Tomorrow we leave Uganda for the first time in three years.
I looked through my pictures for something with our house or yard, but almost every recent one is from Kampala of all places. Shows how much time we've spent at home lately.
It's been a full and sometimes crazy last few months. We've been back and forth and back and forth again to Kampala, trying to finish paperwork, get passports and apply for visas. My emotions have ranged from bored (from waiting) to anxious to busy to exhausted (is that an emotion?) to excited to sad. Everything is bittersweet. I keep reminding my children that we are coming back, this is just a visit, but it's still hard to leave. My journal entry sums up the pull Africa has on a person,
"I feel like a milk bush that has been uprooted and stuffed down deep into the soil of Africa. Nothing to hold me but somehow I grow until I am firmly rooted, tied to this land and thriving."
This place gets in your blood.
I asked Zion the other day if he thought he would move back to America someday.
"No, Mama, Karamoja is my home!" with firm conviction in his voice.
"Well, do you think you will marry a Karimojong girl then and stay here forever?" I ask him, very amused.
"No, I'm going to marry a Chinese girl! They are the prettiest," he says with a big smile, "and then we'll move back to Karamoja!"
Well, I'm glad to know he has a plan :)
Despite our reluctance to leave our home here, we are VERY excited to be coming for a visit and hope to see many of you, our friends and family. We will also be sharing about what God is doing in Karamoja at churches around the country. If you are interested in hearing our stories or meeting up with us send us an email at email@example.com. Thank you for praying for us over the last few months. God has been faithful to answer ALL of our prayers in bigger ways than we ever thought possible.
We are so blessed.
Her name is Nadome Namoe.
Her grandmother and auntie meet me at my gate as I drive up. I've been gone all day and it was a long, hot one in a hot car with hot, sweaty babies climbing on me and clambering for my attention. I am exhausted, mentally and emotionally, physically and spiritually. Kenneth is staying in the village, and I am at the beginning of what is looking like a long week without him, judging by my attitude.
They have been waiting outside my gate all day.
“Ediaka ikoku,” she tells me. The baby is sick. Yeah, that's obvious. She's a shell of the little one I cuddled just last week, and I lean close to make sure she is still breathing. Her little body is emaciated, her eyes, dry and sunken in their sockets. How could this happen so quickly?
My children are tired and hungry, and I dial the nurse with one hand as I serve them “take-out” with the other. The monkey is climbing my leg, and the cats are trying to steal their share of our dinner. My house is a complete wreck, the dishes are undone in the basin in the corner and the laundry is still out on the line in the dark. I look around as the phone rings and just try to breathe.
Thankfully, the nurse is around and she's willing to meet us at the health center. I give some quick instructions to the girls. Feed the babies...change Acuka...put them to bed...I'll be back as quickly as possible...
It's just a short hike down the mountain, the three of us sharing one light and stopping frequently to climb over boulders and around cow patties. They don't stumble once while I slip and slide on a trail I know well in the daylight. I wonder again how having shoes makes me more clumsy. I'm glad I didn't offer to carry the baby.
The health center is deserted, and we wait uneasily for the nurse. I know they can run an IV, but that's about all the help I'm expecting. It's better than nothing for this little one with no other options.
As we wait they tell me about the week, how the baby fell sick and has had diarrhea non-stop since they left my house. The can of formula is gone, but the baby is thinner than ever. She is two months now and weighs around three pounds. Losing her mother and now this sickness has thrown her completely off the growth chart. Even with the milk we're giving and the soap we're teaching them to use (often), she has fallen sick. Very sick.
The nurse is able to run an IV after only three tries, easy as pie after our last foster baby's eight pricks. She starts her on antibiotics and sends us back with a bag of fluids for the night. We hike back up the mountain, me clambering, struggling to look like I'm not struggling, and them, climbing easily along. I set them up for the night with clean sheets, a lantern, water and a basin, and of course, the dinner we had missed. They eat while I tell my kids goodnight. One of them had been crying for me, not understanding why I wasn't there to put her to bed. Sometimes just the choice to try and save a life can be a difficult one. Something else always has to give.
