Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm back home in my beloved Uganda. Flying over Lake Victoria I actually felt my heart change. And there was only joy.

More updates soon! I'm ministering with Shara from IRIS and Stacey Campbell for the CALL. Two amazing women and I am just honored to be traveling with them, just praying into all God has for the future of Uganda.

New digits: 011 (256) 773875545

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

“Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover?” Song of Songs 8:5

I had an image. An image of a woman naked in the desert, bruised and bleeding. Like Elisa, whose body had been used, who had been chained in a chicken coop, like her, this woman was hardened and ashamed. But desperate. And I saw Jesus come and take her in His arms and wrap a white blanket around her that billowed in the wind. I saw Him draw her to the warmth of a fire and cook dinner for her underneath the moon’s light. I saw her leaning on him, her head tucked up under his chin as he led her out of the desert at sunrise.

They say the majority of our self image is formed in pregnancy up to the age of three. They say most of our issues come from that place. By the age of fifteen, 75% of the way we view ourselves has been formed.

I do not know what wrote itself on our souls. I do not know what taught us to believe we weren’t worthy. I do not know the memories in our eye as a child that made us believe we are alone. I do not know what was spoken over you before birth.
I do not understand why people hurt you, or why they killed the beauty of who God saw you as, who God knows you as underneath all your false selves or all the walls you build in self-protection. I do not know why they raped you, why they did not protect you, I do not know why they broke your heart the first time you allowed yourself to be vulnerable. I do not know why they left you though they promised to stay. I do not know why he died, or why she changed, or why your womb is still empty. I do not understand why it happened, or why as much as you tried, you could not make them happy.

But I see you. I see you everywhere born into chains. I see the past biting at your heels. I see who you long to be and who you really see when you look in the mirror. I see all the times you wanted to love, but didn’t know how. I see what it cost you to hope, only to be disappointed. I see the sacrifices. I see the people laid down, the dreams laid down. I see you reject before being rejected. I see you don’t know if you can begin again tomorrow. I see what it cost you to try to believe. I see all the flaws you see in yourself and know they are nothing.

I have never known this more fiercely.

We were born into slavery and the world was ready to fill our slates with broken things. Fear. Rejection. Abuse. Abandonment. Guilt. Responsibility. Inattention. Unrealistic expectations. Be good. Be better. Be perfect.

God so love the world…as we are….
A mess.
I want to tell you a story. I want to tell myself one.

There was a man who fell in love with a girl who was a slave. He loved her so much that he worked 7 years for her to pay the debt off her life because to him, there was no flaw in her. He married her and made a covenant with her, but because she grew up a slave, she did not understand this love. Her whole life she had been abused and taken advantage of. Her whole life’s worth had been in serving her master and trying to make him happy, even though she never could. Her husband’s devotion made her uncomfortable. So she left him and went back to the one who had owned her before and she got pregnant with his child. She lived in guilt but she did not know how to be different.

Her husband came for her, he pursued her, not to tell her how much she had hurt him, not to hold her sin over her head, but because he loved her, with all her faults, with all her mistakes, he loved her as his bride and longed to be with her again. His love for her was unconditional, it was without limit and without end. The owner said he could not have her back because the child was his and would grow up a slave in his house. The husband could have killed him. He wanted to and he could have. But deep down he knew that it would not prove his love and that his wife would only run away again to someone else. So he offered something else. He said he would give his life as a slave unto death, if his wife and child could be free. The owner hated the husband so much, he hated his love and his tenderness, so he agreed to the exchange, to take his life to pay off the debt of her sin. The slave girl found out and begged him not to, she begged him because she knew she did not deserve that kind of love, she begged him because she did not believe she could ever change. But he just looked at her, as though there was no one else in the entire world and said he would gladly die so she could be free, so she would never have to return to being a slave. When they tortured him she could not watch, she could only sob. When they beat him up and pierced his side with a knife, she collapsed in anguish. She could not understand how he could love her so much. She only knew that he did. They mocked him, they mocked his love for such a woman, but he bore it all without responding. When he died he told his wife, “I died so you could be free. You are not a slave any more. Go back home and raise our child in the knowledge that you both were loved.”

