Haiti Day 1

This week I travel to Haiti with a team from Community of Faith to shoot a short documentary-style video of the work COF is doing in Haiti.

My friends and I have often joked that a Sims family trait (my maiden name) is that we do things either 100% or not at all. I’m not sure when Haiti became one of my 100% things, but I have prayed for this place and loved it from afar for as long as I can remember. My love for this place grew when I sponsored a little Haitian girl, Widline, through Compassion International, and the 2010 earthquake solidified it, as I went to bed and woke up praying for days for the many thousands without homes and missing loved ones.

Today when the plane landed I had tears pressing up against my eyes as I looked out the window at this place where I have walked in prayer. I thought to myself, “I didn’t expect so many mountains. It is so green and beautiful. I can’t believe I’m here.” The Haitian man sitting between the window and me thought, “Why is this crazy American crying all over me?”

On the plane I was reading my friend Kristen’s book, Rhinestone Jesus, about her transition from a “good girl Christian” with dreams to change the world to the operator of a maternity home in Nairobi Kenya, seeing the Lord make her dreams a reality. Every word seemed important, as I too traveled on a plane without my spouse to a place I know will change me. Have you ever been in the place where you know the Lord is doing something significant, but you don’t know yet what it is, so you wait in anticipation? That is where I am today.

As we drove down roads crammed with vehicles somehow working together despite what looked to me like chaos, I watched the people, saw the colorful painted tap taps I have seen in pictures, passed the school children walking home from school in their rainbow of uniform colors, and prayed. Somehow it felt familiar to me. I know part of that feeling comes from the glimpse of life I get from the Livesay family (a missionary family that serves at Heartline Maternity Center in Port Au Prince that are my favorite follows on social media), but I also think it is because the connection in an unseen realm that is developed when we pray for someone. I feel this tether to Haiti. My prayers for these people, over years, have somehow connected us.

On my first trip with COF we went to a small village outside of Cancun Mexico. There, half of our team was dropped off at this home in the jungle where we were going to help the students from our Cancun Campus pour a cement floor. I was nervous. Our leaders and my backpack drove away in the car that left to go to the other location, and I looked around this tin roofed tiny house that seemed to be falling apart with music playing from somewhere deep and unseen in the jungle and thought, “What am I doing here? Am I even safe?” However, as the day progressed, and we laughed with students we could barely understand about common things like Harry Potter and college plans, and we saw shy children advance from watching us in dooryards to joining us in play, I noticed something. This “shanty” had these beautiful potted plants all around in a courtyard, and the house was surrounded by the most exotic trees I had ever seen. There were iridescent butterflies and tiny bunnies and it was green and lush and exotic and it smelled like the campfires from my childhood memories. What was at first strange and scary by the end of the day became beautiful and a home to me. The place was the same – but my eyes had changed. I saw not how different it was, but how beautiful and the same it was. I saw plants on a courtyard of a home that a mother made for her children to enjoy. I understood her and related to her.

On this trip I prayed for that transition to happen even more quickly. “Lord, help me see this place, these people, as you see them. I do not want to find them strange or scary or watch them like animals in a zoo. I want to connect with them, to love them, to see your beauty in them.” I think he answered my prayer. The many people often crammed on a motorbike and the women balancing boxes, baskets and bags on their heads, and the children walking in groups home from school or playing on broken sidewalks didn’t feel strange or scary, they were all beautiful. I prayed as we drove and it sounds crazy I know, but I loved them.

Today I purposely did not pull out the multitude of fancy camera equipment I brought, so I do not have pictures because I wanted to live fully present in today and experience Haiti with my eyes, not with the equipment, and trust the Lord to help me remember. Tomorrow I start to pull out cameras and microphones to try and capture just a fragment of a story of what God is doing in Haiti. But I can already tell, the tiny bit I capture will be only that, a tiny fragment. I think Haiti is a place I will probably never understand, but will always love.