Finally, the house is quiet. It's just me and the baby now. I had great plans for this night alone, plans that included finishing some journals for an order that needed to be done “now-now” as they say in Uganda, maybe getting in a quick work-out, and definitely some reading time. Now the baby fusses, and I try to feed her in between cleaning up dinner and straightening our “lived in” house. But she won't eat. She seems hungry, but she just mouths the bottle, pushing the nipple out again and again. Not a good sign. It looks like tomorrow will be spent looking for a feeding tube – if she makes it through the night. I am not optimistic.
A restless night follows, full of medicine and attempted feedings. She vomits and chokes repeatedly, and I almost wake up her grandmother. Surely she is not strong enough to last, but somehow she pulls through. As the cows move down the mountain in the early morning light she is sleeping, peacefully. Finally.
We rush through our morning routine and head to “town” with the auntie and little one. Eventually we find what we need and leave them at the health center to have a feeding tube inserted and high-calorie milk provided. I pray for a miracle as we drive away, that the health workers will actually do their job today and take care of this sweet baby.
It's two days later and they hand her to me in a cardboard box, her tiny body wrapped in a torn green hospital sheet.
Why did I leave her? I think to myself. She was supposed to get well, and I was supposed to be proud of the way I was able to help her and her family. Instead I feel the weight of all the decisions I made. Why did I take her there? I've already lost one baby there. What was I thinking?? Why did I not just bring her home? The questions come one after another and I have no answers. I am just tired with grief.
I take her back to the village and hand her to her grandmother, the box weightless in my hands. “Etwana ikoku,” I tell her sadly. And she begins to wail, falling to the ground prostrate, her hands to the heavens, drowning out the world with her cries. I turn to leave, trying to hold on a bit longer until I reach home, out of the view of all my passengers. I am thankful for the darkness that hides my tears.
It's just not fair. I am angry at the health center for not caring, angry at the grandmother for not seeing how sick the baby was, angry that this world can be so incredibly hard. I am so tired of watching little ones suffer, struggling for each breath, fighting for a chance just to live. I think as I drive about the whole point of helping people. It doesn't seem to really do any good. We try and try and try, and fail and fail and fail. Exhaustion, discouragement and frustration become a daily struggle. It becomes hard to remember that this story is not about me. It's not even about the tiny baby who was handed to her grandmother in a cardboard box. It's about our lives, everything we do, being about Him. Our lives as followers of Christ may never see success by the world's standards. We may love until it hurts and then love more, and people may never change.
But we are still called to love them.
We are called to love the hurting, no matter the outcome, no matter how much it hurts us. We are called to love the hurting so that we can remember. It's about us never forgetting how He carried us on eagles' wings and brought us to Himself.
“You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there...” Exodus 24:18
The homeless man that you tried to help may choose to move back to the streets.
The alcoholic that you sent to rehab and walked with for over a year may choose to drink again.
The teen mother that you took under your wing may never stop screaming at her children.
The baby that you cared for, giving milk, soap, clothes and medicine may still die.
But all these things don't matter. We are still called to love the hurting. Because these people are just like us. We were once lost and wandering, slaves to our addictions, giving full vent to our anger and never caring about anyone but ourselves. We are all human, sinful and prideful and selfish. I am no different than the people I try to “help”. We are one and the same. All of us slaves, but some of us, redeemed.
This story that we're living is a tough one. Thankfully, it's not about us. It never was and it never will be.
Today, remember the places He's brought you out of. Remember that you were once a slave in Egypt and rejoice that you have been redeemed!
"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." - Mother Teresa
“How do you know God as your Father if you've never known a father?” I ask her quietly. We were up late, too late for me, a mother whose children would rise with the sun.
“I don't know. I guess I see Him kind of like a grandmother,” she answers with a chuckle.
Our night had been good, full of laughter and worship. But late nights bring serious topics, and we'd finally gotten around to the heart of the matter, her heart on this matter. And it was hurting.
