Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holding Eshli

The excitement of Christmas hung in the air as our family made our way to the Chapel.  We were one of the first to stroll through the gate with armed guards.  Every time I enter into the Chapel grounds there is a sense of peace and quietness that washes over me.  It is a beautiful campus with wide open spaces to enjoy.  The Chapel is so generous to share it with both the missionary and Haitian community alike.  It is a delightful gift in a needed place.

We shuffled up to the front of the church and found a place to sit.  The row in front of us was full of girls dressed in red and white.  Kati explained that she taught many of these girls from a nearby orphanage last year.  They seemed to enjoy her familiar face and conversation.

The Christmas Eve service was just about to start.  I looked behind to see the church almost completely full and when I turned forward again there standing before us was this little girl.  She was one of the girls from the front row.  Her dress was a lacy white with a red satin sash.  She wore the traditional white socks and black shoes.  Her hair was in braids.  She couldn't have been more than 3 years old.  She smiled up at Jason and I.  Her eyes locked with ours.  She uplifted her arms to Jason so he picked up her stocky little frame.  She smiled and snuggled into him quietly.

Orphans often seem tired and/or needy to me.  They are desperate for attention, affection and rest.  Her situation is kind of unique but then again maybe not.  She belongs to a well-run organization but she'll never be eligible for adoption.  Every part of her life will be quite institutionalized.  Caring for orphans is such a tricky subject.  You wish there was a clear cut, black and white solution.  Don't get me wrong there are definitely right and wrong answers, but it's not always super clear.   One thing is for sure, God never is grey about His love for them.  He speaks boldly, consistently and passionately about loving them from the Old Testament to the New.  He loves them.  He is for them with special grace.

The service was in full swing.  She'd reach one arm to touch me and one to touch Jason until she decided to try my lap out.  She liked flipping through the pages of the old hymnal and even snuggled with it.  Sometimes it was upside down but the idea of a book in her lap with pages between her fingertips was significant.  Her nose was drippy leaving behind crusty white above her lip.  One of the  leaders leaned over and wiped her nose lovingly with a smile.  Jason also grabbed a kleenex for her.  She would blow and vigorously rub her nose on it.  She couldn't decide if she wanted to watch the service proceed, it wasn't the most captivating for a 3 year old, or if she wanted to sleep.  She flipped from observing to laying her head over my shoulder.  She rubbed my watch and my necklace between her fingers like many kids are curious about accessories.  She'd look up and smiled until it was returned.  I asked her if she was tired and she'd nod her head.  Pretty soon she'd be looking over at Makayla and Ethan for a responsive smile.  Her attention would divert when they returned the quiet greeting.

This was the hard and heavy emotional reality for me.  This little girl doesn't know or have a family of her own.  A family to celebrate life and victories with.  A family to make mistakes with, know the power of forgiveness within and the opportunities to grow together in deep, long-lasting relationships.  She'll never know the familiarity of those relationships, like the relationship of siblings.  It was too heavy for my thoughts to stay there.  I'd just be here.  Right now, I was here in PAP, Haiti at a Christmas Eve service and for whatever reason she decided we'd be a comfy place for her to snuggle into.  I mean, God decided and put one of His orphans on our lap for the evening.  Thinking about anything other than this was too big for me.

She started picking at the back of her head and every so often checking her little finger.  After observing her consistency I had Jason take a peek at the source of her trouble.  A dry, flaky patch of skin was itchy.  It could've been ringworm so I advised that she not touch it any more.  She smiled and stopped.  Three-fourths of the way through the service she said the only thing she said all night.  Looking straight into my eyes she whispered, "pee-pee."  I asked, "You have to go pee-pee?"  She nodded with concern.  I set her down on the floor and leaned over the lady in charge of their group.  She quickly found an assistant to take her.  My lap took a break while she was gone.  It's been awhile since I've had toddler age kids on my lap for that long.  Even nieces and nephews snuggle up for such a short time comparatively.

The service was extremely well done and I really enjoyed it but my heart and thoughts kept floating back to God and how often He talks about orphans.  He even says that we are like orphans; promising to not leave us.  Salvation is a beautiful picture of adoption.  When He came as a baby, it was planned from before time began, that He'd bring to the Father His children through His perfect life and sacrificial death.  He is familiar with all of our weaknesses and didn't consider it robbery to set aside the glory of God to become man.  He too was 3 years old once.  He experienced the brokenness of the world and the harshness of sin's effects.  Then Psalm 139 ran through my mind.  He created this little girl in her mother's womb. All of her days are numbered.  He knows her thoughts and the numbers of curly hairs on her head.

She was back from her bathroom break.  The leader encouraged her to sit on her lab but she politely shook her head no and stood, starring off; seemingly waiting for something.  Finally, she smiled over at me and walked across the isle.  She knew all along where she'd like to return to and waited until it seemed acceptable.  My lap once again accommodated her.  He arms had scars from mosquito bites and a couple of open sores from itching past scabs.  She was so super chubby and snuggly.  Her big brown eyes wrestled between sleep and alertness.

All of a sudden their row made a quick exit.  It was dark outside and quite late for a group of younger kids to be out.  The program was almost finished - it was time for them to return.  The main nanny, who grew up in the same orphanage and now works there, spoke a few Creole words to them with hands held out.  They clasped on and left.