I’m not as fun as I used to be

This morning a woman named Tara, who I follow on Facebook and who I have really grown to admire although we’ve never met, posted that she was told she wasn’t as fun as she used to be. See, in her everyday life, she sees children starving and women traveling hours to get simple maternity care down in Haiti, and then she reads New York Times articles about hot-dog eating contests where the winner eats 65 hotdogs, and it is annoying and even repulsive to her.

And she has every right to feel that way. That disparity should bother her and us – it should get under our skin. And if talking about it makes us less fun, well then we should be less fun.

I live in an area where there aren’t just houses around us, there are amazing estates. And oh how I love them. Giant beautiful houses on multi-acre lots, with land and pools and ponds and horses. And I love to drive around and look at them, imagining moving our kids into a place like that. I love to imagine a day in the future when we get a pool, or imagine taking our kids on a grand beach vacation. I badly want a minivan with the fancy doors that open with the touch of a button, and every time I walk into a store all the lovely clothes and jewelry entice. There are things in our world that are beautiful and alluring and it is easy to covet what we don’t have.

Sometimes I can go weeks imagining and planning a future that has more, bigger, faster, nicer.

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:16

And then I get home and I read this article about one of the ministries my friend Tara is associated with. Please take a moment to read it. Please. This is real and they need help. This ministry lost 9 children in the past 2 1/2 weeks, and they have a desperate need for money for ICU nurses. They don’t even need much, less than $6000. Please click the link and check it out. Together we can help them accomplish this.

And seeing that changes me. It makes me mindful, and some people would say not as fun as I used to be. But you see – the world has grown smaller and the hurting are harder to ignore. Because of the miracle of technology, I can be in the car, driving past the beautiful houses, and I can pull over and use my amazing iPhone to jump on Tara’s blog (or any number of other blogs or Facebook pages of ministries on the ground around the world) and I can see what their exact needs are. And I can click the Paypal donate link, and send money to relieve those needs right then. The starving have a voice now, and we have to close our eyes to not see them. We have to willfully ignore the little girl that weighs 14 pounds at 5 years-old. But when we look, when we really look, when we see them not just as hopeless situations but as opportunities to take care of the least of these as Jesus commanded, then the things we covet start to look a little faded, a little showy.

This stuff does bother me, and the dueling desires in me, the desire for beautiful things and the desire to make a difference around the world for Christ, they battle all-day-long every single day. And it makes me a little less fun. I don’t blog about Pinterest projects or cooking ideas, I blog about this stuff. Because it is on my heart and mind and it is something I am battling through. I have to mindfully, willfully ignore and combat the pull to materialism in the world around me. And I can fail miserably. There are still many days where an Amazon box arrives at my house full of things I don’t really need or I’ll spend all day researching Honda Odysseys (those vans are stinking amazing). And there are days where I take a slow drive past the beautiful houses, imagining owning something like that. But on those days, I say a little prayer. It isn’t selfless – in fact it’s pretty selfish and small sometimes. I say something like this, “Lord, this world is not my home. This world is not my home. Help me remember that. Please forgive me. Help me not to covet and allow me to make a difference in this world. Use me to rescue people and share your love and bring you glory. Please don’t let me be enticed by things I do not need. Please set my mind on things above. I know it sounds crazy, but please give my kids a fancy mansion in heaven with horses and ponds and pools and land. Let them draw the skies and dance across fields (without fear of snakes or bugs or allergies). I believe we want the beautiful things for a reason, we were made to want them and we have a future full of them, and for that I am truly grateful. Please help me to wait and to trust you that the unseen greatly exceeds the seen.”

It is hard to fight my nature, and because of that, I am not as fun as I used to be. But I wouldn’t change it. Because this is real and the world is small and the hurting are all around us, and we can make a difference around the world with just a click.

I did a little search for verses about materialism – and wow are they tough. They make it clear that this isn’t a “harmless” struggle – this is life or death stuff for our souls. Here are a few of the verses I found – and there are many more. Lord change our hearts and help us to desire what you desire. 

  • Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10
  • And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
  • Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
  • “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
  • But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 1 John 3:17
  • Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17
  • “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’. “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. ” Matthew 25:31-46
  • This is the kind of fast day I’m after:  to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts.  What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.  Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.  Your righteousness will pave your way.  The God of glory will secure your passage.  Then when you pray, God will answer.  You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’  “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go.  I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—  firm muscles, strong bones.  You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry.  You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.  You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again. Isaiah 58: 6-12 (Message version)

An update: The ICU Nannies were funded for the first 6 months! Praise God! http://www.realhopeforhaiti.org/?p=7991

The Quiet Danger

On Friday my dad and I took my girls swimming. Grace is learning to swim, and fearless in a way that makes every adult around her nervous. Rebekah wears one of those swimsuits with the life vest installed in it (which she calls her chubby tummy) and is terrified of going under the water. Grace swam from me to my dad, and at the same time, Bekah had reached for dad and was crying because her face had gotten splashed. So dad is juggling two kids, one of which is screeching. We get Bekah situated, and I turn around to see that Grace has slipped under the water. Her head was about 2 inches under the water and she was looking at me with this look of panic but unable to get herself up to breathe. I grabbed her up, she coughed up some water, and within seconds she was raring to go again. But the image of my little girl, underwater and in such danger without making a sound, has rattled me for days. Although she was only under a few seconds, that image of her little face in the water has haunted me.

I used to work for a ministry who had Proverbs 24:11 as their theme verse. Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. It so impacted me because, especially when dealing with kids and teenagers, it perfectly defined the state of so many students. For years I have seen teenagers staggering toward slaughter. Pushing boundaries, making quick thoughtless decisions, damaging themselves in some attempt to impress others. And I have felt like my calling was to prayerfully help hold them back from destruction. To somehow restrain them just enough until they could come to know Christ or reach adulthood and begin to make wise decisions. Many of my students are now lovely and responsible adults living lives worthy of their calling (having kids themselves which makes me thrilled but also feel very old). Others have lost their life, and I have mourned their loss. They quietly slipped away and I long for the day when I will see them again so I can tell them that they were loved, despite how alone they felt. I pray they have found the acceptance they longed for in the arms of our perfect Savior. For years I wore around my neck the emblem of Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, given that title because the legend behind his life is that he helped a child across a river swollen from rain, getting the child to safety. I saw that as my call long before I had children.

Then I became a mom. And this calling moved into my home in a literal way. Keeping my children safe became a daily, constant, intensely personal battle. They have choked on food and given themselves medicine and tried to pull away from me in a parking lot and fallen out of baby beds and just Friday, one of them quietly slipped under the water. And thank God so far we have been able to hold them back and protect them well, but it is hard work and we can seriously let fear rule our lives if we let it. I am thankful for the grace of a God who saves. I am grateful for every missed loss. I am aware of just how much we are blessed.

But still that image of the face underwater has made me pause this week, has made me grateful, and has made me more aware. We are constantly, as parents, in need of mercy and miracles when it comes to our kids and the task we have been given. We are constantly, as members of the body of Christ, in need of wisdom when dealing with children and teens. Because whether it is our own children, or the children around us in our churches and in our communities, we need to realize that their default condition is not stagnant, but is headed downstream toward destruction. We need to actively, vigilantly, and prayerfully, engage to be forces that turn children toward Christ and toward life and away from the destructive pull of this world.

Because when kids are in trouble it isn’t always loud and they don’t always call attention to themselves. Sometimes they are quietly drowning, and they need our intervention. They need us to see them and recognize their need. Then we can help. We can pull them up, help them get their breath, tell them we love them and we are rooting for them, and help them swim to safety. We can be instruments of change and of life in the lives of the kids around us. I am grateful God allows us to be a part of such a worthy mission. May He help us do this task well with wisdom and grace beyond ourselves.