“I guess you don't miss what you've never had,” she whispers, looking down at the pillow clutched to her chest.
But I knew better. I could see it in her eyes. She was wishing she knew just what to miss. And I was missing it for her. Because I knew what she was missing, I had known the love of a father and I missed mine terribly.
“A father is an irreplaceable thing.”
It's the only line I remember from the hundreds of sympathy cards. This one was addressed specifically to me, and I couldn't forget it. It was just so true. To this day, seven years later, I think of this on the 19th of each month. And for her it was bleeding over into everything else.
“I just don't believe it. My friends tell me they love me, and I just think, 'Yeah, right. They don't really mean it,'” she's says, looking at me intently now, “and I have a hard time believing God as well.”
The concept of God as our Father is central to the gospel. He created us, and we are His children whom He loves passionately. He is where we find our worth. He is where we find our purpose. He is our sustainer and fulfiller. Our everything.
And we, we are the pride of His heart.
It seems so much easier to think of who God is to me rather than who I am to God. Even I, who've had a good, loving father, struggle with the idea that I am cherished by my Father. Why is this so difficult for me? Why is it so difficult to accept the unconditional love of the One who created me?
My heart breaks for her and for me, for all of us who limit God by not believing He is who He says He is. We are all the same, children struggling to climb out from under the weight of a lie, a lie that says our Father doesn't really love us, doesn't really want the best for us, that He isn't really a good Father. It's a lie that's been smothering His children for centuries. It's the lie that started it all, or ended it all, whichever way you want to look at it.
But this is the good thing about lies, they aren't true. And we still have a chance to change things, to make it right again. We don't have to believe the things we've learned to feel or think.
We don't have to believe the lies.
These things in our lives that have shaped who God is to us are not truth, and they can't be our excuse for holding ourselves back from our Father. I believe God expects more. He has given us His word, and He expects us to believe it. He wants us to change our thinking to match His truth. Our minds need reshaping and refilling with new truth about who God is and what He thinks about us.
But...how?? How can we learn to reshape and refill our minds with only His truth?
My conclusion is immersion.
Only when we are totally immersed in God's truth will our minds begin to accept it as truth, to believe it as truth. The biggest influence in our every thought needs to be God's word, His truth.
A few years ago Kenneth and I tried an experiment. It was a life-changing and mind-altering experiment. It reshaped our thinking, our feelings, and usually our hearts. Our experiment was to read the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, each week for three months. Not one gospel per week, but all four, every week, for three months. Twelve times each. Total immersion.
And it changed me.
I came to the realization pretty quickly that these stories, parables, sayings, truths that Jesus taught were bleeding over into everything else. All of a sudden everything in my life seemed to relate in some way to the Gospel, to something Jesus had taught. And it felt like I was meeting Him for the first time. I wanted desperately to know more of this man who chose me as His child and loved me despite all I had done or ever could do. He became real to me. I began to believe He is who He says He is.
So my challenge for you is this: If you are struggling today with believing God is who He says He is, immerse yourself in His truth.
Take three months and get to know your Father. (Of course, three months is not enough to know everything about God, but you know what I mean...) Immerse yourself in His word. Learn to know Him as Father, and listen to the truth about who you are to Him.
You will come away changed.
Blood pooled on the dirt floor of the hut as the new mother leaned, exhausted and spent, against the mud wall. Her baby lay nearby on a pallet of clothes and blankets, breathing shallowly. It was evening on Christmas Eve, and I had set out down the hill full of anticipation for my first birth.
This was not what I had expected.
“Sorry, Mama Nakiru. So sorry...”
A chorus of grief had met me at the fence and followed me as I crouched low and ducked inside the dark hut.
“The baby is not ok. There is some problem. You come see,” said my friend.
I knelt next to the pile of blankets, hesitant to look and hoping that they were mistaken. Maybe the baby was just early. Maybe he just had a small birth defect.