Something snapped in her, something deep in a place long shut down by the life she had lived, in a place long devastated and long given up on, a place she remembered as a child before she gave up her soul. And she just knew--no more. She was a slave no more. She was a wife, a bride who was loved, loved enough to have a man die for her and his only request of her was that she live as one who was free. She had never felt love so much, love in her that made her want to die in his place. But it was done. She left that day for good. The owner would come to her house and tell her that she should work for him to pay for the guilt of her sins, he would tell her that she did not deserve the love her husband had shown. It was hard. In her heart, she believed those words, and yet she could not return with him though she wanted to pay off her debt, though she wanted to be free of guilt, she could not return with him because she knew that she had promised not to. She knew that everything her lover died for would be for nothing if she allowed herself and her baby to be enslaved again. Love had cost him everything. And she could not make a mockery of that love. Even though it pained her, even though she rather would have lived a slave in the owner’s house just to prove her love in some small way, she clung to the belief that she had been loved and that He wouldn’t want her to see herself that way. How could she become a slave again if he died for her freedom? It was the hardest thing she ever did, in saying no. Everything in her knew, she had not deserved such a love, and yet it had been given. Though she had not asked for it, it had been given. There were days she struggled with shame, but she kept trying to remember that He had seen her as worth the price, so she began trying to live as though she was worth it. And slowly, she began to believe it, began to believe that He saw something in her she did not see and He had wanted it to live.

For the first time in my life I have seen the anguish Jesus must feel when we live as slaves even though he died for us, his lover, his bride, so we could be free. I do not yet know how to live as one who is free. How to believe in that kind of love. And yet I know it is the lack of knowing that keeps us in chains, or stuck to our church pews paralyzed to do anything or make any difference in the world because we are so bogged down in the areas of our hearts that have not been healed, we do not know how to spread out leaves of healing for others, or how to offer fresh bread to the poor. How to give when we are so empty.

But our emptiness is authentic. Our need is what draws God to us. He longs to fill the need, to put to rest the issues in our hearts that keep us from truly living. Do you not see the good the Lord longs to give to those who love Him, to those who allow themselves to be loved. It is not easy for some of us. For some of us, being loved is harder than actually loving. I think of Elisa whose face would go from stoic, to ruined. I think of how hard it was for her to not get up and run away because our love was overwhelming. She was not sure, after all that time in darkness that it was real, that it could last. I think of the girls in Uganda whose brittle arms I want to hold in mine, even if they push me away because they cannot believe in love. I think of myself, struggling to believe, fighting for my freedom, that others might be free. It is so hard to hope, to actually believe we are beautiful, that to God, there is nothing more beautiful in the world than our face. That if we gave him nothing else than our time with Him, our sweet embrace, that it would make him happier than any other sacrifice of long hours worked, or churches built, or lives saved. All He wants is us.

It is hard to believe. Hard to have faith in. And yet nothing else---no person, no addiction, no hobby, no food, no drink, no work, will heal that place in our hearts that needs to believe in it.
I spent the morning with a blank piece of paper. And I asked God what He thought of me. And always, always, I am shocked by the answer. I am ready for Him to list my faults and my failures, I am ready for Him to tell me who I should have been or what I should have done instead. I am ready for another reason to loathe myself. But he is just holding me and the answer is sweeter than I think I deserve.

Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover…
I pray it is me

and then I pray it is you.

“Arise my darling, my beautiful one and come with me.
See, the winter is past; the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come…
Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” Song of Songs 2:10

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The heart of the matter

I only have a week left in Mozambique before I go back to Uganda and I am still trying to process through if I’ve changed, if so how much, what God is doing in me, what God has taught me and what impact that has on the rest of my life…so you know, small things.

I was all prepared to write this blog about the amazing things I saw happen the last few days I was in the bush again camping in the dirt and ministering to a small village outside Pemba. I still want to write that blog. Because I did see lives absolutely transformed, which is truly the desire of my heart---to see hope spring forth in the midst of hopelessness. But I am really struggling today and need your prayers. I need to be really authentic and honest here that as a leader, I don’t always have it together---in fact most of the time, I don’t. And today I am just falling apart.

At times like this it is incredibly hard not to be home.
I just found out my grandmother got hospitalized with Alzheimer’s and her case is worsening. I just found out one of my best friend’s newborn baby is in the ICU.

These are things I should be there for. These are people I should be hugging right now. As badly as I want to do God’s will, and hug those here who need love, I want badly to be home supporting those who love me. These are the times when missionaries truly die. What are my priorities? Are they the children I hold in my arms who might die from a foot infection that doesn’t get treatment, or is it my mom who needs my love right now. I am so incredibly torn.

