Saturday, January 28, 2012

Shining in Shone

Our group leaves for Ethiopia on March 4th.  We are feverishly working to get ready to leave.  It is getting exciting, though at times I'm feeling like, "didn't I just do this?"

Our traveling group is up to 11 from the Sioux City area and 19 overall.  We had another meeting last night to work through some of the details, including discussing the medical supplies, the swing set, the donations, how we're going to connect with the sponsored kids, and of course we had some great food, dessert, and coffee.  There were also a number of other things we talked about that resulted in roars of laughter,  but those are not blog-appropriate - please ask me in person if your interest is peaked!

We also took some time to talk about why each of us felt that God had led us to go on this trip.  It was clear that God had led each of us on separate paths in the last several years, with each path aimed toward this trip.  And the really cool part is that the trip isn't the end of the journey, it is merely just another step in each of our lives.  He will continue to work in each of us, taking us to amazing places as we yield to His leadership.  Where will each of us be a year or two years from now?  How will we be affected by the trip?  How will God show Himself to us?

I have again been thinking about the parable in Matthew 25, where Jesus tells the story of the King who separates the sheep and the goats.  The climax of the story is the realization that for both groups, their end is determined by what they did or didn't do.  Neither realized their encounters with the "least of these" were actually encounters with the King.  And their acceptance or rejection of the "least of these" was actually a rejection of the King.  Why did some meet the needs of the "least of these" and some reject them?  Was it due to goodness within them?

We are going to a place that is filled with people that our society would call the "least of these."  We will be with people who have nothing.  Nothing, that is except disease, hunger, loneliness, and despair.  We who are going are broken vessels - complete with faults, weaknesses, fears, and failures.  In ourselves, we have no ability to say yes to the needs of the "least of these."  We would reject them every time if it were up to us.  But God has poured His love into us, so that that same love can pour through us into the lives of others.  If God had not poured His love into us first, we would walk away.  We would be OK knowing that there are starving, diseased, ignored people on the other side of the globe.  We would be OK doing nothing.  The only reason we go is because God was not OK with walking away from us.

So our going to Ethiopia to meet the needs of the "least of these" does not put an emphasis on us, but instead puts the focus on God.  Because it is He that transforms broken vessels in useful vessels.  He fills those useful vessels with Himself and puts them in a place to serve others.  Not because of the beauty of the vessel, but because of the beauty of the Potter.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Swingin' Good Time!

Peaches and T-Bird enjoying the swings at Hannah's Hope - Feb 2011
Last night we had a fundraiser / soup and pie supper / worship music night at Southern Hill Baptist here in Sioux City.  The purpose of the night was to share the needs of the trip we will be taking in March to Ethiopia.  Let me just say that it was an amazing night!  There were over 200 people in attendance.  That's over 200 people that have a heart for the orphan, a heart for missions, a heart for serving others.  Over 200 people right here in Sioux City.  It was a beautiful night to be a part of.

For those who have been following the fundraising for the swing set, we had raised $560.  In just a couple of weeks we were already at about 1/3 of the cost of the swing set equipment.  I was amazed at how quickly God was bringing in the money.  Well, you can imagine how excited I was to be given $1100 last night toward the swing set project!  That put us over the amount that was needed for the equipment.  We are grateful for all who gave and grateful that God has provided over and above our need.  We will use the additional money toward the tools that we need to bring and the additional luggage fees that will be required.

We are rejoicing in God's goodness toward the project!  We are rejoicing as we think about many, many kiddos that will soon be swinging and giggling with delight on the swing set that so many people have donated toward.  I can't wait to post pictures when we return!

So thank you to those who have given and to those who have prayed.  I wish you could come with us and push some kids to delirious heights on their new swing set!

In addition to the money collected for the swing set, we also collected over $2000 toward the general expenses of the trip.  That money will be used to help with travel expenses (~$2000 per person) and with medical supplies that we are going to be bringing.  We will be starting to organize the medical supplies list and costs next and that will likely bring some additional fundraising efforts.  So stay tuned!

We are just six weeks away from traveling.  We still have a lot to get done.  Please pray for our preparations, please pray for our additional fundraising, please pray for our hearts to be ready to go.  As Matthew 25:40 states, we are going to serve the least of these.  God is rolling that passage through my mind as we think about the why's of going to such a far-off place to serve such destitute people.  Is it really worth it?  After reading the passage in Matthew 25, it is clear that we are not just going to serve these beautiful people, but we are going to serve Jesus.  In as much as we go and serve the least of these, we go and serve Him.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Reflecting on a Swing Set

Another swing set update!  We have now received $510!  I'm amazed by all of the support that so many people have shown with money coming from many different locations.

I am constantly thinking about how we're going to get all of this equipment into our checked luggage.  Wondering did we bite off too much?  What was I thinking?  And then I start to think of the smiles that await us, the excitement of the kids as we assemble the swing set, the joyous screams of children as they swing.  And that is when I remember that the hassles that we are facing are well worth it.

I worry about raising money for a swing set, they worry about finding food.

I worry about finding space in my luggage for swing set parts, they worry about having clothing to wear.

I worry about the endless hours of travel in a cramped airplane, they worry about sitting on a street curb alone for yet another night.

I worry about all of the vaccinations that I have to get, they worry about disease that will likely end their lives much too soon.

The swing set serves as another reminder of the different worlds that we come from - our world and their world.  We have so much - and for that we should not feel guilty, but thankful.  Because we don't go and we don't give because of guilt, we go and we give because of thankfulness.  We go and we give because God has flooded our lives with His goodness - flooded us to the point where it naturally flows to others.  And we want others to experience this flooding of goodness that only God can accomplish in someone's life.

Yes, reflecting on the swing set makes me more and more ready to go!  How about you?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Swing Set Update

We are excited that $335 has come in for the Ethiopia Swing Set project.  As we have contemplated this project, I have envisioned the kids at the orphan care center watching with curiosity as we build the swing set.  Since many of them have never seen a swing set, there will be looks of bewilderment, watching the Ferengis assembling this odd contraption.

Knowing that they will giggle with glee as they experience the combination of weightlessness and gravity-rush for the first time, we press on with this project.  To us the swing set can merely be a task-oriented maze of budgeting luggage space, coordinating tool requirements, and arranging financial support.  However, to the kids who will soon be learning how rear back in a swing and reach their feet toward the sky, it represents a sense of freedom, exhilaration, and joy.

I spoke last night with Anna who has traveled many times to Ethiopia and has seen first-hand what a swing set can do for children.  Children who have nothing to call their own, who live a life of extreme poverty, and may or may not have parents or a home to call their own.  She shared with me how these kids line up for hours just to get a single turn on a swing set.  She shared how the swing sets are used constantly and become a symbol of pride for them, since it may be the only thing that they can call their own.  It may be the only thing that gives them a brief freedom from the difficult life they live.

We are thankful that God has every detail of our upcoming trip taken care of.  There are no needs that He is not aware of.  As we travel to Ethiopia, we are looking forward to loving the children, serving the workers, and experiencing what God has in store for each of us!