I was not prepared. He was deformed, severely deformed, by multiple birth defects. I could see immediately that he was not going to live. His pale body was turning cold already, and his breathing was shallow and infrequent. The mother turned her face to the wall and covered her eyes. She knew. I placed my warm hand on his cold chest and tried to feel his heart beating beneath his clammy skin. Just a flutter here and there...just a gasp now and then. It wouldn't be long.
We squatted next to the baby and his mother, all of us mothers ourselves, all of us grieving for her loss. She had carried his weight for nine months. Not exactly nine months of expectation. She was given a baby she did not ask for from a man she did not choose, yet it was nine months of knowing he was there and wondering when he would come. She had been a widow until a relative of her dead husband took her as his own wife. But he wasn't all that interested in the responsibility of a wife and hadn't been around since he gave her this baby. She was on her own.
We chatted quietly about her pregnancy, how her stomach had felt too heavy and her appetite, non-existent. She had not felt him move for some time and had wondered if there might be something wrong. This one was different from her other three. Now she knew the reason why. He was not normal.
She wrapped a sheet around her, a gift I brought for the baby. He wouldn't need it now. Her mother brought a basin of sand to sprinkle on the blood and began scraping the floor with the hoe, removing the stained soil and putting down fresh. Birth in a hut is a messy affair.
I listened to the quiet conversation going on around me and thought about the story of another baby in another time. A story about another birth, this one in a cow stable, a corral really, even dirtier and smellier than a hut. And a woman who gave birth alone, without anyone to comfort and catch her first little one. No midwife, no mother, no sister, no support. And the flies that must have been present. No one mentions that. I know all about flies. I live by a corral and I see a lot of blood. She must have been driven crazy by the flies at her birth. She did not have an easy time, birthing among the cow dung and flies. And that new baby, born into the filth of this world, he would not have an easy time either. He was destined for a life lived among the suffering and broken of our world. His life followed the pattern of his birth.
It's Christmas day and I continue to think back to that deformed baby. My heart is heavy and I feel overwhelmed by the weight of the suffering around me. Another baby is staying with me, a tiny one whose ribs I can count and whose arms and legs are wrinkled like an old woman. She came early because of her mother's sickness and then lost her shortly after. Another orphan in this country already known for its orphans. Her grandmother is trying, but pneumonia is already wrecking havoc on her little body. I hold her, nearly weightless, against me, and I struggle to find joy, to know God's peace in this place of suffering.
And it hits me that what I'm feeling, this dull ache in my heart that doesn't fade, this is God's heart as well. That baby born in a corral so long ago wasn't randomly born into the filth of this world, it was the plan all along.
That baby who came so long ago, that baby who grew to be a man “of sorrows, acquainted with grief” knows. He knows the weight of our suffering because He suffered. He lived among the broken and eventually became, for us, broken and poured out. God sent Him, His own son, into the filth of our world to be broken for the broken, to suffer for the suffering, and His heart aches with the aching because He knows.
Even these things and often especially these things, God uses to bring us closer to His heart. He knows our pain intimately, and He chooses to walk with us through it again and again in order to show us His heart.
His heart that is for us.
His heart that beats with the hurting.
He understands and He is here, in this pain, in this moment, now.
The suffering of our world is not purposeless. God's plan included a difficult birth in a filthy corral, and maybe it also includes the pain you are facing today. He does not always deliver us from our suffering, but He knows.
And Oh, how He loves us.
Today I pray that you will let your pain and suffering bring you closer to the heart of God, His heart that beats with furious love for you.
Today I am thrilled to be guest posting for the first time EVER :) It's also probably the longest blog you'll ever read, but anyway...
Karen and I met in Uganda when she was visiting our friend Katie. I liked her instantly and was excited to be able to stay in touch online. She has impressed me consistently with her desire to befriend and love the hurting in her own part of the world, and God is obviously blessing her obedience. She has a willingness to leave her comfort zone that is both encouraging and refreshing. I am excited to introduce her to you and hope you will enjoy reading her blog as much as I do!
Head on over to www.kareneyates.com and read a bit (ok, so it's just plain long, folks) about our lives :)
*Read back a few weeks for an amazing story that is evidence of God's moving in and through our obedience to Him!
