Monday, September 10, 2012

Extended Family

When I come back to America, it's often hard for me to describe what exactly I do.

To say that I experience culture shock is an understatement. I am both in awe and terrified of Walmarts, large crowds of people, loud restaurants, and escalators.

I seem to be perpetually cold because my body is un-accustomed to the simple luxury of air conditioning.

I always want to sit outside because it seems more comfortable to me and any time I see a black person I want to run up and throw my arms around them like an escaped mental patient.

I am struck by the paradox and dichotomy of so many things.

How people can have so much and yet have seemingly little control over their own life, their schedules, or their time. 

There are all different kinds of poverty. And while some are shocked when they come to my slums and see the barely clothes bodies, or the thin-armed babies dying of HIV, I am just as shocked sometimes by the sadness in people's eyes here.

Chained in multi-faceted forms. Mortgages. School debt. Coach bags. Their iphones constantly bleeping their schedule.

The rush. The crowds.

How driving through the Bible-belt South I am constantly amazed at how nice people are to us, how much they want to help, and how their eyes well up at even the thought of a homeless person getting cold on the street. I really do miss the South. How much people care here.

How they open up their homes and their hearts.

I think to myself how will I ever keep them upright in Africa where children are picking through the garbage for a meal, or selling their tiny bodies for a piece of bread. 

And I think to myself, that I cannot blame anyone, or guilt anyone, for singing their same songs, or sitting in church on a Sunday morning and selfishly thinking that church should be about them and serving their needs instead of being an extension of Jesus to the poor and the fatherless in Uganda.

Because they must not know.

Because if they did know, if they went and spent five minutes with my little family, they would give the clothes on their back away and never want to leave. They would not see a number, but a face.

Not a story, but a flesh and bone hug.

They would see the love between us and get it all. Get why I gave up a boyfriend, and a family, high heels, and a home of my own. They would get what it is, that we “do.”

And it strikes me why it is sometimes so hard to frame it in words.  Because I don't run “programs,” or “projects,” and don't have intensive five-year strategies, or really developed sponsorship programs they can throw money at. Because I'm not a part of a denomination and I'm not connected to anyone important.

All I have is a family. Relationships. A group of people I care for on a daily basis. A Jesus who saves.
And a heart that said, “yes.”

I'll give my life away for one of these.

For one. 

If only one knows the height and the depth and the breadth of the love of God, like I know it, then it's enough.

I can't give really good numbers. We don't feed the thousands. I have people.

Faces I know the lines of, the crinkly smiles. Names.

Names that I know.

Names like Christine, whose mother tried to kill her with a machete. She now worships her Jesus with a smile. No longer rejected or angry, no longer trying to fight the arms that try to hold her, because she has experienced real freedom. She is twenty-something years old and she calls me, “Mama.”

What I do, its more than counseling. It's transformation.

It's letting God loose on the earth through me. 

The only strategy I have, the only one I know is to help people have encounter with the Father that I know can set them free.

Free from their past, free from themselves, and free to be the new creation He intended them to be with a heart bursting full of dreams of being the next Billy Graham or an astronaut.

Dreams that don't involve the dry crack of a gunshot, or the creak of a dirty bed for a dollar. 

Love is just a lot of seeds. A ride to the hospital here. A three hour conversation there. A prayer breathed desperate for the one in my arms. 

Relationships that shape each other into better human beings. 

Healing that extends into a life-time.

Love that can end wars and stop cycles of hatred.

Four years later the fruit starts to throw tiny shoots from the ground.

This girl getting married and preaching to the masses. Another, taking children into her home. A father who gets saved and starts caring for his children.

Pauline. Elizabeth. Alex.

The invitations to Congo and Rwanda. The hope of spreading the healing love around.

One by one, we build our family. We make sacrifices for each other. 
This is what I do. And this is what I miss on a tarmac four lane highway somewhere in North Carolina.
I don't miss the roads there.

But I do miss my people.

When I left America, at 24, I don't think I knew what this verse meant, “And whoever will lose His life for my sake, will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

But now I do.

We have nothing of our own, but we have everything.

I really am one of the few people I know who is doing exactly what they were made to do.

Bringing glory to God and loving it.
And God's goodness just keeps overtaking me.

Everywhere on this journey people like you on the road who offer up homes, and beach houses, and cards, and pizza, and support, making me believe again that we are all part of a larger family.

My prayer is someday you get to meet the other half of mine.