I want to tell you about Elisa. Maybe it will encourage my heart.
Elisa is a girl about 16 or 17 who we found two days ago locked up in a chicken coop for the last five years. When we found her she was naked on a soiled bed, dirt caked on her, staring in a catatonic state. At first she made no responses. She was there because her family didn’t want her. She was there because she was a “mad person” or “demon possessed.” She was there because she was an outcast. When we found her she couldn’t even look at you, she stared right through you. We sang to her, we loved on her and eventually were able to pull her out of the darkness of that chicken coop into the sun.
We prayed for hours, we held her broken, void face in our hands and just cried. God began to deliver her from whatever was oppressing her because there was a change in her. Slight, at first. She began to look at us. Into our eyes. I have never looked into eyes like her brown ones. I almost couldn’t hold her gaze. In those eyes, so much pain and so much emptiness, so much desperation and yet so much nothingness, I thought she might swallow me up into the desolation she endured.

In my spirit, within a few minutes I knew she had been violently raped. Maybe even given in “marriage” to the demonic spirit her family had built an entire hut for. She would shrink back in fear of men. She would lapse it seemed, almost in and out of consciousness where she would give us a blank stare and then come back to life again. I have never prayed so hard for someone’s life to be redeemed and healed. As I looked into her eyes and cried, a single tear rolled down her face and I knew that she knew that God was loving her through us. We held her and rocked her and sang songs over her and fed her and bathed her and it was as though she didn’t know what to do because she had never experienced love. It was overwhelming for her. But God allowed me to see for a second, what it is like to love like He loves, what it is like to look into the eyes of Jesus and know that whatever we did for her, we did for Him.

The next day we came back and with the family’s permission burned down the hut that had housed the spirit which held her captive. For the first time she smiled. It was the most precious thing in the world. We explained to her family how wrong it was what they had done and they repented and brought her back into the house. We arranged for the church to come visit her twice a day. Her trauma is so deep that I know it will take time for her to be completely healed. She cannot speak. But it is a beginning. There is hope and in her, I saw transformation. I saw a life saved, a life literally saved out of darkness. And if that is the only thing I see here in Mozambique. It is worth it. Her life, is worth it.

So I remember her today when I am crying at this computer. Because I have to remember it is worth it. All the pain of not being there for the ones who have been with me. It hurts. But when I held Elisa, I think they would be proud of me for being here, for loving someone who has never known the touch of tenderness. Even though it means I cannot be there. I want to say I’m sorry. Sorry what it costs to be here. Sorry that I miss the birthdays and weddings and baby’s being born and grandmother’s going into the hospital. Sorry that I have to do this. I hope you understand. It is for times like this, times like holding a girls’ face in my palms and letting love change her. I just pray that my love for all you at home, all you I long to hold in my arms and cry with, I pray you know I am with you in spirit and that today is one of those days I wish I could give this all up just to be there. Just to hold you.

With longing and love,

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The One

I woke up with that verse in my heart "Mourning lasts for the night, but joy, joy comes in the morning." And I truly felt it in my bones.

And then the boy died. Hit and killed by a speeding truck.
They say it happens. They say it is normal.
Saw his little crumpled body strewn on the pavement
and the blood congealed
thick and red,
redder, than I've ever seen,
redder than my blood or an African sunset.

They took the pulse even though they said his brains
were out, spilled out like a piece of split fruit.
Hit little shirt up around his back. His tiny 5 year old legs.
I kept looking to see if he would move with the intake of breathe,
up. down. up. down.
But only stillness.
In the heat of the Mozambican midday sun we stood there
eyes filled with unshed tears.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry for this one, a lost one. One
that wouldn't matter to many. Just a village kid. Just one
more mouth to feed. Just one amongst the many who would
die of diarrea or malaria, or the lack of bread.

But I looked at him and saw the life he did not live, saw the
soccer games he would not play and the sermons he would not preach.
We huddled beside him in the street, cars slowing to our left,
we toucehd him and we prayed. We prayed for faith to believe in
a miracle.
They say he died in an instant. They say there was no pulse.
But we prayed anyway. Can the God who creates, not move His
hand to save?