*That call to carry children across danger is also why we support Compassion International and other ministries aimed at helping vulnerable children around the world. When there isn’t a parent around or able to do the work of protecting children, ministries like Compassion and World Vision step in to fill that role, and obey this command. There are forces in this world aimed at the destruction of children and families, and these ministries actively fight those forces with the love and life of Christ. So we give what we can because it is important and children need someone fighting for them, helping them before they are led away to death.

Practical Faith, Miraculous Results

One of the things I’ve been deeply convicted of the past few years is the way I handle people who are suffering around me. Say someone posts on Facebook that they are sick or have a need. How do I respond? I used to just blow past that in the busyness of life, thinking “I’ll pray about that later” or “poor so-and-so, that stinks.” But the Lord sent me some amazing faithful friends who lived differently, who acted on their faith constantly and met needs and ministered to others, and I wanted to live more like them – more like Jesus. It changed me.

Now when I see someone hurting, I try to stop – I try to be the church and meet a need, maybe even get to be Jesus with skin to that person. First off, I’ll say “I’m praying” and I stop at that moment and actually pray – lifting that need to the Father (trying to make myself less of a liar when I inevitably forget the need later). But second, I try to think of a practical thing I can do to lift their burden. Can I bring a meal? Can I pick up a kid or send you a book or note to encourage your heart? If it is a ministry, can I send supplies or give a gift? And I try to do that quickly too. Commit right then to do something, and do it then, before I can forget.

It takes a few minutes, but when I am faithful to do it – I’m telling you I get blessed. And we can’t out-give God – he always provides. This is a completely true story of how God provided for us last year when we were learning to live with open hands. It started when we were given a huge Christmas blessing including quite a bit of cash. After paying bills, we had $300 remaining. We heard of a friend who needed $300 to pay their electric bill, and we gave it to them. We just felt like the money wasn’t ours to begin with, since it had been given to us, so why not share it? A few weeks later, when we were faced with some medical bills, a friend of mine asked me to coffee (someone also going through a difficult financial struggle). Without knowing about our gift to our friend, she slid an envelope over to me across the table with $300 in cash inside the envelope because she and her husband felt the Lord had told them to bless us. A few weeks later, someone dropped an envelope on those friends’ front porch with a little over $300 inside it. That money transferred hands four times meeting needs exactly when it was needed, that we know of. It freaks me out it’s so cool. It taught us a HUGE lesson.

So we give – even when we don’t have much to give. And God provides. We have loved taking meals to friends. We have loved meeting simple basic needs for ministries on the ground around the world. I do the graphics for a ministry in Kenya that houses young pregnant women and helps them with prenatal and postnatal needs so they can keep their babies and not have to give them up for adoption, and that was all because I saw a tweet that they needed help and over a year later, I’m still partnering with them whenever possible.

otoscope

Baby scale

stethoscope

In addition, we have started following several ministries on Facebook and Twitter, especially since the Haiti earthquake, so we can know what they need and pray and maybe help meet those needs. One of the ministries we follow is Real Hope for Haiti – a clinic and outreach center a few hours north of Port-au-Prince Haiti. A few months ago they posted a need for a baby scale for their clinic. I reached out and purchased a scale off Amazon, had it shipped along with a few other basic pieces of medical equipment to Miami, and the ministry sent me pictures this week of the supplies we sent being used to treat the beautiful people of Haiti.

This was a simple thing – I think the whole thing cost us maybe $150 bucks. But look at where it went! That is an investment that pays dividends forever.

I know many of you who read this have a huge heart for the world, and like me, you love meeting practical needs. Real Hope for Haiti is getting ready to ship a massive container of supplies from Indiana to Haiti to help the poor and hurting. They have set up a Walmart Wishlist with things like baby powder and orajel on it (some things cost just a few dollars) and we can partner with them to meet these simple needs. In addition, they are gathering money to ship the container. If you want to be a part of a simple solution to bless someone who needs it, click here.

Let’s be the church. Let’s obey Jesus. And let’s see the miracles pour forth.

Depraved Indifference

It is so easy in the world we live in to see up as down and down as up.