God is good ALL THE TIME,
And all the time GOD IS GOOD!
If you're from the south you've probably heard this a few hundred times in your life :) But have you ever had it tested in your life? I mean really tested?
Yesterday as we visited a church in Jinja we stood and sang along with 100 other "muzungus" and Ugandans,
"Blessed be your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be your name.
Blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be your name...
You give and take away,
You give and take away.
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be your name."
And I was struck by the idea that in my life, this is true. I believe with all my heart that God is good. No matter what He's given or what He's taken away, He is good.
This isn't a lesson I came by easily. It wasn't that I always believed it with all my heart. I am not one of those blessed with innocent, childlike faith.
God taught me this lesson the hard way, through the suffering and death of my dad.
It was a lesson I didn't really care to learn. Who really wants to have their belief in God's goodness tested? Who really wants to go through something that shows whether or not they really believe what they say they do? I for sure didn't. But my dad was the one suffering and facing his own death, and he believed. He believed with all his heart in the goodness of his God. He used to tell us all the time, even through his last months, "God is firmly in control of my circumstances, and He is good." If he didn't doubt God's goodness, then how could I?
Being the logical person that I am, this idea led me to rethink everything I'd ever thought I knew about God. If you start your hypothesis on the knowledge that God is good, everything else changes.
If God is good, then He only gives good gifts.
If God is good, then He only allows good things.
If God is good, then all this pain in our world...is it good too?
And I began to wonder if the problem was the way my worldview classified events. I was separating events in my mind based on my own definition of what was good or bad. And that creates a problem. Because then I began to see things that God says are good as bad things, simply because of my filter, the way I see the world. And that doesn't work.
We have a friend here in Karamoja who has seen a lot of "bad" things in her life. Things that might lead you to believe that God has not been good to her...and may even make you wonder how she could ever love or serve Him. At least, from an American point of view. Because we tend to think God owes us a good life...one that's free from suffering and pain. And when we don't get that good life we begin to doubt God's goodness, His unfailing love for us.
But not the Karimojong.
She has known suffering her whole life.
She lost her sons, all of them, to cattle raiding.
She lost her eye to a splinter, a freak accident.
She began losing the use of her hands after a long day of grinding sorghum. She thought it would pass, that they would begin working again with rest, but they got weaker and weaker. Now they are useless and floppy.
One of her legs began to weaken like her hands. Soon she was struggling to walk even short distances.
Then she began to get sick. Diarrhea wrecked her body. Her hides were soiled and stained from her constant leaking during the night. She was too weak to even crawl out of her hut to the dirt.
Her stomach hurt constantly. She was in pain all the time. She lost her appetite and all desire for food. She lost weight, a lot of weight.
And people began to stop caring.
She was not a useful woman anymore. She was surrounded by her family, her children and grandchildren literally live all around her, yet they did nothing for her.
She was abandoned.
Camille found her in the village and began taking her meals. Once a day, sometimes twice a day, Camille made the trek down the hill with a bowl of porridge or beans and posho. She was registered with the health center's feeding program and began receiving high calorie food supplements. We shared our fresh milk with her daily. Slowly the swelling in her feet and hands went down. Slowly her family began to care. Slowly they began to take responsibility for her, bathing her, dressing her, sometimes feeding her. They are learning, and her life is improving.
One visit we made to her was lengthened by the rain. It pounded down outside her little hut, making her front yard into rivers of mud. We squatted in the dark, feeding her and asking questions about her life. And we found out something extraordinary.
She believes that God is good.
She knows and understands that all these things that make up her life, the difficulties she has faced, are from the hand of God.
And she believes that God is good.
The Karimojong have an interesting belief about God. They believe that He is the shepherd, and we are his cows (almost like the Psalms!). They believe that He created us and our world, thus He has the right to do with us as He wishes. Just as a shepherd has the right to kill a cow if he wishes, God has the right to give or take away. These decisions don't make Him a good God or a bad God. He is GOD. He is sovereign. He is the creator. He gets to decide.
