God. 

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship his holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship your holy name
 – 10,000 Reasons, Matt Redman

God Bless and PEACE