I think we as the church need stuff like this – reminders along the way of the TRUTH.

Please take 7 minutes and watch.

The Substitute.

I have a friend who is in the middle of a long, long, intense struggle. One that not many of us are strong enough to endure for a season, much less for years. My friend sees herself as weak, but I’ve watched her in this struggle, and I greatly admire her strength and courage in the face of difficulty.

But like all of us, she is human, and has days where her struggle seems overwhelming.

During one of her moments of weakness, another friend called her and gave her a simple yet profound offer…

She offered to hope for her for a while.  She offered to pray with faith and expectation about this struggle for my friend, as if the trial had just begun.

What an incredible offer.  It has impacted me for weeks as I’ve processed it.  What a gift.

Growing up, I was a soccer player (actually a pretty good one). And there were days, when I was playing someone extraordinarily fast, when I’d motion to my coach that I needed a sub. I loved the game, so I usually only came out when I was about to fall over, but when I was at the end of myself I would sub-out. And as I exited, someone, clothed in a fresh white uniform, well hydrated, with the energy that I had depleted 45 minutes ago, would pass by me, give me a high-five, take my position, and kick butt.

This is what this girl offered my friend.  A substitution.

If you’ve never faced a trial for a long time there is a truth you need to know:  Hope is hard to maintain.  At first, you have this shiny, beautiful hope. You hope for resolution, you hope for restoration, you hope for God to do the extraordinary before your eyes. You’re begging for miracles and you are ready because you know miracles are coming. So you wait and watch to see what God does, all the while praying about this situation that is truly difficult. And nothing happens. So you wait, and you pray, and you hope despite all evidence to the contrary. Over time, that hope can get tattered. Your eyes can get tired of watching (especially when the tears are pressing against them). Your heart can get weary of wanting something so bad you ache. It feels, on your weak days, like hope has betrayed you – like you are the most gullible chump on the planet for actually believing that good is still coming. Praying is hard in that place. You can manage “Jesus, please” a thousand times a day, but you don’t pray like you did at the beginning when you were confident that this was all going to turn out good. You are tired. Tired of feeling weak. Tired of disappointment. Tired of hope.

Now the super holy people will want to jump in here and say “Well, your hope clearly is in a thing and not in the Lord.” And they’d be cold and kinda self-righteous :), but partially right. On my bad days I’ll admit that some of my hope is misplaced, and I’m sure my friend would do the same. But Proverbs 13 says that “Hope deferred makes a heart sick, but a promise fulfilled is a tree of life.” We are made to hope. It is why we pray. It is why we strive. We are often called to so much more than our current situation holds and I think the Lord sometimes puts us in places where we need to rely on Him to rescue us.

So back to my friend. She has hoped and prayed for many years. And into this hurt and exhaustion comes this woman and she offers to, with faith that God can do what He’s said He will do, pray expectantly. She offers to sub-in for a while with fresh hope, fresh perspective, and fresh energy.

My friend was blessed. Heck – she was blown away.

It has really opened my eyes and showed me how much I can do this for people around me.

I want to be the substitute on the “playing field” of someone else’s struggle. I can believe for my friends. I can pray for their situations with hope and faith. I can come beside them when they feel like giving up and I can tell them that I still believe.

I can sub-in.

It has even stretched into my thoughts about finances. How can we sub-in for people in need? One of my Compassion kids suffers from a severe learning disability, and I recently found out that she cannot continue in school because she can’t keep up and her family can’t afford the special school she needs. She wrote me a letter apologizing for her failure (sweet girl – it broke my heart that she worried I’d be upset with her). What she didn’t know was that her letter wouldn’t find me disappointed in her or giving up on her – it would find me believing in her when she has given up on herself. I can sub-in on believing she is valuable. She lives in a slum in India, so money goes a long way there (much further than here in the States). So Justin and I, although we don’t have a ton, may have enough to sub-in for this family and help. So we prayerfully gave a gift and we are asking the Lord to multiply it and use it to substitute for her family to provide schooling for sweet Yohani. They have educated her for 13 years and taken care of her – with God’s grace we can step in for a bit and help take some pressure off. I can’t wait to see what the Lord does.