They made us move behind the gate, but we prayed.
We prayed long after they peeled his limp body from the
black road and spilled blood.
I could hear the scream. I could hear the scream and I knew
it was one of a mother who has just lost a child. And I knew he
was just one. Just one. But one that mattered to her.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

“For the Lord has chosen ZION for he has desired it for his dwelling. This is my resting place for ever, here I will sit enthroned for I have desired it.” Ps 132:13

I feel like I’m on a roll-a-coaster and I’d like to scream for someone to let me off but it just keeps going----ups, downs, and twisting sideways. They talk here about people having break-downs—just going off the reservation. Some days I can see why.
It’s intense. We’ve got witchdoctors spouting off their jabba jabba curses on us, and half the base falling sick with either food poisoning or malaria—take your pick. We’ve got people telling us to just be with Jesus and others telling us to serve more, we’ve got rules and regulations, we’ve got weddings and people wrestling each other over a slice of cake, we’ve got people coming and people leaving, and new schedules every day. And some days I just want to get up and walk out. And then I remember…this is what they were talking about---being stripped.

When you get to Pemba they tell you, this is the beginning of a holy fast---not necessarily the kind where you give up all food, (although there is that especially when you can’t stomach another bowl of rice)---but the loss of all comfort, all security, everything before that made us who we were, and everything we used to turn to when we were having a bad day. It’s the final frontier and out here there are no movie theaters or mountain bikes, no big bowl of ice cream or glass of wine, no big HUGE hug from someone that really knows you, no girls’ night out, no best friend, no boyfriend, no really hot shower, no big fluffy bed, no gym----well, we do have Pilates with Shara which is basically like boot camp, but also the thing I look forward to most in the week—in part because we get to leave the base

It is here that you come to terms with your most raw self and the sum of all your addictions. It is here that you realize you are not all those things that you do, just to maintain sanity, or the people you surround yourself with. It is here that you realize there is no sanity. No sanity at all without lots of God. Here---if I don’t want to go crazy, I have to be crazy after Jesus. There’s nothing else. Here, character is torn down and rebuilt, and torn down again. All day long, the people want from you---they want your backpack, or your skirt, they want your water bottle or your sunglasses…they want everything you have that they think will satisfy them. Literally today I saw a group of about 500 people standing in line for breakfast (which I served yesterday for about 3 hours---but was pretty controlled and therefore pretty fun) But today I saw them and I wanted to run the other way. I literally knew how Jesus felt when in the Bible it says, “He saw the multitudes and then went up to the mountain to pray.” Yeah. I get that.

Because there will always be the multitude. It is a never ending stream. If you are called to this, you are called to laying your life down and that means all of the rights you think you have----save one: your right to be with God. Lately, I have needed that more than anything. I literally feel like I could snap if I don’t get alone with Jesus. So today with my sore throat and baggy eyes from sleepless nights I crawled in my bunk and just cried, and prayed, and cried some more. Because I don’t really know what else to do. And God really met me. Really spoke to me and sometimes I can’t believe that He is that nice. But He really does love me even when I’m feeling pretty selfish. And I really do love Him even when its hard not to feel alone. And this is all there is---this is what life is about---that moment of meeting Him face to face and coming away changed. Here, I am a resting place for God.

“Those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame.” Ps. 34

ps—after spending this day in prayer…this morning God had someone pray and prophecy over me, and it was so sweet. He does see. He does know. He is rocking us in His arms.

So I just got back from the BUSH BUSH, and by that I mean the kind of place where kids run up to you and then run away once they realize you are a WHITIE (“Acuna”—which is akin to Mzungu here) and they think you are going to eat them for lunch or something. But man, I think I would have just stayed out there forever if they had let me. The stars were enough to make me want to live out there in a cave somewhere. We drove about 6 hours on a bumpy bus ride out to an area near Nampula (of course you have no idea where that is…neither did I) but it was beautiful---mountains…greenery….it reminded me so much of Uganda. The village people were so welcoming. For them, this may be the one time during the year that they receive love from a white person. Which after all the colonialism and fighting, makes me feel pretty good to bring just a small piece of redemption. So we get there at night and set up our tents in the dark (reminiscent of my college daysJ) then we go show the JESUS film…only not the good JESUS film that I like to watch on Easter…its the one with the really corny Jesus with matted down hair—its about 2 ½ hours long in Makua…which makes it extremely funny because none of the mouth movements match the sounds. But still, hundreds of people come out of the wood-work to watch and the children were just enamored.