And I am completely amazed again by these people. So much of their lives seem so backward to me. A woman, their grandmother, starving right in front of them, and they do nothing. Yet they are always teaching me something new about God, my God. The One I came to teach them about.
They understand something vital about God, something we, as Americans, are missing.
If there is rain, it is from God.
If there is no rain, it is from God.
If there is food, it is from God.
If there is no food, it is from God.
They live in complete dependency on God. They are always at His mercy. They know that God is good simply because He gave them life.
Anything else is just a bonus :)
The fact of the matter is, it's not about us, it's all about God and His glory.
And that is the most important thing.
No matter what happens to us, no matter who we say goodbye to in this life, no matter the struggles and trials, God is good. And His glory is our reward. If we can endure and be faithful, I believe that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
I hope at the end of my life to have lived as faithfully as Job, to be able to say with him, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him;"
"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21
Please pray for the Karimojong people, that they would find the Living Water and never thirst again.
He comes often to my gate, his cloudy eyes and shuffling footsteps causing my usually fierce dog to wag his tail in greeting. He carries his stool in one hand, his walking stick in the other, supporting his frail frame. The blanket draped across his arm has seen many days, a lifetime of walking with the cows. He always comes with wounds, his calloused and worn feet now unable to fight off the rocks and thorns as they did once in the days of his youth.
The routine has become familiar. He sits across from me on our dirt “patio” that serves as meeting area and make-shift clinic. I bring water in a basin and soap for bathing his dirt-caked feet. He soaks his wounds, the water softening the layers of cow dung he applies to keep the flies away. I began to wash his feet, taking off weeks of dirt and grime.
And I think to myself, what a dirty job.
Toenails long and black with mud...cow dung...oozing wounds...I scrub, and I scrub, and I scrub some more. I pick the cow dung slowly, piece by piece, off of his open sores. I clip his toenails and then scrub some more.
And I remember Someone else who had this job.
“Jesus...rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:3-5
And I am struck by how uncomfortable this must have been for him. It's such a humbling thing to wash someone's feet...the dirt, the cow dung, the wounds, the stooping and bending, the serving.
“Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” John 13:12-15
I'm beginning to see a pattern.
Jesus' life was full of discomfort. So many crowds, so little privacy. So many wounds, so little thanks. So much pain and suffering, so much sacrifice and service, so much feet washing, so many examples.
Examples...meaning he wants us to be like Him. To be like him in the feet washing, to bend and stoop, to humble ourselves and do the dirty jobs. Because believe it or not, God is not a comfortable God. And he doesn't call us to be comfortable.
God doesn't call us to be comfortable.
Two weeks ago my gardener, Wari, took a man into his home. Not a relative, not even a close friend, just a man who was dying of AIDS. He had no family, at least none that cared about him, and was living out his last days alone in the health center in Kotido. Wari brought him to his home and began caring for him in the most intimate ways. He spent the small money he had on sodas, and every morning during prayer we would see him trudging up the hill to find a shepherd with fresh milk for his new friend. In the last few days of the man's life Wari often had to bathe him and wash his clothes because of his incontinence. During these times we would find Wari sharing God's love with the dying man, offering words of hope and peace, of life after death for those who accept God's forgiveness. The day before yesterday the man passed into eternity. Wari dressed his body for burial, found a hearse (our car), and took his body back to his family's home. They spent the whole day digging the grave and burying the man with only one family member in attendance.
And I thought to myself, what a dirty job.
The washing, the bathing, the carrying, the digging, the stooping and bending, the serving.
But God doesn't call us to be comfortable, he calls us to be foot washing servants. And what joy there is in knowing that the more we stoop and bend, the more we become like him. There's no better thing we could wish for in life than to be like our Rabbi. No matter the dirty jobs, no matter the discomfort, I want to follow his example. Will you join me?