I love this idea. It excites me. It feels like the church being the family we were intended to be.  So if you are tired of waiting, tired of hoping, tired of praying – I want you to know that I am available as a substitute. It is so appropriate as we head into Easter this weekend.

Because that’s pretty much what this season is about – substitution. He took our pain, took our sin, took our death, and gave us His life. What a substitution. And because of that – we can love each other, hope for each other, pray for each other, and give to each other.

I Am Awake

I am awake tonight, at 2:26 in the morning, for a reason.  I am reading a book that I was told would change me and move me – a book which moved some people I love to begin the adoption process.  I am about 2/3 of the way through the book and it has shaken me.  It has made me realize that I am awake, and grateful for that fact.

This book is about a woman in Africa who, after losing her family through tragic circumstances, begins to take children off the street into her home.  She accidentally becomes a mother to dozens of children who are desperate for a mother’s love and in that, finds purpose and a calling higher than herself.  The book is one of the best I’ve ever read.

Growing in faith in Christ does not happened in a vacuum.  There are parts of me that have changed as my heart has changed.  My desires are different.  My perspective is different.  The things I love are different.  As a child, I felt a certain way about things.  Now, in many things, my feelings are the opposite.  There is a Brooke Fraser song, Shadowfeet, that says it this way, “I am changing, less and less asleep.”  I think that is what has changed in me – I have grown less and less asleep to the true nature of things in this world as Jesus has captured my heart.

For me, in particular, I have been awakened to the reality of what is happening to children in our generation, particularly in Africa.  I am not asleep, while around me I see a world of people who seem to be slumbering.  Everyday, all day, I am aware of the reality, not shown much on television, not discussed often in polite conversation, that today 24,500 children will die under the age of five from easily preventable diseases and/or hunger.  That is 8.8 million Rebekah’s and Grace’s per year.  And what is particularly heartbreaking is that in Africa, they are preceded by the death of their parents from the widespread devastation of AIDS.  So these sweet babies live in a world where first they see their dad get sick, waste away, and die, and then they wake up one day and their mom is dead in the bed beside them.  And they get out of that bed, at 4 years-old, and go next door to tell someone that their mommy has died, but nobody will touch them because they are an AIDS orphan and therefore stigmatized.  So they begin to wander, living in doorways and alleys, scraping out life alone at 4 and 5 years old desperate for a mommy’s touch.  And they think that nobody knows this is happening.  They think the entire world lives like this –  hungry, frightened, alone.  They don’t know that there is a world where money is plenty (and it is), where food is plenty, where children grow up under the watchful care of both parents.  They don’t know that this world exists because all they see is the world where they band together in little groups of kids because much of the adult population has been wiped out.  And yet, by and large, our world sleeps while this happens.  The virtual goods industry in the US topped 1 billion dollars in 2009.  That is sales of things that do not exist outside of a virtual world.  We watch “reality” shows that are anything but reality.  People have told me, “We need to take care of our own.”  These people are our own – they are humans suffering and dying.  In God’s kingdom, there is no national border, nor racial border.  As Believers, we don’t have a choice – we have to help them.  We are told to look after the widows and orphans, those who are hurting and helpless.  That is why we are here.

And so I am awake.  Most of you reading this blog are awake as well and you know what I am talking about.  Sometimes when I talk about it, or blog about it, people treat me like I am a loveable hippy idiot. I’m sure you have gotten that look, “Oh there she goes with her causes again.”  But I know that this knowledge means I am awake, by God’s grace, and I am grateful that it haunts me. I am drawn to others who are also awake, and who together will help me push back the darkness crouching around the children of our world.  It is such a joyful thing for me to connect with other people who are not content with sleeping.  They are the friends who energize me as I walk this road and fight this fight.