All in all it was pretty awesome. We asked all the people who were sick to come forward and we just started laying hands on them and praying for them. I’m tempted here to tell ridiculous stories of supernatural healing that I’ve heard of happening here and apply it to this outreach…but that would be slightly stretching the truth. The first few people I got were drunk, and in broken Makua and Portuguese we worked out that they wanted to be delivered from their alcohol addiction…which was pretty funny, as they were seriously intoxicated. So I prayed for them. I was like, “Lord can’t I just see someone get healed instead of all these drunk people?” Not sure if they got sober or not..but that’s really for God to work out. I prayed for several children who had headaches, probably from dehydration, and they said that it was better after I prayed….so I’m just believing that God healed people. Then I prayed with another girl for a woman who had a crooked thumb.

Now, when it comes to healing, I want to believe as much as the next person, but I’ll be honest and say I’m pretty much a skeptic. God is stretching me here to increase my expectations because often I find my faith is small. I want to KNOW that I KNOW someone is healed, and that’s hard to figure out when they speak a different language. But this woman’s finger literally looked broken before we started and we prayed and she could move it more. Then we asked her to take off her necklace, which in my spirit, I believed was witchcraft, and she did and her finger got even better. By the end she was smiling and moving her thumb and showing people…so I feel like God really healed her…which when you think about pretty amazing. Most of all, I think I’m learning just to love them, as they are, whether or not God does something miraculous. This journey with God is a mix-up of mess with the miraculous sprinkled in there sometimes.

The next day we went around the village and we prayed for a Muslim man who had a serious eye infection. After about an hour we saw some improvement and he was getting better…but mostly we just loved him and spoke about Jesus and His power to heal him. He was receptive….but some things you just really have to leave to God to complete the work He has begun. It’s not all WOW here. Sometimes, you pray for people and you don’t know if God healed them or not, but you just stand in faith and you hug them, and you dance with them, and laugh with them and know that you might be the only white person who will ever hug them or ever share about Jesus to them. It’s pretty powerful….just love. And in the end, its not about us. I laid my hands on someone, they got healed. I laid my hands on someone else….they didn’t. And that could make me depressed….but in the end…its God and I don’t know His reasons….I just trust that He is a good Father. I have to choose to know that its really about loving people regardless of the results.

One thing I did love that I didn’t know was in me….was medical stuff. I put a ton of bandaids on kids with open wounds and sores. We cleaned them up as best we could and hugged them and they smiled, because they got a bandaid…but it was really sad---because some of them can die because of a cut on their leg that goes septic. That knowledge just tears me up inside. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to go through years of medical school…but I’m open to learning “BUSH medicine”--the kind that just makes do with what you have

I haven’t had a lot of time to process how I’m feeling to be honest. As soon as we got back from outreach….we went straight into serving dinner to about 3,000 people for Heidi’s daughter’s wedding. It was total insanity. I think the idea was really beautiful—invite the lame, the poor…to the wedding feast, like in the Bible…WWJD…and all that.

And it was beautiful seeing the people rolled up in wheelchairs getting to feast on chicken, for once that year. But it was also really hard. I was outside manning the lines to make sure people didn’t like kill each other to get in the building….yes, little me, a bouncer basically. I don’t know how I get these jobs J But I love it. I had to end up taking charge because one line was going faster than the other….I realized, as much as I really don’t want to admit that I am type A, I think I am….and that really upsets me…but it was just going ALL wrong---people were about to riot because one line was going faster than the other…so me, who speaks barely any Portuguese has to direct the traffic and equal out the lines. But somehow we managed. I did somehow get punched in the mouth…but not too bad…they call it “holy chaos” here. Sometimes it just feels like chaos. Heidi is a complete idealist and I totally love that about her...she inspires people to dream with her beautiful outlook and positivity. I’m wondering though if there also needs to be a balance. But then again this IS AFRICA and you sort of have to roll with the punches.

Today I got back from the lovely chore of latrine duty. And yes, its what you think it is. But we just laughed and cleaned because we’re doing it for Jesus….right? And yes, I had those big yellow gloves on Mom that you sent me with that I didn’t think I would use. Just a day in the life. We are not super heroes, we are just here---getting dirty and getting stretched and some days it feels better than others. But always we are learning to lean on our Beloved.