I felt like I should give a last hug good-bye and promise to pray for her...maybe visit her too.  But all too quickly the good-work was finished.  I knew God to say, "Good job for giving her a lap and place of belonging, that's what I wanted for her and you.  Pray for her."

I'm reminded today of Eshli, God's big heart for her and the power of prayer.  Often times it is the "little" good works found within the nooks and crannies of a day that are outside of our "job description" that most powerfully bring down the Kingdom of God to earth from heaven (both in our hearts and theirs).  My heart was equally blessed, if not more, by this little girl and God at work in it.

"Prayer does not fit us for the greater work.  It is the greater work." -Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Prism of Poverty - The Victory of Christ

Poverty is all around us.  It's in us.  No one is exempt.  We're born into this battle of poverty.  Every human being for all of time feels and knows the effects.  Some are able to momentarily cushion themselves from its sting while others are blissfully deceived into thinking they're exempt.  Poverty is brokenness.  Poverty is death; the destruction of life.  To live is to fight against this poverty.  Both in the natural and the supernatural we know the struggle.  Even to maintain good health we have to be strong enough internally to be protected externally.  "Everything outside my physical life is designed to cause my death. The very elements that sustain me while I am alive work to decay and disintegrate my body once it is dead."  In order to maintain mental health and spiritual moral there is a fight against deceit and threatening darkness. The Designer's original beauty and intent has been sabotaged by the created.  Romans 1:21-25 so clearly explains what happened:
"because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man-and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.  
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.  Amen."
 In the garden we see Adam and Eve's relationship with God effected.  They are found hiding in shame and sin from their Father.  After the garden we see the toil to live as man fights against the earth to produce what it needs.  Clearly relationships no longer hold the Designer's intent.  Brother turns against brother and hatred replaces harmony.

 Has it been sabotaged though?  Or was this the original intent to better display the depth and beauty of the Creator?  Does this backdrop of poverty better display the depth of Character, the glory of the Redeemer and His incredible rescue?  The story of Moses in Exodus when the people are exiting Egypt comes to mind:
"Now the LORD said to Moses, "Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son's son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD."
The LORD God - the One True God is revealing Himself.  He is making Himself known and apart from His doing there is no way we would ever know Him.  He chooses to reveal Himself through the 10 plagues in this story.  He hardens Pharaoh's heart so that you may know that He is the LORD.

We often read this story and ask, "Why?  Why didn't God just destroy Pharoah...get it over with already?  Why 10 plagues instead of one?  Why did God harden Pharoah's heart?  What purpose did any of it serve?"  Likewise we ask, "Why does God allow Satan leash?  Why doesn't He vanquish sin and poverty once and for all?  Why must we toil and struggle and fight and know its effects?"
I appreciated Piper's explanation:  "God wills for his glory to shine forth not only through acts of physical power, but also through acts of moral and spiritual power that display the beauty of his grace with lavish colors. "
The idea of a prism helped impart this truth.  When you take light it is bright.  It is blinding.  It is one solid mass of glare.  But when you take a prism up to it, it breaks up the light and displays what light is made of.  All kinds of colors and beauty can be understood.  The components of light are displayed marvelously.  Likewise the prism of Pharoah's hard heart, the agony of the cross show forth more intricately the glory of God in such a way that we can really see Him and see Him supremely more beautiful than anything He has made.  We see with our hearts and our lives that, "He is the LORD."  He is all we need.  He is victory over poverty.  He is life.  He is what is absolutely true and preeminent over all.  When this seeing happens restoration occurs and the effects of poverty are pushed back or deflected.  Faith replaces evil with the victories and beauties of Christ.
This prayer ministered much grace to my heart this morning as I know more and more the fight against poverty:
"Heavenly Father, we are sobered that you would regard the glory of your Son so highly that it would be worth the ongoing existence of Satan to make it fully known.  We are ashamed that we have murmured about the battles of life when we should have made every effort to magnify your Christ-exalting reasons for giving the enemy so much leash.  Forgive us for failing to see your holy purposes.  And now, O God, by the blood of your Son, our Savior, give us victory over Satan.  Grant us to see and savor the superior worth of Christ.  Let us shame Satan by making much of Jesus.  Grant us to glory in the work of the cross.  Help us to cherish the finished work of Christ that disarmed Satan and took the sting out of death.  Teach us how to fight by faith against the power of sin, in the confidence that secured the triumph of all who trust in him.  Turn every evil design of the devil into sanctifying schemes of love.  Deliver us from his deceptions.  Keep the beauty of Christ clear in the eyes of our heart.  Make us instruments of Satan's defeat until you come and slay him by the breath of your mouth.  Make us valiant in delivering others by the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, your great Gospel.  In Jesus' name we pray, amen."
I know the crucible of the cross to be breaking up His glory in such a way that I can more supremely value Jesus and thus understand the world around me.  The cross brings restoration, order, beauty and victory.  It is not easy but it is good.  He is good in all of His ways.

This song continues to sing over my days - over this transition.  Stephanie Montes sang it at Mia Bella (a women's group) right before we left.  I hear my Designer's words of promise - words of hope anchoring my fighting heart.  He is not a God far off.  He is near.  He knows poverty and is the Remedy that our souls are all longing for.  Come to Me.