Because this is our fight as Believers.  It isn’t to be the nicest people on our block with the shiniest kids.  We are here on earth, filled with the Spirit of the Living God, for a reason. And that reason is bigger than ourselves and our own little kingdoms and 401k accounts.  We are to push back the darkness and battle for the helpless.  To bring heaven to earth and be light in this incredibly dark world.  To feed people.  Clothe them.  Tell them about Jesus.  Help them discover the abundant life.

My friend Kelli Jones (also awake) recently went to China to work with orphans and is now beginning the adoption process.  She wrote a blog about her experience and something she wrote has solidified this entire concept to me.  She said that she expected, when around the orphans, to feel a sadness.  A sense of loss.  I have often wondered if I would feel that – particularly when leaving an orphanage.  But she said that she found, instead, a powerful sense of the Spirit of God surrounding these kids.  Psalm 68:5 says, “A Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.  He sets the lonely in families.”   This verse was validated in her trip to the orphanage.  God’s presence hovered around His kids – like in small measure Justin’s presence hovers around our kids when he takes them to the park.  His job as father is to guide them, protect them, care for them, love them.  It was God who filled that role for these kids, and in addition He gave them joy and peace in the midst of truly difficult circumstances.  It made so much sense when I read it.  That’s why we are awake and why we are drawn to the orphan – that’s why this moves us.  Because it moves Him.  Because He is there and when we feed, clothe, love, help the orphan – we join in the work He is doing.  When we press into them, we press into Him.  How sweet of our God.

This excites me.  I am awake!  I will someday see my husband, one of the most amazing fathers I’ve ever been around, as a judge finalizes his adoption of just a few of these children.  And I will see the mantle of fatherhood shared from God himself onto my husband’s shoulders.  I will see it for Bill Jones, as they adopt.  I will see it for my brother Joe, as they adopt.  But adoption is only the completion of a part of our calling.  Once you are awake, your job never ends.  You don’t just do your part and then fall back asleep.  Those of us who are awake will always be giving, always be advocating, always be straining to do more to help those who are dying.  Proverbs 24:11 says “Rescue those being led away to death.  Hold back those staggering towards slaughter.”  You don’t retire from this – this is our life and purpose and calling.  I think of Major and LaRue Speights, two of the most Godly precious people I’ve ever known, or Claude and Janice Thomas, some of my personal heroes.  Both couples are lifelong ministers of the Gospel who personify this concept of pushing back the darkness.  They live lives of light in a dark world and God is continually opening doors for them to do greater and greater ministry as they follow Him in obedience.  That is the life we have signed up for – that is the awake life.  And I am so grateful for it.  Yes we will face trials, yes we will encounter opposition, yes we will have days of doubt and will fall and fail countless times.  But we are awake, and with His power and His grace, we will stand.

I’m not totally sure why I’m writing this one – but maybe it will encourage someone else who is awake but who is feeling alone in their calling.  Or maybe someone who is not awake is reading it and this will be used to shake them from their slumber.   I know, from the comments I receive, that the typical person who reads this blog is wide awake and fighting the darkness with all their might.  But if someone stumbles onto this blog who simply does not get why this is a big deal, please do three things.  One, take a moment and pray that God would begin to move your heart for what moves His heart.  It will feel silly at first, but God answers prayers and before long, you will find your heart is changing and growing to see things the way He sees them. I know because I did this – and God changed my mind and my heart. Two, log onto Compassion.com and select a child to sponsor.  For $38 bucks a month you pay for a child to go to school and hear about Jesus around the world.  It will wake you up, I promise.  I also have done that – and I credit Compassion for opening my eyes to the world.  And three, start looking around and doing something.  Maybe read the book, maybe volunteer to help at a shelter, maybe work in the nursery of the church you’ve attended for a while but haven’t served.  I promise that all around you are opportunities for you to help bring light to this dark world, and once you start doing it, you’ll fall in love with it.

Life is too short to live it asleep.  Through God’s grace, we can wake up.