“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” John 13:17
We wanted to share some of our fun pictures with you. We (Kristi and Kenneth) were able to take a trip to Zanzibar for a week without kids. We had a great week enjoying each other's company. Most of these pictures are from that trip. There are a couple of others of the kids around the house. We had a great time. I (Kenneth) am so thankful to have almost 12 years with the best woman
She squats on my front porch, her backbone protruding from her naked back. Her skirt is tattered and several sizes too small. Her small pile of belongings rests beside her: several bottle caps, an empty salt bag which she was licking as she came, and a jerry can lid. She can't be more than seven, maybe eight. I crouch next to her, trying to communicate. She seems unfazed by me, a strange white woman, and only glances at me, curious and unafraid, wondering why she has been brought here to my home.
I bring her a bowl of food and her whole face light up, as if food is an unexpected and unusual surprise. She begins methodically eating her bowl of beans and posho, stopping after each bite to lick her hand, front and back, like a cat cleaning itself. Now and then she looks up and scans the yard, her eyes frequently resting on my dog lying at her feet. She offers him a handful of food, tilting her head and clicking at him in her own language. He seems to understand and gratefully accepts her offering. She eats and eats and eats, full but unwilling to leave even a bite of food uneaten. I try to explain that I will give her a bowl to take the uneaten food with her, but she doesn't understand and keeps eating slowly, now bean by bean.
We bring a basin and soap, hoping to wash her and give her a clean set of clothes. Apparently bathing is a new thing to her. She touches the water and begins to scream and squeal, crawling back into a corner of my porch to crouch, cold and naked, like a cornered animal. She is hysterical, squealing and clicking at us, all goodwill forgotten in her fear of a bath. I keep my distance, not wanting to scare her more, but her attention span is like that of a one year old, and she is quickly distracted by her empty food bowl. She picks it up again and begins to lick it slowly until it looks unused and clean.
I come close to her again, talking softly, with a clean shirt and her own skirt. She is calm again, her almost-bath forgotten, and lets me dress her like a little child. She gathers her treasures, including her empty and clean food bowl, and runs to the gate, chattering happily in clicks and whistles. Her belly is full, and she is content, for today.
I hear her story from various people and compare their accounts, trying to find the truth. Some things are the same: she has been on the street for several years, an orphan no one wants to deal with. They say she's crazy, a child who eats poop and grunts, clicks and whistles to communicate. She seems more like a wild animal than a child, a feral, untamed animal. Everyone around knows who she is and even how she lives, but no one wants to help her. She is seen daily, but not really. Not with His eyes.
This week I have been thinking a lot about people, how we are created in the image of God and what that really means. God is good and beautiful and creative and love. But we seem to be just the opposite, broken and sinful and angry and selfish. More often than not these bad things are the only things we see in ourselves and in others. Our brokenness overshadows our beauty. We seem so incapable of seeing beauty that we even sometimes question whether God is really good. The broken sinfulness of our humanity hides the goodness that surrounds us, the goodness that God created in us and around us and for us.
But when we see with His eyes...
…the woman who pokes me with her nub of a hand, begging for money every single time I see her…
…the street boys who tell my little girls all the nasty things they want to do to them…
…the alcoholic mother who beats her children…
…the man whose leg wound makes my stomach turn…
…the homeless man with bad breath and stinky clothes…
…and the little orphaned and abandoned girl that everyone says is crazy...
They are all beautiful.
Because, get this, they are all created in the image of God. They are all created to be good and beautiful and creative and to love and be loved.
Francis Schaeffer wrote, people are "magnificent, even in ruin." And our job as followers of Christ is to find that magnificence, even in the brokenness that surrounds each one of us.
Because it's there. It may be hidden, but it's there.
May we see with the eyes of Jesus, who saw the crowds following Him not as a nuisance but as harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened to see the beauty that surrounds us every day.
"Jesus the mender, You take me apart,
Put my heart in my throat and my eyes in my heart."
-Taylor Field, Mercy Streets
Kenneth and Kristi Williams
The Williams Family
Kenneth and Kristi
Nevaeh, 18 years old
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Izzy, 14 years old
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Acuka, 11 years
Benaiah, 8 years
Jubal, 5 years
Jireh, 1.5 years
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